Hello friends and family! Broker tov !
I have successfully and safely made it to the holy land, and it is absolutely marvelous! I would like to start by thanking you for checking in and participating in my travels with me by reading my blog posts. These posts are meant to be a way for me to not only record my adventures, so as to be able to revisit the many memories I hope to make on this near two month trip, but to also serve as a way for me to keep in touch with all of you. I hope you enjoy reading them and the pictures I attach with them.
The flight from LA to New York was pretty uneventful, and altogether pleasant. While it may not always be the most comfortable way to travel, I have to admit that there is something comforting about the drone of the plane as it travels through the air and lulls you to sleep at six in the morning. Before I knew it, I was at JFK International Airport, searching for the terminal where I would meet with my Birthright group. Since my plane had landed at two thirty, and I had to meet with my group by three, I had only half an hour to make it to my destination. After asking several people for directions, traveling on a tram around the airport, and then frantically looking for two people whom I’d never actually met in person before (our interactions had thus far been limited to phone calls), I finally found the group of forty young people whom would be traveling with me for ten days. I finally met my group counselors, Noam and Sam, and began to introduce myself to the other members of the group.
All of the people I have met so far in my birthright group have been fun, charming, kind people. There is something really amazing about being surrounded by so many Jewish people around my age (although I have to admit that I’m one of the oldest in this group of 18-22 year olds). Having only ever been around a handful of other Jewish young adults in school, being in a group of forty young Jewish people, led by two Jewish counselors, in conjunction with dozens of other similar groups of Jewish youngsters is astounding, and really adds to the dynamics of the group. I’ve already met many cool people, including someone who lives in San Francisco, and whose brother works at the company I will be working at in September! Coincidences upon coincidences, it really is a small world!! However, even though I know that i will make friends on this trip, and will certainly never be wanting for company, I am sad that my siblings and i could not go on this trip together. I think it would have been really amazing to experience this together, and am at least comforted in a small way that Michelle and David will be able to do this together. Plus,it won’t be long before my siblings and I meet up in Paris to travel the rest of the summer together.
After we all met each other and introduced ourselves a little, we began the long and arduous process that is airport security. Let me assure you that I sport security is no walk in the park, especially when you are trying to board a very large, crowded plane to one of the most contentious and politically rife places in the world. In addition to going through the usual security check measures (thank goodness for slip-on shoes), we were also strictly interrogated (yes, I use the word interrogated purposefully here) about our belongings, who packed them, how Jewish we were, what religious holidays we practice, etc until we passed whatever tests we were being put to. While I completely understand the purpose of such rigorous security measures, it certainly added a somber and paranoid air to our travels. Perhaps it is better to just think of it as ample preparation for all of the constant signs of security and peacekeeping we will be seeing on a daily basis throughout our stay in Israel. I, for one, am grateful for the protection.
Upon arrival, I found my aunt Anya (sorry if I misspelled that!), great aunt Raya, and great uncle Lova at the airport, where they greeted me with hugs, kisses, and chocolate. My group then hastily started the several hour bus ride to the north where our first hotel stop would be. Passing through Israel was absolutely beautiful. The country, being roughly the size of New Jersey, is amazingly green for being in the desert, and absolutely chock full of people. Just at the airport, I passed rabbis, imams, turks, Arabs, Jews, and a smattering of all other kinds of people. The Mediterranean is beautiful, and I hope to go swimming in it before I leave (although they have warned me that it is jellyfish season here).
Eventually, we reached the hotel where we were assigned rooms and given dinner. The rooms remind me a little of a monastery, and they are smaller than my freshman year dorm room, yet none of that mattered because all I wanted was somewhere to sleep and rest my head. The food here in Israel is AMAZING!!! I don’t know what they are putting in the food, but everything tastes delicious. For lunch, we had a delicious curried shwarma in a pita wrap with pickles that was to die for. Dinner was a variety of things, such as cous cous, hummus (oh my lord hummus here is unlike anything you have ever had in the states), yams and onions, breaded chicken, eggplant, beef patties, and lots of delicious fruit for desert. Perhaps I was just hungry, but everything tasted better, sweeter, and more vibrant.
Today we are hiking, river rafting, and generally spending lots of time outdoors. I had no idea we would be spending so much time outdoors, but am I super excited for it. The area is beautiful, the weather is not far off from what I left behind in LA, and it should be amazing.
Plane from the terminal when we landed. It was huge! 10 people across in sixty rows!!
The outdoors area in my hotel. Absolutely gorgeous, even though you can’t see the ravine behind it.