Friday we left the Golan Heights to start making our way south. This was the longest time we spent on the bus, a grand total of 2 hours and 15 minutes. We got to stop for some coffee and realized Koby looked like Dexter in his kill outfit. Of course, pictures and “choking” ensued!
Only in Israel. Most of the time we think we are in Jerusalem and are in a completely different part of the country because it is just so tiny. We went to Maaleh Adumin where we met with Ethiopian Jewish Immigrants who told us their stories of literally walking from Israel to Ethiopia. The woman we met with was so welcoming and told us her incredible story of how one of her children died along the way, but when she made it her family of six was welcomed into the country. It is so amazing to think about how thousands of Ethiopians and Sudanese have been rescued over the past few years. There are many problems with them being absorbed into the culture but they are so thankful to have the support of the Israeli government. Around 2 pm we set out to Efrat, a settlement just outside of Jerusalem to spend Shabbat with host families. Rayna and I were together and had a wonderful family with four kids. They absolutely loved us and wanted to play as much as they could.
That night after Shabbat services we all ate dinner as a group. We had a rotation of speakers including someone who converted 20 years ago, our tour guide’s son who is a commander in the IDF, and an author. They all had interesting stories and we were happy to meet with them. Our tour guide invited all of us over for a little party after and we all enjoyed the local company and soldiers who were home for the weekend. Shabbat afternoon we slept in until 12:15 and were awoken by our little girls who wanted to play. After a delicious lunch, we were three minutes late to our next program, because of STRAWBERRIES. Why do those three minutes matter? Well, we received a strike. I won’t bore you with the details but we had our host family write a very funny letter about how it would have been rude for us to leave without eating the “Handpicked strawberries” and of course, our late strike was taken back.
After Havdallah, it was back to Haoman 17. We had a great time dancing the night away, our last night out in Jerusalem.
The next morning I woke up with a bad cough and up to seven sneezes at a time. SEVEN! After sneezing through a presentation about “Branding Israel” we got on the bus to visit Ariel, the largest Jewish city in Samaria. Ariel was incredibly beautiful with lots of new apartments, a gorgeous university, and my favorite part a team building obstacle course. This screamed “CAMP” to me so of course I loved it. They plan on bringing the ZOA trip there next year to do this as an activity, so I guess I’ll just have to come back!
We enjoyed a lunch of schwarma with salad and pita. But as Joella points out, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to capture this super trendy hairstyle of the season on my camera!
Finally, we were on our way to Tel-Aviv. We went to the Lechi museum to learn about the early group that fought for the right of a future Jewish state.
We were able to spend the night in Tel-Aviv as long as we made it back to Jerusalem in the morning. We met up with my friend Danny for the last time and our last dinner back at Moon! We enjoyed some more incredible sushi and I even snagged a beautiful take home menu that I will hang on my wall. I wish I was joking. I was planning on staying out that night to go to hip hop Sunday at the Galina, but I knew that would not help my horrible cold. We got back to Jerusalem at midnight, just as a snow warning was put out. We walked through the extreme wind and made it back alive. Luckily it did not snow that night!
Monday was our final day in Israel as a group. We met with the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs and he covered the different issues in the Middle East today. Later in the morning we went to a few last minute spots in Jerusalem to discuss “where do we go from here”.
We went back to the Knesset for one of our last sessions. We met with another member of the Likud party and talked about bringing back all of the information we had learned to the US. Monday night we had a delicious Italian dinner at Luciana and were not so excited to get on the plane so stuffed. I said my favorite word of the trip “Lehitraot”, meaning see you later, with my very American accent and walked into the airport. At 1 am we were on the plane and by 1:10, I was sleeping. It was an easy ride home, but a long day followed. We landed at 6:30 am and I didn’t get on my plane to Florida until 3:30 pm. While I was in the gate, by some off chance, my cousin walked in and we were on the same flight. Everything came full circle.
I am back in Boca and already planning my next trip to Israel in September. In the meantime I am working on more Israel events than ever, including the launch of “Yalla Israel Magazine”. Stay tuned for more info!