Israel Journey 3B: Update #9

Dear Parents and Loved Ones,

Today’s reflections and updates come from our participants on our different trip options. Enjoy!

Sea to Sea Hike
Our Sea to Sea hike started on Monday morning, on our way to the starting point we stopped at a mall to eat lunch before we got to our starting point, close to the Mediterranean Sea. The first hike we did was four miles and in the middle we stopped at a spring and relaxed! We finished when it was dark out which was really cool because a majority of us have never hiked at night. The second day we drove to our starting point and hiked for eight and a half miles. It was a hot day and there were a lot of rocks on the trails. For dinner we all contributed into making a traditional Israeli stew called “Poyka.” We made different options –  chicken, beef and vegetarian stew. Then we made S’mores and sang songs by the fire!  On Day 3 we woke up super early and hiked from our camp site. The start of the hike was up a mountain (Mt. Meron, the second tallest peak in Israel). Everyone felt super accomplished when we got to the top!  The rest of the hike was going down the super steep mountain, which surprisingly took longer then getting up. Day 3 was around seven miles. Everyone was pretty tired when we got to our last camp site! We had time to relax before we made dinner. For dinner we split into teams of two – one team was called “Falafel” and the other was called “Shawarma.” We each made a variety of foods and the goal was to see who’s food was better. Our staff played the roles of the  judges. (Congrats to team Falafel for winning!). Day 4 ended by going to the Sea of Galilee, which was rewarding after three days of hiking and no showers!!
-Goldie E.

Community Service
Hey everyone! For the first day of community service extension we went tomato picking and donated everything we picked to a local food bank. We worked with some other teens from Kibbutz Yisrael throughout the weekend. The second day was spent with children from a local boarding school. We played games with them and swam with them in the pool. On the third day everybody helped clear a trail to make it more accessible for handicapped people. The whole experience was very rewarding and it showed us another side of Israeli society and culture. We now have Israeli friends and we were able to spend our time contributing to something outside of ourselves!
-Sasha A.

Gadna (Israeli Defense Force Training):
​On the first day of Gadna we entered the IDF training camp and were immediately met by an intimidating women in a rugged green uniform, chanting the words “eser-shniot zoo zoo” into our scared young faces. I trudged towards the blue shadow and saw a group of Israeli soldiers. They were standing in the formation of the Hebrew letter het—chanting the words “Ken Hamefakedet”—as if their lives depended on it. Then all of a sudden my friends and I were immediately rushed towards the Israeli barracks. This was where we received our ratty green uniforms and sleeping bags for the week. All in all the first two to three hours of Gadna was everything that I expected; however, what followed was an experience I would never forget and remember for the rest of my life!!

​Everyday we would rise from our slumber at 06:00 and eat breakfast from a big brown box that contained our daily rations. The next few hours contained a lot of discussions and learning activities. Some of them were focused on the history of the IDF and the State of Israel. Others – and my personal favorite – were focused on differentiating between the ideologies of what its means for a person to be Jewish or for a person to feel Israeli. In addition to our discussions we also spent time in the classroom as well. The educational classroom activities mostly touched upon learning about the different parts of the gun and the ten precautionary measures that EVERYONE needs to follow before they have the opportunity to experience the shooting of the gun. In my opinion, I didn’t like shooting the gun because I knew that even how exhilarating the experience was—in reality and in war—the target of the weapon would be aimed toward taking the life out of a fellow human being.

​Although we had a lot of discussions and spent a lot of time in the classroom, we also learned how to be a soldier in the field. Usually at the end of our day around 6:00pm—when the scorching heat faded, we would start our physical activities. One of my favorite activities was learning how to move around and camouflage myself in a hostile environment. I learned that in order to survive in the wild, one needed to use everything around oneself to his or her advantage. This included pouring water on the ground and painting ones face with mud. Picking up leaves and plastering them onto our face, and lastly grabbing tree branches to hold in front of our eyes to camouflage ourselves like the environment around us. This taught me that sometimes being the best warrior doesn’t mean for one to be the strongest and toughest but rather the smartest and wisest.

At the start of the Gadna week I first thought that being a part of the IDF was solely going to be following the orders of my commanders and an immense test of my physical strength. Yes, we did a lot of pushups. Yes, we did a lot of running. Yes, we pushed our physical strength to the brink. But even though the IDF was a huge physical test, I learned that being a soldier requires you not just to be a trained warrior, but also to have an impenetrable mental mindset and sensible morale as a human being!
– Jaren Katz

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