Israel Through My Eyes

The face of the cube was taunting me to complete it’s question. What was important to me on a trip full of so much excitement and adventure?

We were sitting in the bomb shelter of the Hotel Montefiore in Jerusalem reflecting on the past ten days of our Israel adventure. Our leader, Tzvi, gave us a cube with a phrase on each side. Each member of the sophomore class got a turn to throw the cube, and whatever phrase it landed on, they had to complete.

It is important to me…

There was so much that was important to me about this trip. Where to begin?

Well, it all began on a plane-a ten hour flight to Switzerland and then a 4 hour flight to Israel. This flight was one of the longest flights I’ve ever been on (considering I didn’t sleep at all). I found myself clicking the play button on movie after movie, but when we actually got to Israel, it was totally worth it.

After a big dinner (and a never ending supply of laffa bread), we met our Israeli entourage- our leader, Tzvi; our tour guide, Eve; our security guard, Roi; and our bus driver, Asa. We then made it to the hotel Kibbutz Lavi. Now, this was no ordinary hotel. Every morning there was a big breakfast full of hot food and pancakes…lots and lots of pancakes. It is most definitely important to me to remember what those delicious pancakes tasted like.

The first day, we went to Misgav Am which is in the “finger of Israel” (the very tip of Israel). If any of us were to step another five feet, we would have ended up in Lebanon. In fact, some people got texts from their data plan saying, “welcome to Lebanon.” We then traveled to the Banias, where we saw beautiful, rushing waterfalls. As we were leaving, we saw a blooming flower and were able to make a bracha on it that can only be said once in a year. From there we traveled to the temple of Pan. In Greek mythology, Pan is the god of nature and chaos (panic derives from Pan). We saw an Asian group praying in one of the arcs where idols were displayed.

And then came water rafting. My group (consisting of me, Shirley, Jacob, David, Itai and Mr. Herzek) was the last group to start our journey. We had a minor delay and started around five minutes behind the rest of the grade. When we got into the water, Shirley and I were in the front and had to switch off paddling. When we had to go left, I would paddle on the right side and vice versa. Mr. Herzek was in the back steering for us, but despite our best efforts, we always managed to get hit by branches.

Thanks to random Israelis who splashed water onto our boat, we were able to feel the water of the Banias for ourselves-and may I just say-the water was freezing! We attempted to paddle away, but they were much faster and could navigate through the water with much ease. After a few minutes, with intense effort, we managed to row far enough ahead to not be bothered. However, we were met with another set of foes shortly after. A few Arab kids were casually playing in the water with water guns. Naturally, they had to shoot at us (later on I heard that those kids yelled Allahu Achbar and shot their guns at another one of our classmates boat). It’s important to me to recognize how lucky we were for the guns to have shot water and not actual bullets.

By the time we got back and changed into dry clothes, it was a few hours to nightfall. That night was Yom Hashoah: the day of remembrance for the Holocaust. We had a small activity where we spoke about where we “put” the Holocaust. Some said in a backpack, with them everyday, some said a suitcase, brought out every now and then, and others said a closet. Originally, the closet would symbolize that we didn’t carry it with us almost at all, yet Itai put a spin on it. He said that he put it into the closet because the closet is at home. When you need it, it’s there. The Holocaust isn’t carried around by him everyday or every so often, but when he needs it, it’s right where he left it, always available. It’s important to me to remember that the Holocaust is always with me, even when it’s not on my mind.

The next morning, we went to Atlit, a detention camp for people who secretly escaped to Israel after the Holocaust. The rooms that people slept in were small and crowded, and the showers resembled the ones in concentration camps. Some people were scared to go in because they feared the poisonous gas and had to be bribed by chocolate or an orange to go in. The people were frightened, but their will for the land kept them going and alive. It is important to me to always love the land as much as the people who have suffered merely because they entered it.

That night, the real fun began. For a few years, I have decided that I want to go to the Israeli Army after high school, so it was extremely exciting to find out that we were going to simulate army training. We split up into two groups and dressed in a casual army uniform. The problem was, there was a bathroom but no one had the key, not even the commanders. So all the girls had to change behind a bush, and anyone who had to use the bathroom was stuck with just toilet paper and the woods.

Our commander, Mifakedet in Hebrew, gave us bags that we had to fill halfway with dirt and carry around wherever we went. Four people in our group had to carry around a stretcher, and on top of it was their halfway filled bags. At one point, we had to run up and down a hill, each carrying our bags (the stretcher was put down) for ten minutes. I have never hated running more in my life.

Our commander taught us how to army crawl and what to do if there was a grenade thrown at us. It became a joke in our class to randomly yell “Rimon!” (meaning grenade in Hebrew). By nightfall, both of our groups played capture the flag against one another in complete darkness. It was almost impossible to see anyone unless you were two feet in front of them. It ended up being a tie because both teams threw the flag over the border which wasn’t what we were supposed to do. In the end, we all took a hike in the dark around the woods and said the we completed our training. It’s important for me to fulfill my dream of going to the army and continue my army training in the near future.

The next day, we climbed down Mount Arbel. We were told that it hasn’t rained on Mount Arbel for years. If it rained before we climbed on it, or was supposed to rain as we were on it, we wouldn’t have gone (the rocks would have been way too slippery). So naturally, at the hardest spot, where we needed a wire to hold on to the mountain and the rocks were most slippery, it started to rain. Many people were scared. They were barely prepared for the regular climb, let alone the wet one. Yet everyone worked together to climb safely down the mountain. When I got to the bottom and looked up, it was striking to see the teamwork. Each person would tell the person behind them where to step, which rock was stable and which was too slippery, which foot would be better placed on each rock. It is important to always use this kind of teamwork throughout everyday life, to try to help people with as much care and passion that we did on the way down Mount Arbel.

After a hot two hours in the sun, we went to De Karina, a chocolate store. We created our own chocolate, which is indeed the best kind of chocolate you could ever imagine. From there we went to the mountain Ben Tal where there are trenches from a previous war. As we were leaving, we made a video saying, “OMG it’s Ben Tal!” featuring the sign indicating that the mountain was called Ben Tal (We sent it to the Ben Tal in the sophomore class).

The next day was Shabbat, and that night we took a party boat onto the Kineret. There was a lot of dancing, and bongos. Since I don’t dance that much, or at all, I played the bongos the entire time.

Sunday morning we left Kibbutz Lavi and started going to the south of Israel. On the way to our destination-the Bedouin tents-we took a tour at a kibbutz and then went to visit soldiers. The soldiers weren’t there, so we took a tour of the grapevines and other fruit. Two soldiers arrived when we were about to board the bus. We took a picture with them and left. Once we got to the Bedouin tents, a woman spoke to us about how she was the first woman to go against the Bedouin norms. Its was very enlightening, and she gave us tea and very bitter coffee. It is important to me to never drink coffee without sugar again.

We then ate dinner and went camel riding in the dark. We made a bonfire by the tent we were going to be sleeping in and sang songs with a guitar. Usually I don’t sing in front of others, but I didn’t feel the need to shy away this time. We all played “cops and robbers,” with the students playing the robbers and the teachers playing the cops. We stayed up until 12 and went to bed in our tents.

Four hours later we woke up to climb up Masada on time. We didn’t take the snake path, so it wasn’t a long or hard climb, and by the time we got up, the sun was about to rise. We davened in front of the rising sun with the most beautiful view and then toured Herod’s castle. We began, but never finished. At one point we took a break and never got out of it. Eve, our tour guide, took pity on us since we were exhausted, and we left early in the morning. It is important to always take pity on those who are exhausted and remember the difference between what I want some people to do and what they want to do.

We then took the bus to the Dead Sea, but I was way to cut up to go into the water. Rena, Almma and I stayed on the sand while everyone else slowly walked into the water yelling about the pain or how weird it felt. After a few minutes, eventually everyone came out and joined us on the sand. Frankly, not going in the water made everything more fun. From there we went to the mall to enjoy a nice meal of our choice (I decided on McDonald’s) and then to the hotel for a break until we had to leave for the alumni dinner.

When we woke up, we went to the blind section in the Children’s Museum. We went into a room that was pitch black and walked around with a tour guide who was visually impaired. We heard sounds like the rain forest or a bustling street, and felt objects like a car or groceries. We entered a room that was a makeshift bar and bought different foods or drinks.

After that, we went to the Israel Independence Hall where David ben Gurion declared Israel a state. We then had a scavenger hunt based around the different high tech in Tel Aviv.

That night we went to a Yom Hazikaron ceremony, and another the next morning. Later that day, we went to Shiloh (where the Mishkan used to be). It was also the place where Chana davened to have a son (who ended up being Shmuel), so when we davened, I felt a deep connection to the land I was standing on (my middle name is Chana). It is important to never forget the pain that our ancestors went through and how they got out of it.

The next day we went to the City of David and walked through water tunnels. Then we went to Ma’arat Hamachpelah, the burial place of Adam, Chava, Avraham, Sara, Isaac, Rivka, Yaakov and Leah. I have never felt so emotional or connected to Judaism in my life. We had a ten minute Shmoneh Esrei standing by the forefathers’ graves.

The next day was family day, but early in the morning we went to the shuk to get some merchandise. Everyone who didn’t go with their family went zip-lining. Then it was Shabbat. Right after Shabbat we raced to the airport and returned home.

I enjoyed and learned so much on this trip. It is important to me to emphasize what an amazing place Israel is, and to let people know that I was not scared for a mere second while I was there. It is important to me to return in three years and go to the army. It is important to me to let everyone know that despite what they may think, this amazing country has the deepest connections to Judaism and a holy, special air surrounding it that makes it feel like the most remarkable place on earth…because it is.

By: Rina Reich

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