Thursday, July 3, 2008


I didn’t really mean to turn this into a travel blog, but I just never update. And crazy as it is I took two pretty huge vacations this year. SOOO I got back from Israel this past Tuesday, so I will at least attempt to write something up before I forget anything.
June 12
I left. I flew JetBlue from New Orleans to JFK airport in NYC. My flight got in about an hour and a half-ish before Sara’s did. I bought a magazine and waited for her flight to come in. Surprisingly we had the exact same baggage claim. Anyways as we were trying to figure out how to get to the El Al terminal, we realized a bunch of kids on Sara’s flight from Boston were also doing Birthday. So we took the tram with them over to our meeting spot. It was about 5pm now, but we weren’t actually supposed to meet up with our group till 7:30. So as we’re about to walk off to get something to eat, two more girls join the group. We realized that there were two birthright groups on our flight. The ones we’d been hanging out with before were with a different Boston area group. The two new girls (Alyssa and Rachel) were on our Young Professional / Grad Student trip.

So we went to dinner met up with our whole group at 7:30, then attempted to get through El Al security. Now there’s a reason why El Al is considered to be the safest airline. They took each person one by one and grilled them. Like for me they asked if I spoke Hebrew, what my Hebrew name was, where I learned Hebrew, where my parents went to temple, the name of my rabbi. I know they asked one girl to sing the four questions. But we all made it through security, had enough time to buy snacks, and an ice breaker. At the gate along with two girls Micki and Elana, and a guy Seth we played a game to see if we could guess what color gummi bear we were eating.

The flight itself was pretty uneventful. I was passed out most of it. I remember afterwards someone mentioning diner on the plane, which I don’t recall at all, so I must have slept through it. I do remember breakfast though, which included granola that was pretty good.
At Ben-Gurion Airport

June 13
We arrived on Friday at about 5-ish. After going through customs and everything, we pretty much raced through the airport since Shabbat was about to start. The airport was literally deserted, since it was Shabbat. We got our luggage and got on the bus. There we met Gidi, our tour guide, Maxim, our bus driver, Ahikam or Cohen, our bodyguard and medic, and Benji, who was kinda our Israel Experience coordinator.

We got to the hotel, checked in had diner. After diner we did what you could call a mini Shabbat. We had these packets, with a bunch of stuff in them, but all we really tried was L’cha Dodi. Then we talked about a few rules and regulations and what we were expecting to get out of the trip.

We went out to the bar across the street that night. It was on the beach, and it really just gave everyone a good chance to get to know eachother.
Beach just outside Tel Aviv

June 14
Since this was Saturday and Shabbat. So most of the day was spent laying out on the beach. There was a small incident when 3 people got stung by a jellyfish, but other than that it was fairly uneventful. We did have one quick discussion where we talked about what we were looking forward to and what made a person Jewish. Somewhat surprisingly I was probably in the top 8 or so of the more Jewish ones on the trips. For example there were some guys that had been raised more Christian, but felt they were Jewish culturally.

After dinner at the hotel, we did a brief Havdallah outside. Then we all went out in Tel Aviv. We went to a bar called Mike’s place, which pretty much came off as an American sports bar. They were playing a Euro Cup soccer game, which honestly was on at most bars throughout the trip.

At the end of the night a bunch of us walked over to a different bar across the street. Half of this bar was set up on the beach. The beach part had hookahs on it, with pillows surrounding them on the sand. They had these red lights up, and music playing. We all felt we should have spent the entire night there inside of at Mike’s Place.

June 15
This was our first full day. We left pretty early, probably around 7-ish. That was the standard time for the trip. We drove about 2 hour-ish to get down to the Negev desert. We went on a small hike so we could experience what it would be like walking along in the desert. It wasn’t really that long and there was a group of high school age orthodox Jewish girls doing the hike at the same time. They spent their whole time singing loud slightly obnoxious songs, while Gidi wanted us to experience the quiet of the desert. The two goals didn’t quite match up. There was a small waterfall at the end of the hike, what you could technically call an oasis.

Afterwards we went to David Ben-Gurion’s house. He was Israel first Prime Minister, and several years in his term he retired to live on a kibbutz in the desert. After he died he donated his house as a museum, and that was what we went to. It was a pretty small house, esp considering he had been the prime minister. One of the neatest things there was his library which had a wide variety of books, some which you might expect such as The History of the Jewish People, and others you might not such as math science, and psychology books.

Afterwards we went to ride camels. They had us pair up with a partner, and they tried to spilt us up so the camels had a somewhat even weight distribution. The camels were tired together and they pretty much led us on a walk. It was very picturesque, but extremely uncomfortable. And if it was bad for me, you can only imagine how it felt for the boys in the group. It’s def something I’m glad I can say I did, but it wasn’t quite enjoyable per se.

At the same place at the camels were the Bedouin tents. We had what they call a Bedouin hospitality. They first gave us hot tea. It was really sweet and really good. The point of the tea is to get you to sweat, so that your body cools down. Then they made us coffee. They used a grinder that has become somewhat of a musical instrument for them. The coffee was pretty good, although they didn’t use anytime of strainer so there were bits of coffee grinds in it. At the end they gave us each a piece of baklava, and then gave of a chance to play the coffee grinder.

At the end they opened up the floor for questions. Sara asked if they actually lived at the village. The guy who had been talking to us said that no he was Jewish, and that he didn’t live there. The guy who made the coffee for us, and didn’t say anything was however actually Bedouin. As we were walking away Sara told Cohen how she was a little disappointed that it was a real Bedouin and a real Bedouin village. Cohen told us the problem was Bedouins don’t speak English only Arabic, and that therein was the problem. So in some ways it was more of a tourist attraction, but still informative nonetheless. We left after that and didn’t spend the night at the tent, which is an experience some group get to do. Roy, who was one of our Marichim, said when he went last year they got to. While he said it was fun, he wound up having to climb Masada on about 3 hours of sleep, which was not so fun.

We then went to our lodging for the night, which was at a youth hostel. It was a very nice youth hostel there. They had small buildings all over the property. While we only had 3 in a room, they rooms could have easily fit 5, since it had 2 beds, a bunk bed, and a trundle.

I’m going to end this entry for now. Yes I still have the majority of the trip to write about. But if I don’t upload something now, I might not get anything up. So next time, Masada, En Gedi, dead sea, and Jerusalem.
not quite in a straight line

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