Junior Journey: Along the Banks of the Jordan

Shayna D., Class of 2018
On the second day of the Junior Journey to Israel, students spent the day meeting new people on kibbutzim, and hiking the banks of the Jordan River. Shayna D. '18 has more in her blog post.
Another incredible jam-packed day in the north.

We woke up and went right to tefillah. I participated in a tefillah where we toured around the Kibbutz and visited with the animals. We all had so much fun petting the horses and feeding the goats. We also got to see a beautiful view of the surrounding area and learn about the history of Kibbutzim. Getting to see the wonderful place that we are staying was a really great way to start the morning.

After tefillah we got into our tribe groups and spent some time reflecting on the incredible experiences that we've had so far. The consensus of my tribe was just how grateful we are to be in Israel. We all appreciated the ability to step out of our normal routine and really see ourselves and each other in a new light. After tribe meetings we met the mechina group for a walk along the Jordan River. We split up into groups of around 15 and played some games and then started our hike.

The hike was definitely a highlight. I loved having the opportunity to speak one on one with Mechina students and learn what life is like for them. I spoke with one girl about the differences between living in a very large country like America and living in a very small country like Israel. At one point during the hike, all the groups met up and took a break next to the river. Many of us decided to jump right in. It was so cold but so much fun.

We hung out for awhile in the river and then continued our hike and tried to dry off in the sun. After our hike we headed to the Kibbutz where the Mechina students live and enjoyed a delicious lunch of pita and falafel in our same small hiking groups.

After lunch we had an hour of free time to just explore the Kibbutz. Many students played basketball and the others went to a gorgeous outlook and heard some stories about being on Mechina. Afterwards we heard a lecture from a Nobel Prize laureate. He told us about the incredible discoveries he's made and what he hopes to accomplish in the future. All the juniors were really excited that he spoke about many things we have learned in biology this year.

After the lecture we had some time to just hang out with the Mechina students. We then split off into our groups and had discussions about what it means to be a "good Jew." It was so interesting to hear the differences between Israeli and American beliefs on this issue and how Zionism plays a role in all of it. By the end of the conversation we all agreed that connecting to Israel is an important part of being Jewish but living in Israel does not necessarily make you a "better Jew." Some of us even argued that living in the Diaspora makes you a "better Jew" because it's so much harder to be Jewish outside of Israel.

Once back at Kibbutz Gonen, we had a delicious barbecue dinner with our friends from Mechina. After dinner we had the time of our lives dancing and singing with a popular Israeli musician. The room was filled with long rows of chairs but it didn't take long for us to push the chairs aside and turn the room into a dance floor. After our concert turned dance party, we said goodbye to our new friends from Mechina. It was unbelievable to think that we had only known these people for a little over a day. After many hugs and goodbyes, the juniors headed back to their rooms for what will hopefully be a good night's sleep. 

Tomorrow we head for Tel Aviv!
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