March of the Living First day in Israel

We are all so excited to be in Israel!!! After a night-time flight, we arrived very early into Tel Aviv this morning and soon after, we traveled to Caesarea for a welcome on the beach and to sing the Shehecheyanu blessing for our first time together in Israel. Caesarea is a town in north-central Israel located midway between Tel Aviv and Haifa on the coastal plain near the city of Hadera. The town was built by Herod the Great about 25–13 BCE.

We later traveled to the Atlit Detainee Camp Museum, located on the northern coast about 20 kilometers south of Haifa. In the 1930s and 40s, this site served as a detention center for illegal Jewish immigrants seeking refuge in Palestine. Before and during World War II, thousands of Jewish people were fleeing their homes trying to escape persecution and concentration camps. Many coming from Europe and northern Africa chose to seek refuge in Palestine, which was under British Mandate. More than 122,000 people came to Israel despite the British blockade. Those who did not have a valid permit to be in the country were detained and placed in camps like the one in Atlit. Some people were in these camps close to one year. The Atlit Detainee Camp was in place until 1945 when Jewish forces broke into the camp, allowing all the detainees to escape. Today, the museum is designed to educate visitors about the history of illegal immigration in Israel from 1934-1948. We toured a model of the original camp, including the barracks and the room for disinfecting new detainees. We also viewed a multimedia exhibit that follows the voyage of the immigrants to a new life.

What the Teens are saying:

“The transition from Poland to Israel has been incredible. Starting on the bus to the plane in Warsaw, continuing on the plane, and going all the way through the flight, everyone has been hit with a rush of adrenaline. We’ve been singing songs and celebrating, pushing through our exhaustion to celebrate our return home, to Israel. When we landed, and took buses to the beach for a ceremony welcoming us to the Land, there was a palpable sense of relief. Finally we were moving from mourning the deaths of our people to celebrating what we have made after the Shoah, and it is incredible. Everywhere we are celebrating, as everyone learns to love this land.” – Dan Zackin (Connecticut Valley Region)

“This is my first time coming to Israel, I was very tired but I felt a sense of safety and happiness when we landed. As I walked out towards the Mediterranean and felt the sun I had a smile on my face. My entire mood changed. I’m ecstatic to be here finally.” – Jeremy Gloger (Ohio Northern Region)

“I’ve never felt more welcomed into my home as I did when I walked off the airplane today and I realized I was home.” – Sophie Golomb (Keystone Mountain Region)

“I am so thankful to be in the spiritual homeland for the first time that I’ve heard so much about. This day in Israel has been beyond my wildest imagination and it’s only Day 1.” – JiJi Plotka (Cotton States Region)

“Within the first few hours, I’ve fallen in love with Israel. I have never been more awestruck, happy, and at home. Today has been phenomenal and I can’t wait for the next week.” – Sarah Schepis (Liberty Region)

“Arriving to Israel today was such an amazing feeling. Arriving here after all of the emotional stresses of Poland was an incredible release of the troubles and negative feelings surrounding it. Being here for the first time, I was able to begin to see just truly how beautiful of a country it is. I am incredibly excited to be here, in our Jewish homeland, and I can’t wait for this week.” – Brian Kessler (Nassau Suffolk Region)

After touring, we had an amazing lunch at a restaurant overlooking the water and then headed for our lodging at Ohalo Manor. We had a lot of time to rest, refresh, play sports, sunbathe and enjoy the beautiful Israeli weather. After another great meal, we participated in some group games tonight to get to know people better from other buses. After a very long day, everyone is settling into their rooms.

Special shout-outs to the teens who led the final ceremony in Poland yesterday. Gathering in front of the symbolic pits where many were murdered at Treblinka, the teens reflected poetry, their own readings and song. They were Livia Bernstein, Daniel Weiss, Emily Kuznetsov, and Sabrina Suster (North Texas-Oklahoma Region) and Rachel Dean and Matt Michael (Pacific Western Region), Emma Abramson (Westchester Region), Max Brandell (Big Apple Region).

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