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Sari Winick: “I Love Israel - the Land, the Culture, the History and the People”

Sari Winick, marketing executive and current Vice Chair of Israel Bonds’ Chicago Women’s Division, reflects on the many years that she and her family have solidified their connection with Israel by visiting the Jewish nation and investing in Israel bonds. She states, “It feels like Israel has always been an important part of my life. I received my first Israel bond as a birth gift from my grandparents and had the opportunity to redeem it during my first trip to Israel, a family trip, when I was 14 years old.” Sari adds, “Investing in Israel through Israel bonds enables me to help support every aspect of Israel’s economy, which is important to me because I love Israel - the land, the culture, the history and the people.” The proud mom of three shares that her mom is distinctly able to trace both sides of the family’s Israel bond investments all the way to 1951. 
Sari and her family in a neighborhood park in Jerusalem, where they lived for a year and
experienced life as Israelis (Photo: Yehoshua Halevi)

During high school, Sari was a leader in United Synagogue’s youth movement, USY, where Israel was central to her programming and learning.  She went on a USY Israel Pilgrimage at 16, and returned again later that year on a two-month study program entitled USY High, a joint venture between USY and the Alexander Muss High School in Israel. While in college, she spent a semester in Israel, this time at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Each of these trips helped Sari develop her love of Israel even further.
Sari began showing her support for Israel as a young girl, participating in Chicago’s annual “Walk with Israel” around Yom Ha’Atzmaut where she and her friends would regularly seek sponsors to walk the day-long, multi-mile event across the north side of Chicago and the northern suburbs to raise money for Israel.  Embarking on her first voyage with her mom and siblings, the family rented an apartment for a month in Talpiot and toured the country from Jerusalem, mostly on group tours, both day and overnight. Landing in Israel the first time was very emotional, and Sari will always remember the applause and tears of her fellow passengers. At that time everyone deplaned by stairs to the tarmac, and many people bent down to kiss the ground, a powerful and memorable sight.
Sari was remarkably impressed by how much there was to see and do in Israel. Although each day was packed with tours, she and her family simply couldn’t get to everything. Despite the fact that the country always looked so small on maps, the historic sites, museums, kibbutzim, cities and neighborhoods to explore were endless.
In describing peer-accompanied trips to Israel during high school and college, Sari credits the “knowledgeable, engaging educators” who made each experience “come alive.” She continues, “I kept returning because Israel felt like home. By the time I was in college, I was able to navigate the country on my own, and with friends, and always felt safe and comfortable. I never wanted to leave.”
As a newly married couple, Sari and her husband visited Israel together and both agreed to return once they had a family. After a short first trip for a bar mitzvah, the family returned and visited friends who were in the middle of a one-year stay in Israel, which opened their eyes to the possibility of living in Israel for an extended period. That wish came true in August 2017, when the family began their one-year adventure, living in Jerusalem with their sons, ages 16, 14 and 10 at the time.
Sari recalls how special it was for the family to be able to live life in Israel in tune with the Jewish calendar, stating, “Celebrating every holiday was incredible…hearing bystanders wish strangers ‘Chag Sameach’ and seeing the special foods for the holiday on display everywhere. We saw Sukkot built next to or behind every restaurant, and Channukiot everywhere, even on the backs of bicycles! Tu Bishvat brought new fruits, reminding us that the calendar makes perfect sense in Israel, reinforced by the springtime start to Pesach.”
Being in Israel for its 70th anniversary in 2018 was an honor for Sari and her relatives. She proudly participated in the country’s collective mourning on Yom HaZikaron and equally in the joy on Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Sari exclaims, “It was truly amazing to be in Israel on Yom Ha’Atzmaut, as it was probably the first time I really felt the weight of the holiday; the fact that the modern State of Israel is a miracle, and everyone who lives in Israel shares in the pride and joy of this feat.”
When pondering Israel’s greatest accomplishment, Sari recognizes overcoming challenges and adversity as the nation’s most celebrated triumph.  She notes, “Whether it be political, military or social, Israel continues to achieve tremendous successes. Since the time of the War of Independence, and even earlier, Israel has built a strong, well-prepared army. The first settlers in Israel started to turn dry soil into today’s lush, green agricultural hub. Israel has become a safe haven for Jews, and today Israel’s high-tech economy makes it a world leader across a myriad of industries.”  
Sari feels blessed to live in the age of the modern State of Israel, with a Jewish homeland that is available to all Jews - a nation that is continuously growing and thriving. She asserts, “The fact that, after 2,000 years of yearning, the Jewish people have a home to call their own, in the land G-d promised in the Torah, is a true miracle. Every Jew, in any circumstance, from any country, always has a safe place to live and call home. Israel also provides us with a record of our long history and heritage, with archeological finds happening almost daily, showing evidence of Jewish life in Israel for millennia.” 

The Winick family stands with extended family outside the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron
(Photo: Cliff Churgin)