Last Few Days in Israel

Thank you so much for sending your teen(s) on this trip.  You have given them the greatest gift, one that will stay with them for a lifetime.  Since 1988, the first year of the trip, BBYO has always sent a delegation of teens and the program continues to be a profound and impactful experience.  The trip transported us back in time to one of the darkest chapters in human existence, to one of the most terrifying times in Jewish history. Then, before we could take a deep breath, we traveled to Israel to celebrate with the people of Israel, to see the beauty of the land and to feel immense pride and accomplishment for who we are as a people.

The past 48 hours went from a day of mourning in Israel, for those who died in wars and through terrorism (Yom Hazikaron) to last night’s joy and merriment of Yom Ha’atzmaut.

On Yom Hazikaron, we attended a special memorial program to hear stories from the families and friends of men and women who lost their lives. It was a truly touching memorial and one that brought the reality to us of what Israelis have endured and how precious life is, and to cherish every moment we have with those we love and care about.  The memorial day observance continued with the official sounding of the siren throughout the country, both on Sunday night and on Monday morning, while we were in Tel Aviv, at the very site that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. We later visited the historic Independence Hall in which David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel.

Last night we celebrated Israel’s Independence in Jerusalem!  The streets were packed with Israelis and visitors, all cheering and dancing in the streets.  The teens loaded up on Falafel, Schnitzel and Shawarma and managed to frequent every vendor and Judaica store.  It was fun seeing all the goodies they purchased and hearing about the great foods they tasted.

Today, the March of the Living participants from various countries marched from Jerusalem’s center to the Western Wall. It was quite a site with Israeli flags being waved and everyone dancing and singing for the joy of being in Israel.

To see our teens praying along thousands at the wall and dancing and singing with people from all over the world will forever remain a highlight of the trip. The Western Wall or Kotel is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount. It was one of the four walls that King Herod built to support the 1,555,000 square foot plaza on which the Temple stood.

Tonight was the Mega Event at Latrun army base, celebrating March of the Living 2017, with presentations from dignitaries, music and dancing and a great fireworks display. Jed Golman (International Shaliach, North Texas – Oklahoma Region) represented USA on stage as the country delegations were presented.

Tomorrow concludes our trip with a day at Masada and swimming at the Dead Sea. Masada is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of an isolated rock plateau on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea.  It is the place where the last Jewish stronghold against Roman invasion stood. The Dead Sea, also called the Salt Sea, isa salt lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. Its surface and shores are 1,388 ft. below sea level, the lowest elevation on the Earth’s surface on dry land.

We have had a terrific two weeks and the experience was one that we will all cherish. Special thanks to my wonderful staff, Annie Rifkin, David Hoffman, Justin Sadle, Samantha Heimsohen, Brett Richman, Samantha Walsh, Aleeza Lubin, Stuart Nulman, Jason Weinstock, Bertta Herstein, and our amazing survivor Paul Galan; our guides from Israel, Gadi Ben Dov;, Dima Gohshtet, Maya Yehezkel , Mark Shapira and our Polish guides, fabulous drivers and guards in both countries; and the entire BBYO Passport team, especially, Aaron Robbin.
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