Something great about birthright is
that sometimes you are surprised about what inspires you. Visiting the (underground
what was it called), the secret weapons manufacturing during the time the
British controlled the pre-Israeli state, really reached me in a way I never
would have predicted. We heard fascinating stories about how the weapon
manufacturing was kept a secret. They knew that there was a tremendous amount
of noise to cover up, so they started a laundry business that would run all
day. However, clothes would be picked up and dropped off so no one would come
close to the site. It was such a successful business that even the British
soldiers sent in their uniforms.
Meanwhile, underneath the raucous
noise of the machine, there would be men and women diligently working. They
were not in far away fields, as the “giraffes,” kibbutzim who, like giraffes,
didn’t know what was happening below their feet, thought they were. So, the
manufacturers installed a tanning room to appear like they work outside all
When a train explosion caused the
death of British officers, the workers rushed to their aid so that they would
not feel the need to explore the kibbutz and possibly find the underground factory.
When a solider came by the kibbutz to personally thank them for their aid, they
gave him a glass of warm beer. If he wanted a cold one, he would have to make
sure he called in advance (so they would never be caught off guard again). The
guide, Yaov, joked that since he was British, he would then call 5 days in
advance, then 3 days, then the day before to confirm, and so on.
There were many more fascinating
stories like these (like how the bullets they made were one millimeter too
large, so the worker that had to shave off that extra bit was nicknamed the mohel),
but what was most meaningful to me was that the bravery of the men and women
manifested themselves in a way that was uniquely Jewish. The stories all had
Jewish humor, spirit, creativity, and work ethic in order to accomplish a very
righteous and serious goal. Also what was very important to me was the fact
that in this effort the men and women were equal—women were appreciated for the
time and risk they put into protecting their people. In return, I can
appreciate and sincerely feel connected to the the dedication of Jews in a
different time and place, with an inspiring mission and a uniquely Jewish way
of protecting its people.
The last days of the trip were an emotional
roller coaster as we started the day with
an overview of the old city of Jerusalem and were formally welcomed to The
heart of the Jewish people. We visited the old city and spent time praying,
meditating and singing at the Western Wall.
We then spent a few hours in the
Shuk, Macheneh Yehuda, tasting and smelling the amazing foods of the open air
market and “grazing” our way through with our Israeli counterparts as our
waiters and guides. Then in the afternoon we took a turn for the sadder as we visited
Mt. Herzel, The national cemetery for leaders of the nation and fallen soldiers.
We listened as our Soldier friends told stories of fallen friends and family
members. We heard how each and every person had to fight for this land in one
way or another and that they felt that as hard as it was, they had no choice because
this was their (and our) home land.
The following day we visited Yad
Vashem, the memorial and museum of the holocaust. An experience that can only
be truly understood through a visit on your own, but be it enough to say that
emotions ranged from disgust, to tears, to fear and then to hope as we walked
out on to the balcony at the end of the museum overlooking the hills of
We then proceeded to the garden of
roses to reflect on all that we had seen and officially say good bye to our
soldiers. A day of emotions and tears both of happiness
and sadness, but a true reflection of this amazing country, a wonderful people,
and a fantastic trip.
was a good chance for everyone to relax and enjoy Shabbat together. Saturday was the first time on our trip for
us to sleep in at the hotel. Since it was Shabbat there was time to spare for
sitting by the pool and some peaceful meditiation. Some of us relaxed while others engaged in a
discussion with the Rabbi about sexual relationships. After the last meal of Shabbat we gathered
together and sang.
feasted on yet another delicious breakfast at the hotel. We eventually picked up 8 wonderful soldiers
for Mifgash. We quickly learned that our
pre-planned ice-breaker was not necessary:
they were just like us and eager to socialize. Then, the soldiers joined us in the Dead Sea. The impossibility of floating brought back
nostalgic memories for most, as others rubbed small amounts of healing mud on
themselves. Finally, we made our way to
the hospitable Bedouins, who’s tents we slept in reminded us to be grateful for
ever minor commodity, yet gave us a certain simple connection with the desert
ascended the immaculate Mount Masada with an excellent explanation from our
tour/life guide Phil. We joined a very
generous farmer who shared his finest carrots, radishes, strawberries, and
tomatoes, topped off with a pesto tasting and peace dove ceremony for Gilad
Shaleet, a captured Israeli soldier.
evening the soldiers presented a hilarious demonstration of Israeli stereotypes
and we reciprocated with our own. It is
absolutely amazing and fascinating how quickly and close we are getting. Besides doing Israeli things like teaching
us, ordering food, and making suggestions, we are making ties which we have no
doubt will last longer than the remainder of this trip.
also a very exciting day as we commenced our tour at the Alayon Institute for an
enlightening tour of the clandestine factory used during the British mandate. Next
we met a Binghamton alumni at the “Save a Child’s Heart”. There we learned about this amazing heart-
touching program itself and met a few children that we apart of the
organization. And finally, we ended our Tuesday in Rana’ana to attend the Mega
Event. It was amazing and everyone had a lot of fun! Here, we met other
Birthright Taglit groups from all over the world such as Argentina, Brazil,
India, Canada and of course, different parts of the United State. Later at the
Mega Event, we attended a very exciting and thrilling concert.
day in Israel began bright and early.
After eating breakfast as a group in the hotel, we boarded the bus en
route for the Tel Dan Nature Reserve.
There we took a peaceful walk through a scenic trail. One group broke off for a jog and was able to
see the entrance and gates of an ancient city before rejoining the group. Our next stop was the Golan Heights. The road was long and winding, but allowed
for plenty of pictures of the rolling landscape. We stopped at the site of an Israeli bunker
where we could see the shared border with Syria. Phil taught us about the 6 day war and the current cease-fire between the two
nations. The valley below us was the DMZ
(De-Militarized Zone) and the site of a UN training base. We also had time to meet Philippine Soldiers,
buy fresh fruit from a stand and view sculptures built from war tanks.
Then we went
kayaking on the Jordan River!! We split into small groups that each had their
own raft. As we traveled down the river
we interacted with many of the locals swimming in the river and in other kayaks. After drying off we headed back to the hotel to prepare for
Shabbat. AHH SAMSON THE BATTERY IS LOW AND IT IS ALMOST SHABBAT
boarded the fli8ght, preparing for an 11 hour flight. Most of us were able to fall asleep after
dinner was served in-flight. The rest of
us enjoyed the crying of cute babies, various TV shows, and woke up to The
King’s Speech. It was already Thursday
afternoon in Israel when we arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.
of the airport we were introduced to our fabulous tour guide Phil, a
knowledgeable father and witty comedian.
We also met our guard and medic Maria.
Although she packs a gun, she is a genuine sweet heart. Our Israeli bus driver, Eran took us to our
first destination in Caesarea. Although
there was some pekok (traffic), the
bus dropped us off at an ancient aqueduct by the beach that was both beautiful
and intuitive. For many of us it was our
first time seeing and stepping into the Mediterranean Sea. Our next stop was the Golan Hotel where we
sat down for our first meal in Israel and slept in rooms overlooking the Sea of