Well, it’s been a whirlwind three days of exploring the North of Israel. We landed in the Ben Gurion airport, hopped on a bus to Tiberias, then immediately collapsed into bed. The next two days were spent zinging around the North. We hiked through the Baianas in the upper Galilee, where we watched rockrabbits sunbask and gaped at the ancient carved caves where it’s said the Greek god Pan danced and played his pipes. Next, we traveled to the ancient city of Tzfat, one of the holiest sites in Judaism. There, we toured one of the most famous synagogues in the world-the beautiful Abuhav Synagogue, which is painted in brilliant, mystical shades of blue and white. During our hour of free time, we walked around galleries and shops bursting with gleaming silver. We shopped for rings studded with opals and Roman stone, and snacked on lachuch, a Yemenite bread.
Today, we said goodbye to Tiberias and headed to Hanadiv Gardens, which were founded by “The Known Benefactor,” whose remains rest near the park he funded, overlooking the towns and cities he so loved. Stepping into the gardens brought an explosion of colors, scents, and sounds of the natural world of Israel. The Smelling Garden, intended to provide a sensory experience for visually impaired persons, offered an empathetic opportunity to experience the world in a new way. Plaques bearing the names of the greenery in Hebrew Braille stood in front of various plants. Crushing the leaves between our fingers revealed a world of scents we often take for granted.
Although we were a little sad to leave the gardens, we then traveled to Zichron Yaakov. This lovely town was established in the 1880s by Jewish immigrants. There, we shopped and ate a yoter mi-ode tayim (very tasty) lunch at the Baronita restaurant. There’s nothing quite like Israeli home cuisine!
Finally, we made it to our hotel, where we immediately took a solid nap. Two hours later, we had the honor and privilege of welcoming none other than Michael Eglash! Michael is one of the creators of the IACT program UMasssends your students on and he has worked closely with Birthright Israel and
Hillel International for many years. We were lucky to see him and hear him speak! With birthright funding cut nearly 50% this upcoming year, there’s never been a more crucial time for donations so we can continue providing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to our students.
We finished off the day by hopping on the bus to the Machane Yehuda market. During the day, this shuk bustles with men and women shopping for groceries, tourists goggling at the tchotchkes for sale, and children darting underfoot. By night, it transforms into a hub of youthful vibrance. Music blasts, sellers beckon to try their strawberries, their pita bread, and restaurants do brisk business with the endless streams of young adults coming to buy dinner and a beer.
Our participants got the chance to walk around, drink a beer, and generally feel the culture of Israelis their own age. It’s an unusual opportunity, and one they seemed to enjoy thoroughly (judging by how many were late to the bus for pickup). We, the staff, are so appreciative of you-the family-entrusting us with your kids. We cannot wait to show them the rest of this beautiful and remarkable country! Happy New Year to all and may this one be sweet indeed!