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Group from Palm Beach-area temple heads back to Guatemala for second trip

Palm Beach area temple back to Guatemala

Feb. 12, 2019 - (Palm Beach Daily News / Olivia Feldman - photo courtesy: Peter Bendetson) - West Palm Beach, FL - Much of the Temple Beth-El group that traveled to Guatemala last year decided to go back last month, this time with a different purpose.

“It was time to go back, but this time not on a mission of gratitude, but on a humanitarian mission,” said Peter Bendetson, a Palm Beach resident and Beth-El board member.

The West Palm Beach temple partnered with the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County to organize a trip to the country from Jan. 25 to 29 to help fellow Israel supporters. The group included Bendetson and Temple Beth-El President Ilan Kottler. Beth-El Rabbi Leonid Feldman and Palm Beach Synagogue Rabbi Moshe Scheiner, who went last year, were unable to attend this year, Bendetson said.

Over five days, the group met with Guatemala First Lady Patricia Marroquín and U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala Luis Arreaga and also traveled to the remote village of San Andres Osuna to supply residents with water filters, blankets and lights.

Bendetson said when he arrived in the village, he had never seen so much poverty in his life.

“Most people don’t even have bathrooms,” he said. “To see 350 people line up and treat you like heroes, it’s really an incredible feeling.”

In May, Guatemala became the second country to move its embassy to Jerusalem, making the move two days after the United States did. It was also the second country after the United States to recognize Israel as an independent state in 1948.

“Jewish people in general are taught to give back, and this was a way,” Kottler said. “It is important to thank our friends, not just by words but by action.”

Beth-El is already planning a third trip to Guatemala next year, when West Palm Beach teens can come with the group and provide school supplies for the local children.

“We live in a world with so much,” Bendetson said. “We live in paradise and they really have nothing. The appreciation they show is something beyond belief.”

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