Taglit Birthright Israel - Mayanot 134 Blog

Day Six

Monday, December 15, 2014 - 7:17 pm
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray

 Sam Glick

After a late night out at Tel Aviv's port, we slowly crawled out of our beds at 5:45 AM to prepare for our 3 hour long journey to the Dead Sea.  We arrived at the site and quickly changed into swimsuits to lather up in some famous Dead Sea mud. While it felt strange to cover ourselves in these gray globs, this mud has exfoliating properties that we were all excited to take advantage of. The mud began to harden on our bodies, so we cautiously entered the sea one by one. As soon as the first person in the water lifted their feet from the salty seafloor and floated easily, we all flocked to the water. Other tourists watched on as we all reclined in the water, some of us flailing in confusion. Once we got our bearings in the Dead Sea, we gently floated along enjoying our newly smooth, soft skin.


Finishing the therapeutic session led us to the adjacent landmark, Mosada, which means Mountain Fortress. We tightened our hiking shoes and sneakers, applied sunscreen, and stocked up on water for the long and arduous trip on the gondola.  After a challenging 3 minute wait in the rail car, we arrived at the top of Mosada and began touring. Ariel generously recreated history for us by screaming out from the top of the mountain that the Roman soldiers below would never take the Jewish city where we stood. Unfortunately, we learned that the citizens of this first century city took their own lives to avoid the savagery of the Roman troops.


We hiked down Mosada on and all piled into the bus after a tiring day.  We are now en route to the Beduin tents where we look forward to a filling meal and restful sleep. 

Day 5

Monday, December 15, 2014 - 7:17 pm
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray

 Noah Grass

Hello again from Israel!


Yesterday morning we woke up for the first time not on our favorite kibbutz but in a modern hotel on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Our day in the city started early with an authentic Israeli experience: rush hour traffic. We finally arrived at Rabin Square, in the center of the city. Amid the bustle of the city we talked to average Israelis of all walks of life about Rabin, his politics, his assassination, and his legacy. Hearing the sheer diversity of views held by just the handful of people we were able to meet in a few minutes really brought the country's politics to life and was really helpful for contextualizing the discussions we had over the previous few days.


Dodging the rain, we headed south to the historic neighborhoods of the city. We walked along the beaches where Tel Aviv was founded, saw the Middle East's first train station, and learned about the incredibly rich history of the unassuming buildings we passed.


Our walking tour led us to one of my favorite parts of the trip so far, the Nachalat Binyamin market. There, we explored stall after stall of fruits, desserts, clothes, and trinkets. Our Israeli soldier friends were a huge help – they guided us through the chaotic streets, haggled for our souvenirs, and helped us find some of the best falafel yet! The market was unlike anything in the US, the entire area alive with bargaining, gossip, and people from all over Israel and the world. It was simply  unforgettable.


 After the market we dove back in to the winding streets to visit Independence Hall, our last stop of the day. Here we saw where David Ben-Gurion declared the State of Israel independent in 1948. The highlight of the unassuming former art museumcaws a perfect reconstruction of what the main hall looked like during the independence ceremony, complete with Israeli flags and a portrait of Herzl.


Later, we returned to the port to try to get a taste of Tel Aviv's legendary nightlife. Perhaps unsurpringly, the nightlife is alive and well- just not on a Tuesday night in the offseason. Making the most of our evening, we explored the boardwalk and took in its beautiful views of the sea and the city.


Overall Tel Aviv was really welcome break from the rural north of the country and a great showcase of just how a country as small as Israel can be incredibly diverse. Everyone definitely enjoyed our time in the city, and we're all looking forward to getting to see even more of the country in the coming days!


Until next time,


Photos

Monday, December 8, 2014 - 2:20 pm
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray

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day 4

Monday, December 8, 2014 - 2:14 pm
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray

 

Carl Neiser `15


 

Sal-Jew-tations from Israel!


Today, our group bid farewell to the Golan Heights with a hike up Mt. Arbel. Both the views from the summit and the difficult trail leading down the mountain were truly breathtaking. Everyone who participated deserves a hearty congrat-Jew-lations. 


Heading south, our group made our next stop in the beautiful city of Tzfat. There, we discussed Jewish mysticism, explored the artists' quarter, and learned about the city's history. The boys of the group made a brief excursion to the Ari Mikveh, the holiest Mikveh in the world. After bathing in its cleansing waters, we all felt thoroughly re-Jew-vented.


I can safely say that this country is the most geographically diverse place I've ever been to. Even though we've only been here for four days, it seems as though we've already seen so many different worlds. For instance, comparing the intensity of the Israel-Lebanon border with the tranquility of Tzfat is a lot like like juxtaposing Mr. Hyde and Dr. Shekel.


After Tzfat, we stopped by the home of our tour guide's parents. They were extremely hospitable to us, especially his father: while we were there, Hebrew'd us some coffee.


Now, as we head towards Netanya and say goodbye to northern Israel, I look forward to seeing what else this amazing country has to offer, as well as subjecting my peers to my awful dad-puns.

 


Peace out cub scouts,

 


 

 

Day 3

Monday, December 8, 2014 - 2:14 pm
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray

 

Jordan Einhorn `17

Greetings from Israel! Yesterday we had another full day in the Golan Heights. We woke up bright and early at seven am and started the day with a buffet breakfast. Our options were the same as they had been the past few days including a range of cereals, different types of vegetables, eggs, and toast. We are all getting used to the food and drink here, which is all very different than at home (instant coffee anyone?). 


We left the kibbutz with much anticipation since it was the day we were going to be joined by eight Israeli soldiers! The soldiers are all from different parts of Israel, and perform different jobs in the army. They provide a huge variety of experiences and opinions to our trip, which is incredibly interesting. All the soldiers are so friendly and I think I speak for everyone when I say that we are very excited to get to know them during their five day journey with us. After a short drive from the kibbutz we picked the soldiers up on the side of the road and cheered for them as they got on the bus.


Our next stop was a short hike that led to a waterfall. When we got off the bus we did some ice breakers with the soldiers, including a game where a small group of us were responsible for introducing each soldier with a little skit. After laughing at everyone we started our hike. This was definitely the easiest and shortest hike we have done. However, it still was beautiful and of course included some of Ariel's stories. After walking in what felt like a rainforest we ended up at the waterfall. It was a gorgeous sight and a great photo-op. 

We all climbed back onto the bus and stopped at a mall for a very short lunch break. Our options were a fast food burger place, a pizza place, a cafe or a falafel and shwarma place. Those of us that braved the incredibly long falafel line got the choice between falafel in pita, baguette, or with a salad, as well as a range of toppings from hummus to vegetables. This is a meal we are all getting used to very quickly! We were definitely aghast to hear that some Israelis consider falafel junk food- it seems pretty healthy to us.


After filling up we got back on the bus and drove to one of the highlights of the trip thus far- a place to drive jeeps in the Golan Heights. I say jeeps, but they were really more of a combination between jeeps and golf carts. The vehicles were open air and could hold either three or five people. Most of us were able to drive (yes family, this unlicensed driver drove in Israel) the vehicles in a sort of off-road situation. We were on a path, but it was pretty bumpy and muddy. Some of us drove more conservatively than others, but everyone had a great time. We got to see more amazing views and were even given some mid-drive cold refreshments, which were delicious. 


If you can't tell by now, this day was definitely a marathon, and we still have one more stop before we returned to the kibbutz. Our final activity was a stop by the border between Israel and Lebanon. We could basically go up to the fence that was on the actual border. After taking in more incredible views (we were on top of a mountain) we went into a room that had panoramic views of both Lebanon and Israel. We took a seat and prepared ourselves to hear from a speaker who we had been warned did not care about being politically correct and held pretty extreme views. Aryeh Ben Yaakov, the speaker, definitely lived up to expectations. Originally he is from Ohio and then he moved to Israel in the 60s and served in numerous wars. Among many other topics, he spoke about the history of the states in the Middle East, living on a kibbutz on the border, his view of the Lebanese people, and his opinion regarding US intervention. In general, he has a strong belief in self-defense and is certainly not politically correct. His views were definitely right-wing, about as far to the right as anyone you might meet. I think we all really appreciated the opportunity to hear from someone with such strong opinions and it inspired some really interesting debate. 


After the talk we were all definitely exhausted and I think most people enjoyed a quick nap on the way to the kibbutz. We had dinner at the kibbutz, which was the same food we had been served the other nights. The array of salads including tomato-cucumber, beets, and peppers are all dishes with which we are quite familiar at this point. After dinner we had a chance to discuss Aryeh's talk. Before opening up the floor to questions Aryeh had said that he was not interested in hearing our opinions or debating with us because we had not lived through what he had. A topic that dominated our discussion was what we felt about that statement, and a general debate regarding whose opinions matter in these situations. Many members of the trip discussed how we had only heard from right-wing speakers and how it felt like most information was framed in that same mindset. It was interesting to hear people debate the validity of that opinion, and what they felt was the effect, or lack there of, of framing. Speaking of framing, we also talked about the role of the media in the conflict and biases that western media may hold. The discussion definitely benefited from the Israeli soldiers' opinions. Personally, I thought it was incredibly interesting to hear about the fear they feel due to threats from their neighboring states and their opinions on the Israeli army's actions in Gaza.


If you made it this far I applaud you and hope that you were able to get a sense of how full our days have been. Everyone seems to be enjoying the trip and looking forward to what the rest holds for us! 

 


See you in a week!

 

Day 2

Saturday, December 6, 2014 - 5:38 pm
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray

 

Day 2 Captains Log:

By Sam Glick

 

 

We were able to sleep in this morning, which gave us all a great relief from our exhaustion due to jetlag. We started the morning with a nice Kiddush, filled with grape juice and wafers. We then took a lovely tour of our Kibbutz and got to see the cows and land that support the people living in the Kibbutz. The fun fact of the day was that Israeli cows produce 30 L of milk a day, a whopping 16 more than American cows. We were also able to experience an incredible view overlooking the Golan from the Kibbutz behind a fence labeled "Danger, Mines," which we have learned is commonplace in the region due to the wars in years past. Lunch was delicious, and we had lots of relaxation time afterwards to hangout and get to know each other better. Next, we had a fascinating and heated discussion with Rabbi in which we were able to ask him any questions we wanted concerning Israel or Judaism in general. Everyone was engaged, and it was really interesting to hear Rabbi's views and beliefs on pressing matters in today's society.

 

Next, we started off our night by going to dinner in Tiberius. Dinner was delightful, and we all sat outside enjoying the cool, breezy night. We then ventured across the street and spent the rest of our night in Tiberius at a fun local pub. The way home, however, was not as fun as we spent most of the time fearing for our lives while our fearless bus driver, Alexander, zoomed around the tightest, scariest turns on the steep mountains of the Golan. Overall, it was another awesome day in Israel. 

Day 1

Saturday, December 6, 2014 - 5:36 pm
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray

 By Emily Burack `17

Woke up at a 630 am and went to have breakfast in the communal living area of the kibbutz that we're staying at in the Golan Heights. I wondered if all the food that we ate was grown on the kibbutz. After breakfast, we got on the bus and went to a lookout point that used to be a Syrian military base. Our tour guide, Ariel, gave us a brief overview of Jewish history (he sang!) and had volunteers act out key scenes in Jewish history. We took some photos with the beautiful lookout and then went back on the bus and we learned the hebrew word of the day, sababa, which means awesome. Then we arrived at the hike and had another lesson about Syrian-Israel relations. To be honest, I expected the hike to be up a mountain and a beautiful view. Instead, we seemed to hike downwards into a valley. The hike has been my favorite part of Birthright thus far because we had the chance to get to know the people on our trip with us. Ariel had told us the hike was going to be two hours but it didnt feel like two hours – focusing on the hike and the conversations made the time go by very quickly. At the end of the hike, we saw this super neat waterfall

.After. Lunch was in this small town in the Golan – I had delicious falafel (doesn’t quite compare to the falafel at Dartmouth, I was so glad to finally eat authentic Israeli falafel), then we went to the Syrian border with Israel. Ariel told us stories about the '73 war and I was kinda surprised that there was a gift shop overlooking a country where a civil war is happening. As we were leaving, Ariel told us that the downed Syrian aircraft had been turned into sculptures. At first, I was kinda uncomfortable with this – why take acts of destruction and make them into things that we consume as art? But it was explained that this was indicative of Israel's desire for peace. As we drove back to the kibbutz, I reflected on everything we had seen. I had just taken a class on the Politics of Israel and Palestine, and it was really eye-opening to be in the places where the events we learned about occurred. We got back to the Kibbutz and celebrated Shabbat and had some ice breakers, then went to sleep after an exhausting day of activity. I don’t know what I quite expected out of Birthright (tour Israel? Meet Dartmouth Jews?) but so far, I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Golan Heights and learning about what happened where we go. 


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