TORONTO — Turns out you can beat a good game of shuffleboard. Seniors looking for new, adventure-filled activities may want to consider joining the Canadian-American Active Retirees in Israel (CAARI) program.
Anice and Arnold Stark view Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. [Susan Horwitz photo]
Run under the auspices of the JNF, the program was started in 1983 for people in the 50-plus demographic who remain physically active and are looking for ways to explore and connect with Israel.
On a promotional trip to Toronto last week, Susan Horwitz, CAARI’s U.S.-based program director, told The CJN that since its inception, more than 2,000 retirees have participated on the annual, customizable trip to Israel.
Horwitz said the main elements of the program include participants doing community service, touring, a speakers’ forum, helping with JNF forest work and attending special events.
Participants can choose to spend from two to seven weeks in Israel on the trip.
Commenting on the community service aspect, Horwitz said many trip-members volunteer to help teach English to children in low-income neighbourhoods. They also work in rehabilitation centres across the country and in orchards picking fruit destined for Israeli food banks.
CAARI also helps “bridge relations” between Arab and Jewish communities, she said, citing work that was done on this year’s trip – which took place from January to March – on an archaeological community project in the city of Lod.
And of course, they help plant trees.
“This year, we handed out nearly 10,000 saplings to families,” Horwitz said.
The average age range of participants is between 67 and 72 “but it varies through the years,” she said.
Every year, about half the people on the CAARI trip are on their first visit to Israel.
“Most of them are amazed at how they can walk around [Israel] freely,” Horwitz said. “We follow the footprint of JNF [historical and modern projects], and I try to go off the beaten path to keep changing the trip.”
CAARI’s Canadian co-chairs, Anice and Arnold Stark, said the experience is unlike any other.
“I don’t care where you’ve [vacationed] in the world, this is a different trip,” Anice said.
Arnold echoed her sentiments:
“Whenever we go, getting off the plane feels like you’re standing in a little bit of home.”
CAARI’s next trip is scheduled for Jan. 9 to Feb. 25, 2011.
According to the organization’s website, prospective participants must “be able to walk up to a half-mile or more and climb approximately 50 steps. They must be able to get on and off a bus unaided, [and] medical approval from a licensed physician is a requirement.”
For more information, Horwitz suggested contacting your local JNF office.