Updates from our Summer Birthright Trip

Tags: Birthright, Israel, Federation, I-connect, Overseas, Young Adults, Women, Teens, Beit Shean

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Find out what the Cleveland Community Birthright trip has been up to during their 10 days in Israel!

July 1, 2015

"We arrived in Israel and were met by our Israel Outdoors staff and also Danielle's parents (they live in Israel!). We proceeded onto the bus and drove to the beautiful Aqueducts of Caesarea. There we had our first program and recited the shehecheyanu (a common Jewish prayer said to celebrate special occasions- it is said to be thankful for new and unusual experiences) together and did an ice breaker! We all dipped our feet in the Mediterranean as we enjoyed the beautiful beach. We are all very tired and about to go to bed in Tiberius from which we will explore the north tomorrow!" – Arkady and Danielle, Birthright Trip Leaders

"The last time I came to Israel was when I was 18. Now being 27, I will take more advantage of the experience and soak up as much knowledge about my culture as I can during my journey." – Rachel Minkin, Birthright Participant

July 3, 2015

"Yesterday we got up in the morning had a wonderful Israeli breakfast in Tveriya, and then we got on the bus and we went to Zavitan National Preserve. We hiked down an ancient volcanic valley and saw a tributary of the Jordan River. Then we hiked out and continued to lunch at the 'World's Best Falafel.' We then rafted down the Upper Jordan River and interacted with Israelis as we played bumper boats with the others. Our awesome Bedouin bus driver came and picked us up at the bottom and we came back to Tveriya for dinner. After dinner we met Gilad Vital, an Israeli musician and then we went out and enjoyed Tveriya's night life! Today we went to Safed, we walked in the narrowest alley in the city and saw very old synagogues. We walked around the alleys of the beautiful Old City of Safed and bought some souvenirs in little colorful shops. Then, we met our Israeli peers, 5 soldiers and 3 students. We drove to Beit Shean, Cleveland's sister city and when we got there we all jumped in the pool. Later we had a great homemade dinner at the Mevadhlot (cooks), who made traditional Sephardic food especially for us! – Arkady and Danielle, Birthright Trip Leaders

"I've had an absolute blast and it's only getting better. Never in my life did I think I could connect with a group so quickly, enjoy everything Israel has to offer, and see such a deeply profound impact on my life in a short amount of time." – Justin Weiss, Birthright Participant

"I was rather nervous going on Birthright, but now at the close of day three, I can already tell that it's going to be one of the most rewarding things I've ever endeavored to do. For the first time, I am not a minority; just Brittany and the sense of belonging, which I've never really had before, has made me feel so at ease with both myself, and the wider Jewish community.." – Brittany Stein, Birthright Participant

July 6, 2015

"Friday afternoon we drove to Jerusalem. In the evening we did Kabbalat Shabbat, where we lit candles, sang songs and talked about Shabbat. Then we did a Kiddush and the Motzi and ate a great Shabbat dinner. We had Oneg Shabbat after dinner where we got to taste Israeli sweets and amazing Israeli fresh fruits. On Shabbat morning we woke up later than usual and walked to the park outside the Knesset (Israel’s parliament). And there we did our version of B’nai Mitzvah for those that chose to have either their first Bar or Bat Mitzvah or renew their vows, so to speak. We had 10 participants (we took video, don’t worry!). After a ceremony or reading from the Torah, the participants gave a small shpiel. We then danced and decided it was time to move out of the sun and walked passed all the government buildings to the Israel Museum. The museum was informative and our guide used the model of the Old City to explain some history. The ancient texts and modern art are great juxtaposition for Israel. We then got back to our accommodations and relaxed for a couple of hours. We performed a Havdallah service and then prepared for Yad Vashem (Israel’s Holocaust Memorial and Museum).

Sunday was a very hard day, and I think the group as a whole was very pleased that we had the Israelis peers with us to help us transition from sadness to joy. We had breakfast in the hotel and then we got on the bus. After a short drive to Yad Vashem, we entered the memorial. There where over 1,000 people there that day, but none the less we were able to progress. Both the participants and staff were moved and there was a lot of hugs given. The children's memorial was especially moving. We then had a small break in Ben Yehuda street for lunch and some did a bit of shopping before going to Har Herzl (Mount Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery). The group went to pay respects to the heroes of the Israel. They also were able to interact with a grieving mother visiting her son’s grave. The Israelis put a little program together at the memorial to the Ethiopians who perished coming to Israel. And there was not a dry eye in the house. We as a group were sad for all the loss our people have suffered. Yad Vashem can be seen as a loss because there was no state and Har Hertzel is the loss for having a state. But once we got on the bus, the Israelis did what they do every year and started to celebrate, just like how Yom Hazikron (Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism) is followed by Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day). We had dinner at the hotel and then played children's birthday games organized by the Israelis, it was a good laugh that we all needed." – Arkady and Danielle, Birthright Trip Leaders

"Whatever Taglit was meant to be, whatever the benefactors of this opportunity hoped I would get out of it, I can't say for sure. All I know is what this experience has meant to me. I have seen and done things I've always dreamed of and things I never imagined, and I've had the pleasure to do it all with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met." – Rob Abrams, Birthright Participant

"This experience has been extremely positive to me. Traveling with my peers, both American and Israeli, has really made this trip a memory I will cherish for years to come. I would never have been able to appreciate Israel in the same way if I had come by myself. I would like to thank the organizers of birthright for such a great time."– Marie Shniper, Birthright Participant

July 10, 2015

“Monday afternoon we left Jerusalem and drove to the desert in southern Israel. We rode Camels and met a Bedouin woman who told us all about the Bedouin tradition and culture. At the Bedouin tent they hosted us so nicely, served us tea and made us feel at home. We had a traditional dinner - we were sitting on the floor and each table had one big dish in the center, from which everyone are eating together. No forks or plates! Later we went on a night hike (with no flashlights), we sat down on the ground and stargazed. In the morning we woke up at 3:30 a.m., and climbed up Masada and made it exactly in time to watch the sunrise from the top of the mountain. The view was breathtaking! We then drove to the Dead Sea, put mud on our entire bodies and faces, took some pictures and floated on the salty water of the Dead Sea. At the end of this long day we drove to Netanya and stayed there in a nice hotel by the Mediterranean coast.

We woke up in Netanya, had a quick bite, and boarded the bus for Tel Aviv. Our first stop was Independence Hall, the former house of Mayor Dizengoff and also the first art museum of Israel. This was the site of Israel's Declaration of Independence "BY VIRTUE OF OUR NATURAL AND HISTORIC RIGHT AND ON THE STRENGTH OF THE RESOLUTION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY." We then walked to Shuk HaKarmel (open air market) where we got some food and took in some of Israel’s bargaining culture. The participants spread out in groups and gathered back after a couple of hours. We than did the most Israeli thing – we went to the beach! There we met up with Cleveland's own Ian Young, whose cousin, Hayden, was on our trip. We then gathered up and came back to our hotel in Netanya then had some free time on the main drag. We ate dinner and heard from Nick, a Scottish Jew, who now works for Masa about how we could come back to visit Israel. Then we got dolled up and got back on the bus for a night out in Tel Aviv. The participants had a great time on Dizengoff!

On our last day in Israel, we woke up had the customary Israeli breakfast. We then met a big groups and each talked about what the trip meant to each of us and what the highlights were. The group had really bonded by then. We got on the bus and headed to Jaffa. We had a quick walking tour and then headed to the most authentic shuk (market) in Israel. The buy of the day was shes-besh board (backgammon) that was bought from two people still playing! We then parted ways with some of our folks that extended their trip in Jaffa and headed to the airport. We all got off the bus and thanked our awesome bus driver and tour guide as they left for some much needed rest. Danielle's father came to get her and the group was left with just Arkady. After seeing all of them get tickets and get pasted the security line, Arkady also left to spend some time with his family in Israel. But thanks to modern technology the participants were able to tell us that they were safe and on the plane. We cannot wait till the reunion in August!” – Arkady and Danielle, Birthright Trip Leaders

“Having been to Israel before, I approached this trip as a vacation to hang out with old friends and have a good time. Instead, I experienced Israel in an entirely new way and made connections I never expected. Getting to know the Israelis that joined us was one of the best experiences of my life.” – Hayden Young, Birthright Participant

“For a snack at the supermarket, I decided to treat myself and get some Bisli (a popular Israeli snack). I was looking in the chips/snack section of the grocery store and I could not find it! So I went up to a woman who was in the same section as me and I asked her if she knew where the Bisli was. She pointed it out to me, I picked the flavor I wanted, and then I said, ‘Todah Rabah’ (thank you) and started to walk away. As I was walking away, I heard her response. Instead of, “Bevakashah,” (you’re welcome) she said, “Shabbat Shalom.” It hit me. I am in Israel. Where you can say Shabbat Shalom to someone on a Friday afternoon and you know that they will say it back.” – Rebecca Safeer, Birthright Participant

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Learn More: Birthright, Israel, Federation, I-connect, Overseas, Young Adults, Women, Teens, Beit Shean