Written by Melissa Gordon '13
This morning I woke up at 6:40 to an alarm, followed shortly after by 3 wake up calls and a visit from the hotel staff. Maybe they were extra worried we weren’t awake after our night out at a dance club in Tel Aviv last night, but I actually woke up rested. We had a great breakfast with non-instant coffee! Then we boarded the bus at 8am and went south to Independence Hall in Tel Aviv. This stands on the site of the very first building in Tel Aviv. We heard a speaker and watched a video about the creation of the Israeli state, and then sat in the same room where the Israeli Declaration of Independence was signed and where the 32 minute meeting was held declaring the independent Jewish state in the land of Israel. I found it interesting to learn more details about exactly when Israel became a country and it was cool to see video footage and pictures of the land as a desert progressing into a developed city. I didn’t know about the UN voting to approve the map/plan of Israel, and that 33 nations approved, 13 disapproved, and 10 abstained from voting. It is an intriguing parallel to learn about a Declaration of Independence and people signing it so recently (1948), when I am used to seeing illustrations of our “forefathers” and John Hancock signing the US Declaration of Independence so long ago. Another thing we learned was that Tel Aviv was so named after the German book by Theodor Herzel, making it allegedly the only city in the world named after a book. Tel means old mountains/ hills, and Aviv is spring; the name and place unite old history and new life. Looks like the coffee really did its job as I was alert and focused enough to remember all this!
Then we walked to Carmel Market which has several streets lined with street vendors, full of people shopping. Esty and I first walked down the mellower street with artists selling their work (that’s a rule- the vendors must be artists selling their own work). I liked the pomegranate themed jewelry and bowls. I bought vanilla-peach scented soap in the shape of cheese for my sister. Then I tried a new food that Esty recommended which I don’t remember the name of but it is flat round bread with common spread cheese, spices, and couscous, and also a freshly pressed carrot-mango juice. I also bought a cup of pomegranate seeds to eat. We walked down the other, more crowded, street with many more food vendors and more crowded stands with clothes and less artistic items for sale. We ran into fewer fellow birthright friends than I expected, recognizable by our bright orange lanyards, and we tried free samples of olive oil (with bread), dates, and falafel. I practiced my Hebrew by saying Thank you, Todah, as well as excuse me, which I’ve now forgotten. Maybe the coffee wore off. I found it special to be in Tel Aviv with Esty since it is somewhere important to her and where she lived for a term, so now I can understand her life a little better.
I am also enjoying getting to know the group better, and especially the Israelis who have joined us. While I understand the necessity of having a strong and ready military for the existence of Israel, and that the goal is to maintain peace, I have struggled a little with the idea of all young adults being part of a group that is ready to engage in non-peaceful activities. I know that reality is not my ideal world, but I wish there were a way for everyone to be raised as part of a peace for all group, instead of ready to engage in war. And maybe some would call the military a group for peace. I know I sound like a naïve hippie but these are my reflections on and struggles with the idea of what all people my age must take part in here. I liked being in the city, which honestly did feel similar to other foreign cities and street markets I’ve been to. Now we are preparing for Shabbat in Jerusalem which I expect to be a very Jewish and Israeli feeling event and which I think will be very special.