“Cell phones are just pieces of plastic with Jewish brains.”
Jaffa Port- Zack Arenstein
After walking around Tel Aviv for a little while we ended up at Jaffa Port. To me this was the most amazing part of the day because of the historical/mythical significance it holds. Our guide Marty told us 2 stories that are relatively common and ones that I had heard and studied before, the story of Jonah and the Whale, and the greek story of Andromeda and Perseus’ journey to save her. According to Marty, both of these stories had large important parts take place at that very spot.
In the case of Jonah and the Whale, Jonah set sail out of Jaffa Port in order to run away from his God-given task of telling people to the East to repent for their sins. Instead, Jonah sailed West and ended up being swallowed by the whale. In the other story, Jaffa Port is where Perseus supposedly used Medusa’s severed head to turn the Kraken to stone. Some of the stones by the wall in the water are supposed to be its remains.
These kinds of things are definitely one of the most amazing things about Israel. For years we’ve learned about stories like this. Until now, they had no context. To come to Israel and go to see these historically significant places is unbelievable.
A huge part of Israel and learning about the culture is eating the food. So for our first lunch, in Israel, most of us headed to a schwarma restaurant to taste this Israeli delicacy. Schwarma is meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, with fat dripping down the sides. We were able to pick between chicken and lamb, or both, and on a wrap or pita. They added cucumber, tomato, hummus, and seasonings as well. It was greasy, but delicious!
Our tour educator, Marty, explained to us that while our trip is about seeing all the things that make him proud to live in Israel, he doesn’t want to/ wasn’t able to sugarcoat things when we were all standing at the spot where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in ’95. The peace treaty Rabin had signed two years previously wasn’t working out too well and a religious Israeli law student decided to as he said, “take the law into his own hands.” This event was something that impacted all of the people living in Israel. Our parents remember where they were when Kennedy was shot, we all know where we were when 9/11 occurred, and for the people of Israel, they all know where they were when their former Prime Minister was shot. I really liked the sculpture we saw next to the sight representing Israel having the ground ripped out from under them. It was a bunch of stones all unevenly placed next to each other. The entire sight and conversation with Marty was very powerful and definitely something I want to take away from the day.
Juxtaposition –Jason Liebman
Looking out from a scenic overview in the port of Jaffe, We learned how juxtaposition and contrast have shaped the Israeli landscape and culture. Going up along the shoreline from where we are now, we see the old tile rooftops of the early neighborhoods of Tel Aviv in the foreground. As you move further away, it is as if the city progressed forward over time. Two story tile roofed homes give way to modern glass skyscrapers in the distance. Walking along the shoreline from the ancient port of Jaffa to the modern city of Tel Aviv, the new concrete promenade grows and evolves out of the hand laid bricks. Arab Churches and Mosques Coexist within the city where the Jewish state was declared. The juxtaposition of these contrasting aspects surprisingly live in harmony like preserved moments in time all occurring right now.
Welcome Home – Justin Kalin
In the image of late 19th century father of Zionism Theodore Herzle, on the sand dune where Tel Aviv was bought and populated by Jewish diaspora, the first city of the modern state was born. Its founder and official Mayor Dizengoff was offered the plot to build his home, which later became the city’s first art museum made possible by his selfless donation. But Tel Aviv faced many horrors, including the devastating aftermath of the Holocaust and impending attacks from 5 Arab nations. On May 14, 1948, Britain ended its occupation of the Holy Land , leaving hundreds of thousands in imminent danger. Jerusalem was far too conspicuous, and with only a few hours to spare an art museum was quickly transformed into Independence Hall. In a 32-minute assembly, Jewish leader Ben Gurian signed an emergency declaration of statehood which rushed a seemingly impossible Israel into existence.
In closing our story of perseverance, we as Birthright participants were deemed not tourists, visitors or guests – we are the Jewish people returned home. A dream for our ancestors is now our right. The gesture blew me away.
The morning began at 7:15 with a delicious breakfast at the Nof Ginosaur dining room, featuring a wide array of foods including pancakes, cereal, yogurt, an omelette station, along with many other Israeli dishes.
After breakfast, the group got their belongings together and hopped on the bus. The very scenic route led us to the Tel Dan nature preserve, where we hiked to a beautiful waterfall (which was well worth the muddy and slippery adventure -- despite the few individuals who made very good friends with the ground).
The military-style caravan began when we were escorted by jeeps to an off-road path, leading to a bunker overlooking the Golan Heights. Accompanied by enthusiastic and hilarious drivers, we learned a lot about the area along with the history behind Israel and Syria.
The caravan ended with another bus ride to an awesome Schwarma place (there were other food options as well, but most of us were told by family and friends that we MUST try it). During the ride, our tour guide Doron discussed the history of conflict between Lebanon and Israel.
Our next stop was the De-Karina chocolate factory, where received a personal tour and a behind-the-scenes view of the hand-made chocolate in the making, followed by a chocolate and chocolate liqueur tasting (don't fret parents, it was all supervised). Souvenir purchasing was available, just in case the free chocolates acquired by Inbal weren't good enough (thanks again Inbal!!).
Our last stop was a beautiful view of the Syrian border, where Doron explained the history of the area. Many pictures were taken, followed by a very silent and sleep-filled bus ride back to the hotel.
The day came to a close with a committee-forming session, followed by dinner and a final discussion.