These past few days in the Holy Land have gone by in the blink of an eye — most every second we’ve been learning, doing, or eating! As the jet lag fades and excitement builds, the class of twenty-nineteen has been soaking up experience after experience in Israel, and has bonded as a grade like never before.
First, we ventured into the far North via a long, music-filled bus ride, complete with tons of trail mix and a stop at Leket, a farm in the North that donates its produce to the hungry of Israel. Our class, without warning, donned our green thumbs and plunged into the soil, harvesting over two tons of kohlrabi, effectively helping feed over six hundred families.
I greatly enjoyed the experience, and as a gardener from a young age, loved to get my hands dirty again. While these feelings weren’t shared by everyone, we all had a good laugh as we boarded the bus for the North — headed for a Mechinah; a pre-army program for eighteen/nineteen year-olds.
At the Mechinah, our grade quickly broke the ice with the teens there and had such a blast. We discussed important questions, ate yummy food, and departed having made real connections, excited to return in the morning to hike for not one, not two, but eight hours with them!
When my internal alarm clock woke me up at four-thirty the next morning (thanks, jet lag) I was so, so, so excited to hike (maybe too excited) that I proceeded to fall asleep and come late to breakfast. Regardless of my tardiness, our grade and the Mechinah teens embarked upon what would be a semi-exhausting, and definitely photo-oppable hike up the second-tallest mountain in Israel.
Hours later (literally, no joke) we reached the summit. If you thought we would be too tired to take pictures...you thought wrong! Myself and others snapped as many as we could.
Pretty soon, it was time to head back to the buses, and eat another scrumptious dinner with the Mechinah teens. In the morning, we would leave for a series of places that would each educate us on a different minority group in Israel.
We started out in an Arab village where we would visit a mosque, a church, and a synagogue, all while walking the streets and, of course, eating. There, we learned something quite insightful: that the conflicts between different religions in the Middle East (and especially Israel) are often dramatized by the media. More often than not, denizens live in peace with one another, regardless of identity.
We’d take this message with us as we left the village and went to the Bahai Gardens of Haifa; which were absolutely gorgeous. Needless to say, photos were taken (and yes, I’m guilty of many of those). After we’d gotten our fill of luscious trees, copper-tinged rocks, and the breathtaking view, we learned about the Bahai peoples and then embarked for a Druze village to the South of Haifa.
There, we walked through constricted streets, narrowly avoided getting run over multiple times, and had a lovely home-cooked traditional Druze meal. Before we dined, however, the message of peace brought up in the Arab village was restated by a Druze man, who also taught us about his people’s culture.
After this long day, we as a collective definitely came away with a broader and more nuanced understanding of the conflict (or lack thereof) between Jews and Israel’s minority groups. I am confident I speak for everyone when I say such education certainly enhanced our experience and knowledge.
After a short “30-minute” bus ride (according to Mr. Wolgel and Rabbi Kertesz, getting to anywhere in Israel takes just "thirty minutes"), we arrived in Tel Aviv. I scrambled off the bus before my classmates in order to catch a webcam tutoring session with my ACT tutor (yes, I know I’m crazy). By then, we were all ready to crash after such an action-packed few days.
Tomorrow, we’ve got a host of fun activities on tap, which I’m super-excited for. Our time in Israel so far has only grown us as Jews, thinkers, and global citizens, and I can’t wait to experience more in the land of my people.