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Taglit-Birthright Israel: Shorashim - Bus 235 - January 2011

Taglit-Birthright Israel Shorashim Bus 235

The American Israeli Experience


Posted by: dcadmin (January 30, 2011 at 11:05 AM) | Comments (0) | Permalink

A day in the Negev Desert

We ended Monday night’s festivities at the Bedouin camp with a group campfire. A Bedouin camp employee started the fire for us and we struggled to maintain the flame but we managed to keep warm in the cool desert night. We had a musician among us so there wasn’t any lack of great entertainment. When we made our way back into our sleeping bags in the tent some of us dropped dead from exhaustion and even in the uncomfortable conditions it seems we all managed to get a few hours of sleep.
Next morning, when we normally take the Metro to work, we jumped on a camel for a short ride through the desert. With two of us on each camel our long caravan took in magnificent views and got plenty of once in a lifetime photo opportunities. When it was time to dismount, we encountered either stubborn or arthritic resistance from our camel. We were nervous and felt sorry for the camel but our Bedouin guides managed to coax him down.

Our next stop was an easy to moderate hike through the Negev. It was a landscape of sand and rock that most of us were not familiar with and we got the chance to sit and contemplate the experience privately. Ben Gurion’s grave was a close drive away. His grave is surprisingly unadorned and lacks religious symbols. Through a game show we played we learned about Ben Gurion’s life and views on Israel and Zionism. Unlike the other great leaders of Israel, Ben Gurion is buried in the desert, rather than at Mt. Hertzl, because he wanted to encourage the development of the Negev. We also learned a bunch of facts about him, like how he used to walk on his hands and eat apple oatmeal porridge everyday. Perhaps its because we’re from DC, we then became engaged in a discussion of Israeli politics, particularly the question of Hassidic Jews participating in the IDF or National Service. We gained a lot of insight from our Israeli peers on this controversial topic.

We had packed a lot into that morning and were hungry for lunch. Lunch was served for us at the Moshav, a co-op farm near the southern end of the Gaza strip. We then got a tour of the Moshav where our guide showed us advances in agriculture such as using crushed coconut as soil for strawberries that grew in long containers suspended from the ground. She also explained the drip irrigation system commonly used throughout Israel to avoid wasting water. We tasted tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, oranges and kumquats, grown throughout the farm. We were amazed at the amount of agricultural advances Israel had pioneered.

After our afternoon of fruit right off the vine we piled back into the tour bus, counted off, and set off for Masada, our next great adventure.

Paloma Bolasny and Natalya Berenshteyn
Bethesda, MD and Washington, DC

Posted by: dcadmin (January 27, 2011 at 2:29 PM) | Comments (0) | Permalink

Day 8: A Day in the North and South

After an amazing night out in Tel Aviv, Bus 235 started Day 8 with a trip to Israel’s Independence Museum. Through a short movie and moving lecture, we learned about the struggle to establish a permanent Jewish state. We listened with great excitement to audio clips of Ben Gurion ‘s speech from 1948 declaring Israel’s independence. Sitting in the actual room in which the speech was made recreated the atmosphere from the original speech, allowing us to experience a special moment in history.

Outside the Independence Museum we stopped to enjoy some coffee and pastries. After originally being told by our staff, memeber Jonathan that we would be walking the four miles from the Independence Museum to Jaffa, it was revealed that Jonathan was joking. We were not amused. Fortunately, Jonathan’s joke had a good ending. Instead of walking, we would be taking the bus and, more importantly, have free time at the beach!

We next visited the city of Jaffa, known as the “Gate to Zion“ because of how many Jews entered Israel from its port. It is a historical city that has retained its old world characteristics. We took a leisurely stroll through the town’s colorful street markets and ancient alleys, with a stop at a wonderful jewelry store where many of us bought gifts for friends and family. After lunch and checking out the local flea market, we took off our shoes and spent some much needed relaxation time on the beautiful beach of Tel Aviv.

Next was a stop at Yitzhak Rabin Square. Located in the center of Tel Aviv, the square serves as a powerful reminder of the awful event in 1995 when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated as he gave a speech about peace. We split up into groups and discussed the circumstances leading up to the assassination. It was clear that the assassination, perpetrated by an Israeli, had a devastating affect on the country. Our Israeli friends explained in great detail how the assassination divided Israel’s various factions, leading to even more uncertainty about the future for peace.

Leaving Tel Aviv behind, we drove two hours south to the Negev Desert where we stayed at an authentic Bedouin camp. Dinner was served in the traditional style, with laffa bread, chicken, hummus and more. Per Bedouin style, we ate only with our hands. After dinner we enjoyed a standup comedy performance from our fellow participant, David Jonas, as well as a talk from the camp’s leader about the history of the Bedouin people. To cap off a long day, Bus 235 gathered around a bonfire, sung songs and enjoyed each other’s company.

Unlike previous nights on the trip, where we enjoyed hotel or kibbutz rooms with modern amenities, at the Bedouin camp all 43 of us slept under the same “roof” in a large tent. Despite some snoring and a smelly foot or two, we all finally fell asleep. One big happy family.

Alexander Ripps , Washington DC and Mirav Argaman, Israel

Posted by: dcadmin (January 26, 2011 at 12:18 PM) | Comments (0) | Permalink

An Emotional Roller Coaster

Sunday was an emotional roller coaster, a day we were grateful to share together as Shorashim Bus 235.

The day began on a heavy note, with a visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. We reflected on the horrors of this tragedy and how it has touched many of our families. At the museum we had the honour to listen to the incredible story of a man who survived 5 concentration camps as a young man, and whos strength inspired each of us. The museum tour was filled with artifacts and personal stories that immersed us in the grim reality of the genocide, so we could appreciate the importance of Israel and why we must never forget our ancestors who perished.

After the museum, we traveled to Beit Shemesh, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington's Partnership 2000 city. As part of a program called Samson Riders Bike Club, we were asked to help paint a bomb-shelter to turn into a club and clean up a small park surrounding the shelter. At the end of our 2 hours, the results were tangible: heaps of garbage were removed, the shelter was painted (along with the odd participant), and spirits were lifted.

That evening we arrived in Tel-Aviv for a night of excitement and a stay at Israel’s coziest hotel. Following dinner, Udi Krauss, a famous Israeli folk musician entertained us with his lively music and personal storytelling. After the musical warm-up, we summoned a second burst of energy and hit up the local beach party. We threw off our shoes, danced on the sand, and stayed up way past our bedtime -it was the perfect ending to a long and productive day.

Sophie Murphy & Michelle Perl
Halifax, Canada and Fairfax, VA

Posted by: dcadmin (January 26, 2011 at 11:17 AM) | Comments (0) | Permalink

Day 5: A Shabbat in Jerusalem - A Day of Thinking and Resting

Saturday started out with some much needed sleeping in until 10:00. After a breakfast of cake we used our cerebral skills for a group discussion on some difficult questions for Jews today. We expressed our feelings about whether Israel is the ultimate place to be Jewish and discussed the question of intermarriage. Our D.C. origins served us well for this thoughtful and respectful discussion. Politicians should take a lesson from us in discourse. We spent the rest of the afternoon with free time where some went outside to hang out or play soccer, others visited the hotel gym and the truly lucky (or exhausted) took a refreshing nap.

As evening approached we went for a walk to passing Israeli Government buildings including the Supreme Court. We stopped in a garden where we prepared for our visit to Yad Vashem (The Israeli Holocaust Museum) the next day. We had a moving experience of sharing what words come to our minds when we think of the Holocaust and experiences and stories that make us feel this way. Some tears were shed and a deeper emotional connection to each other and our Judaism was created. Afterwards, we ended Shabbat with Havdalah outside of the Knesset (Parliament) under the night’s sky. It was beautiful.

We concluded our evening with a trip to Jerusalem’s German Quarter where we ate and ate and ate good food at local restaurants. After eating at the Leonardo Inn it was time for a meal out on the streets!

I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the days ahead.

Jill Sager, Washington, DC

Posted by: dcadmin (January 24, 2011 at 4:32 PM) | Comments (0) | Permalink
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