Friday, March 18, 2011

Birthright Israel Trip - Part IX

This post was originally handwritten in a journal on a Birthright trip in Israel. Jan. 2011

House of Independence

We woke up at 5 am (ahhhh) and returned to Tel Aviv to see the House of Independence - the place where David Ben Gurion declared Israel as a country. The building was formerly an art museum. We were told they chose the museum for security, not grandeur - it's tiny, not glamorous, and has very few windows. Apparently when DBG was about to start reading what he had prepared, the guests all began to sing Hatikvah - now the Israeli national anthem - which means "hope" in English. The entire declaration meeting was only 32 minutes long. Days later, all the surrounding countries invaded. But guess who won the War of Independence?? Obviously Israel since it's still there.

The guide in the House of Independence told us there were 3 main things we should know about Israel:
1. Jews in Israel want to live and simply exist. Sounds simple, but it's unfortunately not.
2. We're all welcome in Israel no matter how much formal Jewish education we've had.
3. Israeli's aren't "used to" living in war. No one is "used to" living in war. Each disaster involves new people and is devastating.

Before coming to Israel, I wasn't sure how I'd feel here, and what it would be like since I'm not exactly the most religious person ever. Overall, the trip focused more on getting us to understand the history of Israel and why it's important to support Israel for Jews. As it turns out, by the end of the trip, odd as it sounds, I didn't feel like I was traveling in a foreign country. I actually had a sense that in some way Israel was a right place for me. Honestly, I never expected to feel that way after only 10 days, but I'm glad I did.

It was pretty clear that the Birthright program has an agenda, as I'm sure you can tell by what I've written, but I suppose an agenda or some sort is to be expected. After all, it is a free trip. Agenda or not, the experience was positive, enjoyable, and very educational.

Pleasantly, our flight was delayed by 1 hr, so we got to explore an open market in Tel Aviv a bit.

Photogenic Pomegranates in Tel Aviv
I wandered with Tslil, Anna, and Lauren. The whole group took some pretty funny photos by the beach - considering it was 7 am then, and we'd woken up at 5 am after going to bed around 2:30 am.
Necklaces for sale in Tel Aviv

Flying back:

It's still Thursday somewhere in the world.  Ok, so this is the BEST 12-hr flight ever. And I'm not being sarcastic. Everyone is sleeping - totally boring - so I turned on the international pop music station on the in flight entertainment, and I am totally having a private dance party! Not kidding. Hilarious - dancing around with all this great music, and everyone around me is out cold. It's like being at a club...but really in an airplane. They even have the Taglit song on here - well, the original version.

We've been chasing the sunset since we're flying west at the perfect time of day. So far, there's been a sunset outside the windows of the plane for about 6 hours, and it's beautiful. I noticed this when I woke up over Paris.

It was difficult saying goodbye to the IDF soldiers who toured with us. I suppose they're eating dinner now. I hope to see them again sometime. We wished them luck and safety with the rest of their military service. They said it's common to travel for a year after finishing the army and before going to college.  Maybe they'll visit us. :)

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