Posted Friday, July 18 – 5:11 PM
On the same day that Jewish National Fund (JNF)’s 2014 Sunshine Mission was visiting Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill, hundreds of Israeli schoolchildren were also visiting the site to learn about the historic battle for the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967. Although the schoolchildren weren’t born until decades later, the participants of the Sunshine Mission, active seniors 55 and older, were alive to witness the dramatic Six Day War.
For many of the 40 Sunshine Mission participants being able to travel with Hal Linden (stage and screen actor, director, musician and JNF’s national spokesperson), was a powerful incentive to visit Israel with JNF.
Although Linden’s mother kept a kosher kitchen, he described his father as a “two-time a year Jew” who was, nonetheless, a passionate Zionist. In 1912, Linden’s father co-founded The Order Sons of Zion, a Zionist support organization. In 1944, the group changed its name to B’nai Zion and remains active today.
Despite having a fervently Zionist father, Linden grew up a staunch assimilationist. “As a child, I was friends with all the Italian and Irish kids in our Bronx neighborhood,” said Linden. “I didn’t believe there was a need for a state for Jews. World War II changed my position on that.”
In the 1970s, while starring in the TV show Barney Miller, Linden first visited the young State of Israel. Barney Miller wasn’t screened on Israeli TV, but when he met then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, the Prime Minister’s wife Aliza confessed that she watched the show on Jordanian TV. After his first trip to Israel, Linden provided decades of devoted support to many Jewish organizations, performing in hundreds of benefits for JNF and other Jewish organizations.
In 1997, JNF recruited Linden to become its national spokesperson. After completing his second tour of Israel and being impressed with the range of JNF’s projects, Linden readily agreed to serve. Linden’s wife, Fran Martin, who died in 2010, was so fascinated with the breadth of JNF’s work on behalf of Israel that she became a founding member of the Sapphire Society, JNF’s major gift division for women.
Water conservation projects are especially close to Linden’s heart. He dedicated a reservoir in the Jordan River in his father’s memory. Fifteen years ago, he starred in a JNF campaign featuring his then 1-year-old grandchild putting a coin into a JNF Blue Box. The campaign’s slogan was, “Your parents planted the trees. It’s up to you to water them.”
In September, Linden will attend the JNF National Conference in Los Angeles along with hundreds of American Jews, California Governor Jerry Brown and dignitaries from Israel. He will also participate in a session on the connections between Hollywood and Israel.
Sunshine Mission trips are ideal for for experienced travelers and first-timers to learn about JNF’s involvement in oil, gas and water issues and the potential of the Leviathan Gas Field to change the political reality of Israel’s relationship with Turkey and Egypt.
For more information about future Sunshine Missions, call 877-JNF-TOUR (563-8687) or email email@example.com.