Tag Archives: Israel 2005

Day 1 – The Flight

Alright so lets start off with some information. Birthright (as I know it) is a concept held by many organizations to provide a trip, free of all charge, to Israel for Jewish people of ages between 16 and 26. This is intended to show us youngun’s what Israel is, and to encourage us to make more trips in the future. It’s an organization that many people donate to, and has been going on for about 9 years now (I think). The group I went with was part of the organization Israel Outdoors, and the trip I went on was the LAX trip from May 14th to May 26th.

Over the days of this trip, I kept an outline of all the activities we did and some more important details. I hope to recall the smaller details and turn my 8 pages of notes into 10 posts. It will be set up with the description on the left and the pictures I have taken on the right. When it is all done, I will create a webpage that will be easier to navigate and will have larger photos (probably). That will as well link to the other people on my trip.

And I’d just like to say, before starting this off, that this was an amazing trip. And if you have not been on Birthright, and you are eligible to go, THEN GO. If you need further convincing, read the rest of my report.

And by the way, this is an awesome song.

May 14th, 2005
I left the house around noon, something of that sort, and went to the San Jose airport where I checked in my bags and met up with Michelle! An excited hug and then we found a place to chill. We started to list movies that we needed to see and I drew this weird protesting guy (I really liked how it came out too).
The flight from SJO to LAX was short, and I really didn’t notice it. Once we got off at LAX we had to get our bags out of baggage claim and take a shuttle to another terminal with all the international flights. We were really early. The emails had told us to arrive 4 hours before departure, and we got there about an hour early if I remember correctly. So we had a very nice dinner in the restaurant there, and then went outside to try to see someone with the Israel Outdoors t-shirt on.
Here we decided to play an extremely entertaining game which we entitled “Find-The-Confused-Jew” in which we looked for people who were probably Jewish, and looked completely lost, which these two features would confirm that they were on the Birthright trip with us. We didn’t say anything to these people, just guessed, and actually it turned out later that we had a pretty high success rate. I remember seeing Dan, and Jessica, and a few others.
Soon we went inside and found the person we needed to find and went upstairs where we saw all these strangers who we would come to know very well over the next 10 days. Kind of awkward, and I had no idea that there would be 40 people (I was thinking around 20, 30 at most). Met our group coordinator, Meredith, and our group… whatever, Shmulek (Sam).
We went to the check-in counter for El-Al, the Israeli airline, where we were INTERROGATED. These Israeli security people bombarded us with question after question about pretty random stuff, trying to catch us off guard or test if we were lying. My guy was especially mean, and asked me about being Jewish, why I wanted to go to Israel, if I could speak Hebrew, why I hide my Star of David pendant (it just goes under my shirt!). It made me really nervous, but they were doing their jobs.
Then we sat in the Gate area and made introductions. We got in a circle leaving our bags to do this (which I knew was a bad idea) which turned out to be a bad idea because the security people made us all leave and come back in one by one with another security check.
Got on the plane a bit past midnight, and were on our way to Israel!

May 15th, 2005
On the flight, I sat next to this seemingly crazy Israeli lady who occasionally would say things to me, even though I made it clear I didn’t speak Hebrew (she acknowledged this, but would still talk to me). I slept a lot. A lot. I woke up once and saw some large city which I assumed was Denver, or Omaha, or Chicago. Something in that vicinity. I read a bit of my book, 1984, which I was determined to finish by the end of the trip.
We made a small stop in Toronto, where they had us sit in a lounge that had some ok coffee and Orthodox jews in the corner praying.
Got back on the plane for the longest part of the trip, the 10 hour flight to Israel. Fortunately the crazy Israeli lady went to another seat (I think she wanted someone to talk to), and I got two seats all for myself. This was very lovely for me, cause I could stretch out and have a very nice sleep. The movies were bleh so I didn’t have to worry about that, and I spent the time sleeping and reading and listening to my iPod (which lasted the entire way considering I turned it off when I slept).
When we finally got off the plane, I checked beneath my seat and found some torn up photos that I had seen the crazy lady looking through earlier. Why had she torn them up? There were pictures of small cute children on them… which seemed incredibly depressing. I wish I could have talked to her about whatever it was troubling her. I took some pieces so that at least someone in this world will have these fragments of a moment, and not be thrown into the garbage.
Then we went through customs, which wasn’t that bad (though we kind of had a race of who would get through the line first), and got our bags and met the head guy (who’s name eludes me for the moment) and our guide, IRAD!!! Who is a very cool guy.
Got on the bus, got some money from some exchange guy, and headed off towards Jerusalem (starting a day without sleeping).

note: even though the date changed to the 16th while still on the flight, i’m going to separate days at the bus point instead because it seems more correct

Day 2 – Jerusalem

So we were on the bus to Jerusalem. All of us were pretty exhausted from the plane but managing to stay awake. The sun was rising, which made the entire area very majestic and nice. A good introduction to the country.

First we went to a lookout spot where we could see the whole valley. Looked across at the old city, the famous gravesite mountain, a couple other mountains and towers, and just a brilliant site. We said the prayer for celebrating the event, then had wine and bread. Then had a lunch while sitting on the grass. (Really bad bagels, I didn’t eat mine).

Jerusalem, even at its first glance, is very interesting. There is an architectural uniformity that all buildings have to abide to, which is to be covered on the outside by a specific Jerusalem Limestone. As with Santa Fe, this feature really enforces a direct personality upon the entire city. There are also Israeli flags EVERYWHERE. People here are completely patriotic, which I find completely inspiring and beautiful. Things are also very very ancient, and all these people are living in a city that has existed for thousands of years. I also like the ravens, which are not entirely black but still just as witty.

We went into the old city, the Jewish Quarter, entering through the Zion Gate and making our way down the alleyways and pathways. The cobblestones there are so completely worn that in some places you can slip quite easily. There is visual worn and history embedded everywhere.

We got to a small terrace and saw the temple area with the Dome of the Rock, the mosque, and the Western Wall. Then we went to the South Wall to learn about archeology, the temple, and other things.

First we were shown a computer generated reconstruction of the temple. The woman presenting this used some sort of program that allowed her to go anywhere using the mouse, which was really cool.

Then we went to see a corny and hilarious movie that was dubbed in English with some ridiculous guy that looked like a Jewish Abraham Lincoln. Very funny, and moments like “What is this cup?”

Then we went out to look around the South Wall, which was pretty big and cool. THEY HAVE HONEYSUCKLE THERE!!! which I enjoyed. Saw the steps that led into the temple, and looked at a place where a market and street used to be.

Then we went to the Western Wall. What I didn’t expect but made sense was that they separated men and women who went to the wall. It was crowded, as expected, and very interesting. There were festive BarMitzvahs happening every couple minutes from this one gate at the left of the place, which was kind of cool. I left a small note.

Then walked around the Old City, had a pizza for lunch (which was eh, alright), and looked in a couple shops.

We looked at various ancient ruins. We were looking up at some window when a woman who was living there spontaneously invited us all up to her apartment. So all 40 of us crammed into her small living space and she talked to us about living in Israel, what she does, and all these things. She was really nice and invited us to come back sometime.

On the way out we saw some kids playing in a fountain and it was really cute.

We then took the bus to our next destination, which was a hotel a little while away. On the way there we saw a protest happening outside on the street, where students were blocking the road to make a statement against withdrawing from the Palestinian areas. We saw some guard smack a girl on the head and drag her off to a vehicle. Later when watching the news we saw the same protest going on. It was very interesting.

Got to the hotel, and explored around with Asof. Saw where things were, and then headed to dinner. Then went to a meeting which I think I fell asleep during. Michelle woke me up and I dragged myself upstairs to collapse into bed.

Day 3 – Dead Sea and Hike

So got up and on the bus. On the way to this one place we were going, our bus driver, Avi, went down a really narrow street and got stuck trying to turn out of it. But because of his awesome maneuvering skills we were all saved! But we didn’t go to the House of David place.

Drove to the Dead Sea, which was quite a long drive. We stopped at a tourist shop that had some nice stuff, and lots of Dead Sea bath accessories. I got some postcards.

Then went to the Dead Sea, and put our stuff aside and got in. IT WAS SO SURREAL. You really do float, and it’s incredibly fun and weird. It’s also a very nice temperature. I swam out a bit, swimming very awkwardly because when your whole body floats there’s a completely different dynamic in moving in water. Also you have to try really hard not to get the water in your eyes or mouth or any opening. And do NOT take a piss. I didn’t, but I’ve heard horror stories.

We went to a place nearby and put mud all over ourselves, and then when we washed it off our skin felt really really smooth. That was pretty awesome.

Then we got lunch at the local shop, which wasn’t too bad, and I bought some soap.

After that we drove to a nearby canyon for a hike. We saw Ibex and rodents, and walked along waterfalls. One waterfall we went to, I was about to go in the water but stepping towards it I felt a sharp pain in my food and found I had stepped on a sharp rock. I went to Coby (Coby-wan kenobi) our medic and he gave me a bandaid, and it healed up fast over the next two days.

The whole place there was amazing and so tropical. Wonderful and lush. We got to another huge waterfall. Next to it were some really cool squarish rocks that I thought were really awesome. It reminded me a lot of some hikes that I went on back in the Grand Canyon. Then we came back.

Went back to the hotel, and chilled on the patio outside the rooms. People were jamming and I updated my log outline. Then we had dinner and a meeting, and chilled a bit more before I just collapsed into bed. The next day would be very big and exhausting.

Day 4 – Masada, Crater, Ben Gurion, Hot Springs, Camels, Bedouins

This day was jam packed of a million things. And it started off with a pretty exhausting activity in itself.

We got up at 3:30 am, and boarded the bus and headed off a short way to Mount Masada. It was pretty dark, but our eyes adjusted quickly and we headed up the trail. For those of you who don’t know, this is a fortress built on top of a plateau so that it would be extremely hard to attack. This means that, even while not attacking the place, it was a very strenuous hike. But it felt really nice to exhaust myself going up. Lots and lots of steps. Got there and checked out the surroundings and it was beautiful. We saw the sunrise, and some service being performed by the Israeli army.

Then we went on a tour around Masada, with Irad telling us the various details of what happened. Looks like it would have been a really interesting place to live…

Made out way down and had a breakfast, which felt like lunch. Then left on the bus again.

Went to the Large Crater, which is right about middle Israel, and Irad explained all about that and it wasn’t all that interesting really. Some group of Israeli students were near us and found a huge spider scorpion that completely freaked out this one girl. It was quite amusing.

Then we had lunch at some place, I think near a university, which was alright. After eating I went outside to watch some kids playing, of all games, Gaga. Or at least thats what Camp Tawonga calls the game. It’s a game kind of like circular dodgeball. They were playing a version where if a person who got you out got out, you would go back in. Thus making a much longer game. Jake joined in and got out almost instantly.

Then we left for Ben Gurion‘s grave. He was the first Prime Minister of Israel, and was a good guy. He believed in Israeli’s learning how to live in the Negev -the desert- and that is why he was buried there. There’s a nice little park-like area around his grave.

Then we went to a Hot Springs Spa, which was pretty awesome. The pool was really cool, which was nice since we had been sweating and in hot weather all day. Then after cooling off for a bit, they had an indoor hot pools that just completely relaxed the body. It was so very nice. After swimming around a bit I chilled in the sun and talked with people. Got a beer, and soaked in the sun. Then I went to go play volleyball with people, which was incredibly fun, although I suck at serving.

THEN (yes there was more!)
We went to a camel place AND WE RODE CAMELS!!! This was extremely awesome because, except for maybe a zoo, or the ones we saw on the road earlier, I had never come that close to a camel, let alone ride one. I haven’t even ridden a horse before! Anyhow, I wasn’t on the first trip, but the second and third sessions I rode. It was really really fun, except for the metal bars my legs were banging against. Really cool. We got to some place and Karen (translated from the caretaker) and Irad explained about camels and how they work. It was a really great experience.

Then we went to the place that we would be staying, which was a Bedouin tent site. We put down our mattresses on these large rugs inside large tents, and went to dinner. Before dinner, a Bedouin man explained to us all the parts of a Bedouin society, such as their idea of Eye for Eye when it comes to justice, a mediator chief-like guy, extreme hospitality to people, and various traditions concerning coffee. A Bedouin will hopefully serve you three half-cups of coffee, and then you are considered a close friend. But if a Bedouin doesn’t really like you, he will politely clue you to leave by giving you a full cup of coffee. It was really interesting.

The food was wonderful. It was kind of like a tortilla bread that was sort of thick, and you would wrap up rice/spices/lamb and stuff into it, making a burrito kind of food. I’m not sure if that was actually how to do it, but made the most sense. It was great too. And the coffee, which I had to try, was kind of weird… a bit thick and concentrated. But good.

After dinner, we whipped out the bottles of alcohol we had purchased earlier somewhere, and the drinking commensed! I had gotten a bottle of brandy, which wasn’t too good, and split the cost with Mike of a J&B whisky. It was good but from what I hear, Irad drank all of it and thats why we couldn’t find the rest in the morning. I played drinking games with a group, the one where you do various things depending on the card you pick up. Then I played Never-Have-I-Ever with some other people. Then chilled a lot, and I remember hurting my feet a bit when walking barefoot to the bathroom. Celebrated Julie’s birthday somehow, and around then I can’t remember too much… I hear that I started to fall asleep on the bench but said I was ok. Then Michelle took me back to my bed and I fell asleep.

Day 5 – Archeological Dig, Arab Israeli Co-Existance Program, Party

This day we went on an Archeological dig. Went to some site where this guy explained how they were a non-profit research team that allowed the public and various organizations to work on a specific site to try and find things. We looked at one place that was already done and he explained some things about it while bugs attacked us.

Then the guy took us on an exploration of caves, which was AWESOME. They were lit by small candles, and we had to crawl through small places, help each other get through obstacles, watch out for traps, and run from falling boulders. It smelled all cave-musky. Then we came out and it was hot and buggy again.

Then we went into a nearby site where people had been working on digging out a room. We shoveled dirt into buckets, then made a chain of people to take the buckets out of the room to the surface (the room was underground), and then we sifted through the dirt for pot bits. There were a lot. Afterwards we went to some place where there was a multitude of pot chips that researchers had deemed not worthy, and I picked out a piece. The guy gave one last talk and we were out of there.

Then we went to a mall for some reason and got some stuff.

Then we picked up some Israeli Soldiers, who would spend the next couple days with us. They all seemed like nice people.

Then we had lunch at this terrible sandwich place. I got a kebob sandwich that turned out to be pretty gross.

Then we headed to a place for an Arab Israeli Co-existance program. It was at a zoo for children at some place, and there were interesting animals there. A nice guy gave a talk about the situation, and the history with the local city and neighboring Arab village.

Then we went to a place where they were setting up the border that would become the separation between Israel and a Palestinian state. It was hot and not many people were paying attention.

Then we went on a long trip to the hotel, and unpacked since we were staying there for a while. Went to dinner, and then had a meeting where we celebrated Julie’s birthday.

Then there was drinking on the balcony, which was a good time, and then we moved the party to the bar/disco where nobody was, at first, but then people trickled in and the dance party was started. Lots of partying, and chilling. Talking with people, and what not. Many drunks. The party eventually died down and I went to bed.

Day 6 – Observation Point, Tzfat, Water Hike

Got up and went to breakfast. Onto the bus and went to the Metzudat Koach Observation point. While walking there I got stung on the arm by something and it stung really bad. Not sure what it was, but it was inside my shirt, so I shook out my shirt a bunch and waited a while before putting it back on. There was also honeysuckle there, which one of the Israelis, Tamer, also knows about taking out the middle thing and getting the honey! This made me very happy.

Then we went to the lovely city of Tzfat, where we were lectured and I fell asleep, but soon went into a synagogue where the guy who began Kabbalah studied, which was mildly interesting.

Then we spent time going around a row of shops. There was a huge candle shop there and they had all these interesting designs.

Then we went on a hike up a waterfall! Walked through a river, and then up a river, and then into a waterfall, and it seemed pretty dangerous but we all made it. It was exciting climbing all the rocks and being monkey-like. Unfortunately there was a lot of people at the destination, and we couldn’t play very much in the waterfall. There were fig trees EVERYWHERE. Which was kind of weird.

Came back down, and got some watermelon as well as making our way into an apricot orchard (Avi said it was ok) and picked some good apricots. (washed them of course before eating).

While leaving there was a fire happening nearby and we saw a plane come by to prevent it spreading in some direction. Apparently it happens all the time. Richens the soil.

Then we came back for a Shabbat service, which was really half-assed and sad. Nobody really knew the order of prayers and it was more like “Who knows a song to sing? Ok lets sing that one!”. Which was alright.

Half of the trip went to the local pub, but I was tired so I decided to just sleep.

Day 7 – Shabbat and Boat Party

Shabbat in English probably most correctly translates to “sit-your-ass-down-and-chill-dawg”. So I slept a bit, then took my book out onto the balcony to read. Then took the book over to the pool. Read there. Read a lot. Sat with my shirt open and read a lot. Then Jess came by and was going to get a popsicle so I went with. Ate the popsicle and came back to finish my book.

1984 is a very interesting book. It presents a terrifying situation through a story of this man Winston. What I didn’t like about the book, is it seemed like Orwell was trying to get across this idea of the future, more than presenting a story. At one point in the book he just makes some excuse to completely leave the story and write directly what he is trying to present to the reader. Which is all great if thats what you’re into, but I feel that it would have been even greater mastery of writing if he could avoid that and just get across his point through the story, maybe making the book longer if necessary. Which is another point – he stops too abruptly. I think he could have done otherwise. But overall it was very well done.

After that I went for a walk through the Kibbutz with Michelle and Becka. We walked about and it was very quiet and calm all around. Very nice. Then we came back. I think I chilled a bit more in various places.

Then we went on a boat party on the Sea of Galilee. We thought there was going to be alcohol, but there wasn’t, which was disappointing. I didn’t feel too good so I didn’t dance, and just kind of sat on the side the whole time. I really don’t enjoy dancing : /.

Then we got dinner at this small harbor town near the sea, and I got some wonderful Irish coffee and crossaint.

Came back and slept.

Day 8 – Hike, Winery, Kayaking, Ropes Course

This was another long day for us.

We first set out on a hike alongside a river and in a very natural setting. There were ruins from Roman buildings such as mills and granaries. In the middle of the area there was a food stand that looked pretty good, but I wasn’t hungry. Went to a waterfall that was pretty nice, and while hiking back, Irad picked up a bird’s head that was rotting on the ground and threw it. Something was weird about that guy…

We went to a old bunker site in the Golan Heights area, which had a great view (obviously). Irad gave a long long explanation of everything and I don’t think I heard a word of any of it. But there was an old rusted bazooka on the ground.

For lunch we stopped at some place with two counter-type restaurants and I got some Shwarma, which was alright (but I shouldn’t have gotten the hummus).

Then we headed off to the Golan Heights Winery, which is supposedly famous throughout the world. The Golan Heights have the same kind of atmosphere as Napa Valley, and it’s just as gorgeous, so thus good wine comes from it. We were shown how to taste wine like an expert. First hold the glass correctly, then examine the color, then stick your nose into the glass, then taste it, then spit it out. I don’t agree with the spitting out part, but the 3 wines they gave us were really good. And we got a free glass!

Then they showed us a ridiculous movie with a dubbed genie and some weirdo who acted a bit like Napoleon Dynamite (except liek 30 years older). I bought three bottles of wine and a bottle of olive oil.

Then it was off to the Jordan River, where we went rafting/kayaking. I got into a kayak with David. I don’t think we worked that well as a team, but we did go pretty fast and had a great time. Relaxing and fun.

Then we landed at the site downstream and got dinner there, which included some really sweet tea that I liked, and some cheese pizza that was alright. And nearby was a ropes course setup. I got on the High Challenges (which weren’t that challenging) first and got off not too long after. I went through almost all of the obstacles too… The ropes really cut up some parts of my arm and also going through these barrels made me very dirty. Then after getting down I did the climbing wall, which I did to the almost top. Kenny agrees with me that there was no way to get to the very very top (nowhere to put your feet). Then did a bit of archery, and didn’t do any significant feat there.

Back to the hotel. Before going to bed, I was walking around seeing who I could hang out with and it turned out someone had found a scorpion on their suitcase. Irad put it in a cup, took it out to the balcony, and after fooling around with a ball-point pen, was able to grab the scorpion by it’s stinger. This was INTENSE. Hardcore Israeli here. That was exciting.

And so much excitement that I just had to sleep.

Day 9 – Shoe Kibbutz, Cabbage, Yehuda St, Party

On this day we went to a Kibbutz that made shoes. The brand of the shoes is named… Diadora. I bought some boots that I thought looked really tough, and something I could wear while riding a motorcycle :D. I decided they were Kibbootz. Ha.

Then we got a special tour of the factory, which was incredibly interesting. Saw all of the different stations where they made shoes. These people all are part of the Kibbutz meaning they all get paid the same and work as a community.

Then we made a short visit to a water pool that was pretty and nice. People jumped in using a rope, and tried to do all these tricks. I didn’t go in because I didn’t have a swimsuit, but I did find a lighter…

Then had lunch at some fast food side-stop. I didn’t have any money, because I spent all the cash on my boots and I thought my card didn’t work (didn’t work when trying to buy the boots, but I tried it just today and it did work. Strange). So I got some onion rings, which were somewhat satisfying, and other people gave me some food too, which was great.

Then we went to some farm where we were going to pick cabbage for a charity organization. This organization, Table to Table (something like that), sends food to various different other organizations. We volunteered labor to cut the cabbage from the patches, and they dealt with it afterwards. So they gave us all these pretty awesome knives, and taught us how to kick down the larger leaves, pull the cabbage head to the side, and cut the stem. With 40 so people working on this, we went through three rows pretty quickly, and that was it. A lot of people didn’t really like it past the first row, but I personally really liked working. Out under the sun, working up a sweat, getting my hands a bit dirty, and handling a knife. Could it get any better? KNIVES. Anyhow, got back on the bus and the guy talked to us a bit more and we were off.

Went back to the hotel for dinner. Then this guy Neil Lazarus gave this really awesome presentation about the current Israeli political situation. He made his presentation entertaining, and spoke lively, which was enough to hold my attention the whole time. Very effective, and he also talked about a few other things.

Then we got on the bus to go to Ben Yehuda Street for some shopping. They set boundaries and let us loose. Looked in two trinket stores, and found a hamsa for my mom (though I don’t know where it ended up. I can’t find it). Went to a candy shop and got a bunch. Got a bagel and coffee from some shop. The bagel wasn’t that great actually… tasted a bit like sourdough.

Then we all went to a trendy bar, which turned out to be not that great (I think because they had so many people there at once). I got a Long Island Ice Tea, but they didn’t have ice tea so they used Coke. Whatever, still got me pretty bad. Hung out with Jess, and went with her and Meridith and (Coby?) to get REAL potato chips from a nearby place. They were made right in front of us! It was really good too. Went back to the bar and chilled with people before leaving.

On the bus back to the hotel we partied in the aisle-way. There was dancing, and a couple people hooked up. Not me! (damn). Once we got back to the hotel we brought guitars to someone’s door and had a jam session out in the hallway. It was incredibly fun, but as expected the hotel guy came by and yelled at us. We out onto the lawn and he wouldn’t let us be there either because people would still hear us, so we put 22 people into someone’s room and hung out there. Then people decided to head to the gazebo somewhere so we went out in teams. I didn’t think this was such a great idea because we were in mob-mentality mode, meaning not many people would follow and it would disperse the party. I went anyway and there turned out to be only about 6 of us there. We chilled and it was good. A nice view, and people did hookah (I don’t do that).

Then went back to my room and slept.

Day 10 – Movie, Market, Yitzhak, Ending

Got up in the morning and went to some Film director’s showing. He had a couple technical difficulties, which was sad, but eventually they got it going. He showed a movie of a girl getting her name changed because it was depressing. This was an alright movie, but meh, I didn’t like it for some reason. Wasn’t entertaining. Then he showed another movie he made about his dog and some WWI soldier named Finklestein that the guy’s father became obsessed with researching about. I couldn’t connect the two storylines (the dog and the soldier), so I didn’t really like it either.

Anyhow, we drove into Tel Aviv.

We went to the Israel Independence Hall, where they declared independence. First they showed us a lame movie that many people slept through, but then we went into the main room and this woman gave this really fantastic and moving speech about Israel’s independence. She was incredibly passionate about it, and expressed her love for the country. Really a good experience.

Then we went to an open air market, where we first went up and down the more touristy section. They were selling all sorts of hand made trinkets, watches, towel holders, jewlery, etcetera. It was all the same for a long way. I got a chocolate wrap from a vendor nearby, which was kind of similar to the stuff we had at the Bedouin camp.

Walking along, I saw a really cool and narrow junk shop. I looked around and found some really dusty awesome stuff, and then I found one of those small keychain noisemakers that would make the electronic war-like sounds (bombs dropping, guns rattling, in midi-awesomeness) and I needed to have it so I got it for 3 shekles.

Ordered ourselves, and then left for the other market, which was more produce and cheap-crap based. Much more authentic open air market, with people shouting and gross smells. I found some jam that looked like what I wanted to make a stone sculpture of, so I bought it.

We then went to the beach! Which was really nice and beautiful. I went into the water and it was almost perfect temperature. I jumped over, under, and into waves many many times. So fun. Ran in and out of the water. Exhausted myself, then went back to where people where relaxing and chilled there. Took jumping pictures again, which is always fun.

Then we went to Yitzhak Rabin Square, and Irad told us all about the tragedy. It was a solemn visit. We saw the area where he was shot, and Irad illustrated the precise happenings when he got shot. Saw a bust, and a memorial thing. They also put up copies of the original graffiti that was put up the morning after the shooting. Very interesting stuff…

Then we went back to the hotel and fetched dinner. After dinner, some guy talked to us about the Holocaust, in preparation for tomorrow. I couldn’t listen to him at all. He spoke really monotonously and dreary.

After that we had a pre-ending ceremony where we went around the circle and each said our thoughts on the trip. Everyone had touching things to say. I was really moved by Ilan’s speech about how he traveled to a lot of different countries before coming here because he was in search of something, but he finally found it when he went to Israel. I talked about how Israel seemed to be a very personal country to me. It’s a lot like California, it has the climates I like, the people are weird, the money is mostly change and not paper, and there are ruins everywhere. Yep.

After that I chilled with people by that bar for a bit. Everyone seemed exhausted and not much activity was stirring, so we went to sleep.

BUT on the way back 3 things happened. First (and at some other time), me and Jess saw this passed out guy in the hallway, and we tried to get him to go back to his room but he was passed out passed out. Jess poured some water nearby on him, and he didn’t respond much, and she poured a bit on his crotch which was hilarious. Then I ran into some girl who lives in Palo Alto, the town next to mine, and she was there on some other trip. She knew some people I knew, and goes to BU. Got her name and number :P. Thirdly, somehow I’m with Shmulek/Sam and we see the guy still there, so Sam goes to get a pen and writes little circles on the guy’s face. Poor guy, but so funny.

One more day…

Day 11 – Holocaust Museum and Flight Home

Asof wakes me up and tells me we have 5 minutes before the bus leaves, so we pack rapidly and rush down to the bus. I manage to make enough time to buy a bunch of postcards and a hat for Sam from the gift shop in the hotel.

It was on the bus I think that I realized that the hole in my pants on my right thigh had gotten significantly larger, and if one took a third glance they might be able to see my boxers. So I tried to close this by tying the straps-that-have-no-use around them. Worked a little bit, but as the day went on the hole got larger… Anyway

Went to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, a new one that opened recently I believe. First we sat and listed to a survivor of the Holocaust make a speech. I’m sure it was wonderful, but I was just too tired and fell asleep. Got up and went to the main museum area. This was a long triangular hallway with the exhibits coming out the sides. Very interesting to look at, but very poorly set up in terms of if there were a fire.

The problem with the museum trip was that there were way too many people there when we were. Many, many many fat evil ugly tourists with no sense of direction or respect. They’d push you out of the way or bump into you with their evil unbathed presence and wouldn’t even say excuse me or pardon me. And they’re all old gross fat people with huge breasts or guts. They completely ruined the experience, and made it very unenjoyable. So I went through the place quite fast, glancing at most of the exhibits they had but not reading into them. I’ve grown up with lessons of the Holocaust bombarded against me, and frankly I think I’ve heard enough and I know what happened and how tragic it was. I feel I don’t need to have any more of it.

After exiting we all waited while the rest of the group trickled out (many others did the same as me), we went to the Children’s Memorial, which was dedicated to all the children who died. The room they had there was amazing. They had made a dark room with mirrors set up all around, and put a couple lights in strategic places to make it look like you were walking in a field of stars. Really cool, and maybe I could do it in my house somehow…

Then we got a talk by the guy who was being our tour guide for the museum, which again I was too tired to hear what he was saying, but we filled out forms and got a pin and went to the gift store. Then got lunch, which was terrible pizza. Then left.

Didn’t take the bus, since the next place was within walking distance. It was a Mt Hertzel graveyard for prime ministers and soldiers. Lots of graves of important people, but not that interesting. I always thought of gravesites as places that you go to give respect to people, and not go as tourists going through a country to look at. Although first we went to this big square place where I found these tie wrap things on the ground and used them to fix the hole in my pants, which worked quite well…

There was a group of kids who were walking by us, and kind of spontaneously I decided to say “hi!” to them. A couple kids said back his and hellos, then I decided to say, and a bit louder for some reason, “SHALOM!!!” and almost all of them said back in unison “SHALOM!” AND IT WAS THE MOST AWESOME THING THAT WAS AWESOME. That made me quite happy.

Left the place, got on a bus for a Kibbutz and our final destination. This place, Pinat Shorashim, had an area where people had constructed various artsy sculptures that you could play on, and signs with biblical quotes on them. Kind of like a camp… And also like camp, there was this hippy guy there who talked to us about spirituality. He was a fun guy and said some really interesting stuff. Had dinner, and then he took us on a tour around the place.

Then we jammed out while waiting to leave, which was nice. On the bus ride we all sang the popular Israeli songs that we had come to learn and love, and then suddenly we were at the airport. Said goodbye to the people who were extending their trip. Then went through security. My bags were double checked because the jam jar looked suspicious. Then went to the gate.

Made a candy run and stocked up on various things, spending my last shekels. Then went to the liquor store and spent a bit there to bring back to the US (which oddly enough, I didn’t run into problems with customs at all over. They didn’t even mention it. I was very nervous about that because I had much more than the right limit…).

Waited in the gate for a bit, and then left.

May 26th, 2005
For about 90% of the flight I slept. I had switched seats from the very back row to the very front row (of the business class), which was an exit seat and there was just the wall to the bathroom in front of me. This way, I could put my feet up on the wall and get into some weird position that would allow me easier sleep. Still hurt like hell though.

I sat next to a cute girl and we traded candy and she turned out to be someone who had gone on Birthright a year or two ago and loved it so much that she went back this year (on a trip of her own, you can’t go on Birthright more than once). Anyhow, she was nice.

The breakfast was really crappy. Plus, from the beginning of the flight I had gotten progressively terribly sick. Bleh.

Landed in Toronto, rested in the lounge they put us in, and then got back on the plane. Went home. Slept a lot of that trip too. Landed in LAX.

Got our bags, and went through customs amazingly fast and painlessly. Then we all said goodbye to each other (except for the people going on the Southwest flight).

Went to the Southwest terminal area and stood in a million lines. Finally got to the gates and had a small lunch. Hung out with people while waiting for flights, and finally Michelle and I left for our flight. But our flight was delayed 30 minutes, which was bleh but whatever. Got a seat, and I just completely knocked out slept from take-off to landing. Mom was there to pick me up, and said goodbye to Michelle. Came back home and took a long long nap.