Friday, March 18, 2011

Birthright Israel Trip - Part II

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.

"January 6th

[I drew a clock on this page to illustrate the 8 hour time difference between home and Israel. I was probably trying to figure out what time it was at home to avoid texting my family in the middle of the night.]

Yesterday, we went to Haifa. Only Birthright trips from Boston go to Haifa because B and H are sister cities. There we met with firefighters who showed us the remains of the Carmel Forest, just outside the University of Haifa. A few weeks ago, a teenager smoking the forest caused the fire that lead to 42 deaths, a destroyed kibbutz (which we saw), and over $17 million of damage (yes, dollars). Looking around, it was strange to see trees with black, charred bark and shriveled, wiry branches.

The dark branch was burned - the others weren't.

The affected area was huge - an entire mountain. Absolutely tragic. Rebuilding in some places was already underway where we visited - action speaks louder than trudging deliberation.

After, we drove to Jerusalem. There, we ate dinner outside so we could see the city line including the Dome of the Rock. I couldn't believe I was actually looking at the image with my own eyes that is printed on plates, talit, and lots of other Jewish things.

From there, we went to the Megaevent - an event for all Birthright trips to come together who are in Israel that day. I saw Marissa there and we took a "Simmons Pose" photo!!!

At the event, we met the unbelievably generous philanthropists who started Birthright and paid for all of our trips to Israel ($4000/person). They've sent over 250,000 young Jews on this trip so far. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke to us at the event (!!) about the importance of being a sovereign people (having land) in perpetuating Judaism. He's budgeting $100 million for Birthright this year (2011). His words about spreading the truth about the Jews wanting peace in Israel and around the world were very moving. There are so many stereotypes and lies about Jews, and unfortunately many people have completely lost sight of the truth - a dangerous loss.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (1/6/11)

On a brighter note, the Birthright donors threw a pretty sweet megaevent for us, seriously awesome. They had INCREDIBLE, state of the art lighting - huge theatre, and several of Israel's most popular singers. My favorite was Avraham Tal, the Israeli singer of the year - he also plays the flute and guitar in one of his songs. Din Din Aviv was there singing too.

Avraham Tal singing at the Megaevent 1/6/11

They had like 7 disco balls. Did you know that if you shine light in a particular way, it reflects all over in a circle?? Physics! [I drew a diagram of a disco ball with arrows showing where the light goes on this page of the journal. Yes, nerd, I know.]

And the security for the Prime Minister was INTENSE. Israel seriously knows how to do security.
Overall, I'm amazed that Israel is so modern despite its young age of 62 years. While preserving traditional areas like Tsfat and the Kotel, Israel is often as modern, or better, than the USA. The society, as the Prime Minister told us, is also very liberal - equal rights for women, gays, etc. - All issues that other parts of the world (USA included) struggle with. This is a young country with aged wisdom and insight. Quite an ideal society if not for the constant threat of attack from extremists in the surrounding countries."

This post was originally handwritten while on a birthright trip through BU's Hillel.

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