Friday, March 18, 2011

Birthright Israel Trip - Part I

The following post was originally handwritten while on a birthright trip through BU's Hillel. The writing style is a little different than my usual. Since I added a few sentences here and there throughout the day, it may seem disjointed in places. However, I wanted to keep the writing as it was, so I'm not making changes.

"Jan. 3rd

Ok, so my group is all here, [at JFK] and we just went through ElAl's super security:
Step 1: Questioning
a. Where are you flying from?
b. What's your Hebrew name?
c. What holidays do you celebrate and how?
d. Hebrew school? Where?
e. Name of your temple? etc.
They ask fast so you have to answer quickly without time to put together an answer.
Step 2: x-ray of checked luggage OR they take your suitcase to be hand checked and picked up later
Step 3: Normal check in to get boarding pass and drop off checked suitcase
Step 4: Walk through those security things.

11:35 pm

We're on the plane. The "Black Hatters" (BH) have totally fascinating customs. They all pray before boarding, they take off their hats and coats on the plane, and their wives are all wearing wigs. Not that I didn't already know they did that, but it was interesting to see. There are so many BH on this flight.

I've been hanging out with the people in my group. We're wandering Terminal 4 of JFK. Our flight to Tel Aviv will be 9 hrs and 52 min. The plane has two levels and 10 rows across - BIG. It extends 60 rows back.

I hope I see Marissa there! We're supposed to be at the Wall on the same day."








"I think it's January 4th now. 4 hours left in the flight. We're almost over Paris now. I woke up as we were passing Madrid...figures. lol. You'll never believe this, but I was flipping through radio stations, and guess what was playing?? The Waltz of the Flowers! Not kidding. It was right after Rihanna - odd mix. (sp?) The BH are davening in the back of the plane right now - talit and all. It's pretty cool. At present, it's about 1 pm in Israel and 5 am in Chicago. I've been trying to leer el mapa en ebreo (read the map of what we're flying over in Hebrew). Here's what I've come up with:

Madrid מדריד
Barcelona ברצלונה
Paris פריס
Lisbon ליסבון

See, I can read for pronunciation, but unless I already know the word, I won't understand what it says. I know a few words, but I really can't spell at all. Now we're over these cities:

Nice, France ניס
Rome רומא
Milan מילנו

It's -81 ºF outside. whoa."

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January 4th - the second time around

"We ate dinner in a kibbutz dining hall - breaded chicken, pasta mix, veggies, and Israeli salad mixes. I tried a persimmons. Interestingly, a kibbutz is the only communist type living that actually works long term. We're sleeping here tonight and tomorrow.

Arielle, one of our trip leaders, told us that when we see a tower with a green light, it indicates a Mineret - a place for Muslims to pray.

It's raining here - a very rare and good thing. Since Israel is a desert, they have the least rain of all biomes. Good night."
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"January 5th

Ok, so estamos en el autobus ahora, y we're driving by the Kinneret. The Kinneret is the largest water supply in Israel. We're looking at the Sea of Galilee. Across the sea is the Golan Heights, an area of political unrest with Syria. Our tour guide, Gai, told us Syria wants the Golan Heights in exchange for peace, but then they'd have control of the Kinneret too.

The kibbutz we're staying at is called Deganya Bet. We're going to Mt. Meron now and Tsfat.

5:54 pm - on the bus
Today we hiked to the lookout vista at Mt. Meron - the second highest point in Israel. It was still raining today, so we were in a cloud and couldn't see the view, which would've been the surrounding countries. Nonetheless, we took pictures.



Do I look chilled? I am!






Shabbat Candles from Safed Candles
From there, fuimos a Tsfat and explored the old town section. It's more conservative there, so we were told to dress modestly. I had two shirts and two coats on because it was so cold, so that wasn't really an issue for me. Our guide, Gai, took us to a candle shop where we learned how to color wax and shape a havdalah candle. For lunch, I went with a few amigas to get falafel - soooooo good. Best falafel I've ever eaten, and I plan to eat more.

Then, we wandered through some art galleries that had jewelry and paintings. Later, we met a Kabbalistic artist from Detroit who had moved to Tsfat, named Avraham Leventhal. He explained the symbolism in his work to us. For example, the Rosh Hashana painting had stacked lines divided into 1, 3, or 9 sections to symbolize the shofar sounds. My favorite was the הי הי painting. (The actual handwritten entry has a sketch of the painting.)

Después, fuimos en el autobus a Galil Mountain, a winery next to the Lebanese boarder. We learned about the fermentation process. We tasted three wines - a rose and two reds. I really liked the rose. They taught us that the wine smells different after you swirl it clockwise because it gets aerated and "opens up." It actually smells better after swirling. They gave us our wine tasting glasses as a gift.

[I realize that putting a photo of alcohol online is not recommended. But, a wine tasting is not the same as a frat party. And I'm 22. And this is a cool photo.]

Driving around, it was interesting to note that the soil is full of rocks. And there are mountains everywhere - definitely a change from home.

Our group's Hebrew word of the day:
House = baiit
Yesterday's word was pesecksman - it's a candy bar that tastes like a kitkat, but better.
Other words of the day:
pocket - kees
what - ma
what's that? - ma zeh?"






Pesecksman
This post was originally handwritten while on a birthright trip through BU's Hillel. The writing style is a little different than my usual. Since I added a few sentences here and there throughout the day, it may seem disjointed in places. However, I wanted to keep the writing as it was, so I'm not making changes.

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