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Welcome to the Holy Land



Hey ya’ll! Yes I am alive. I have survived two cross continental flights, 10 days with 36 strangers (I knew 3 people out of 40), and a couple of days with my father and younger brother in New York City. To say I’m exhausted is not even giving an accurate description of how I feel. My body is falling apart, but I would not trade the experience for anything. I came back with a bunch of new friends, some good memories, and a love for Israeli food. For the next week or however long it takes me, I will be recapping my epic adventures through the Holy Land and New York City.

Where does the journey begin?
On a nine hour flight from hell. At first, I thought it wasn’t going to be bad, but oh how I was wrong. Thankfully I had a window seat. Although I did not sleep at all. It was expected though because I just have problems sleeping on moving objects. The worst part about flying is how close the seats are to your legs. The seats were cramped and my backpack wouldn’t fit all the way under the seat in front of me. Oh well. Free trip to Israel. Free trip to Israel. That was my mantra. With Horrible Bosses and The Help, I survived the flight. Once we landed, I thought I was going to be fine, but once again I was wrong.

Our group grabbed our luggage, picked up rental phones, and exchanged our money into shekels. We then piled on the bus and drove off to our adventure for the day. WAIT what?!? Yes, the trip planned an entire day of activities for us while we were all running off about zero hours of sleep. Good idea, I know. It was like the worst hangover ever, and I didn’t even get to have the benefits of being wasted. Lame. First on the agenda was the old city of Akko.
In Akko, I felt like I was wide awake and that I had actually slept through the night. Akko overlooks the Knesset, which is a sort of lake in the northern part of Israel. We sat around these cannons listening to our tour guide, Alon, tell us about the history of Akko. It was sort of like a history class, but not boring. Napoleon had come here trying to take the city because it was a port, but the Israeli defense was so great that he was unable to acquire the city and went away. Go Jews. #winning #totalisraelmove. Sorry, but not sorry that I speak in hashtags sometimes. It was a habit formed on the trip. One of the funny parts, at least to me, was when the mosque did its daily call for services. It was one of the most interesting things I have ever heard, and we were all so delusional from lack of sleep that most of us burst out laughing.

Finally it was free time. Free at last. We had about an hour or a little less to walk around the market there. At first we were like wtf, there is no market, but when we wondered through the small alley ways, which are super sketch, we found some hidden treasures.
Tables and tables of yummy desserts. Halva, squares of nuts, and pastries. Sign me up. Yes, I became a sort of fatty on the trip, but then again it was only when we ate on our own because for the most part the hotel food was sort of sketch balls and atrocious. This was our first sight of Israeli food and snacks, and let me tell you I was super stoked for what was to come on the trip. Ten days of stuff like this, oh hell yes.

Oh a spice stand. If only I lived in Israel and had needs for spices because then I would have bought pretty much everything that was available. Another important thing I learned in the market that day was that Israel has access to pretty much everything in the food sense. They have tons of fresh fruit, fish, breads, spices, meats, and CANDY. Did I mention that they have a bunch of stands like this in the market with different food? I didn’t capture everything, but don’t worry I went to a million more markets in different Israeli cities, so I got a little of something something from each one. I would love to live in Israel some day just so I could have all the great food.

Nargila anyone? Oh, hookah in case you didn’t know. Yes, there was a shop in the market that had about a hundred hookahs that came in all shapes and sizes. Personally I liked the one shaped like a tree with a little Abu-like hat on top. If I wanted to blow money on random things, I so would have bought it. Thankfully some other guys bought a hookah on the trip, so we all got to experience some shisha in Israel (although most of us have anyways since it is legal and what not), but it was still fun since it was in Israel. Everything is better in Israel.

Unfortunately market time was over. Noooo. Back on the bus. The bus was evil the entire trip. I swear the air was rigged with some sort of drug that lulled everyone to sleep as soon as they got onto it. Once we loaded up, everyone started getting really tired, but we had to drive to the College of the Western Gallilee to meet some college students and do Tikkun Olam. Normally, I am always down to do a mitzvah or a good deed, but at hour 32 of the journey I’m a hot mess and so is everyone else. At least the drive there was entertaining.
There were tons of round abouts throuhgout Israel, so the cities always filled each one with interesting statues or artwork. This was probably one of the best I saw. One of the weirdest things for me, while in Israel, was that Jews were the largest population and it was reflected in all of the cities. In America or anywhere else, except maybe in New York City, you would never see a bunch of menorahs or Jewish symbols spread throughout the town. I really liked this because as a Jew having a Jewish state is an extremely important thing, but I hate politics and shiz, so I’m not going to get into that with ya’ll. Onwards to the awful experience awaiting us at the college.

We were all starving and expecting some food. Instead we were greeted with a lecture about opportunities to come to Israel and our connection with the students at the college. Normally I wouldn’t be a cranky complainer, but I was hungry and tired, not a good combination. Then to make the situation even worse, they had falafel and no gluten free options, which sucks, so the only thing I ate was a couple of soggy french fries. Grrrr. On to the next one. Probably the most memorable and awful event of the entire trip. The mitzvah project. With the college students, we had to paint a mural for a bunch of delinquent Israeli children held in a facility that was in between jail and juvenile detention center. Oy vey is right.
Highlight of the trip. Obviously. As you can tell we are all so excited to be here painting this mural. A couple of key things happened during these painful hours. A couple of the problem kids walked by, said the mural was complete crap, and were complaining about how we ruined it when they were supposed to be painting it. Another great thing about this place was that two of the kids looked like sisqo. Let me see that thong, thong song, oh yeah. I’m not even kidding. They were like mini-me’s of Sisqo. Weirdest thing ever. Also there was this crazy asian kid with the name of Best. I’m not even going to ask why. Apparently these kids are really dangerous, which is why they weren’t allowed to paint with us, but instead just got to taunt us and insult the fat stupid Americans instead. Best part was probably this blonde girl that wouldn’t allow people to take photos of her because of the paparazzi or something like that. She was obviously on drugs, I guess the detention facility is not doing a good job.

FINALLY. We got to leave and head towards our hotel for the night in Tiberias. Hotel is a nice word for it, but it was more like a run down hostel. Not that I had a problem with it, but don’t call it a hotel when it is anything but that. It was an experience though. Thankfully I had two really great roommates because a lot of people had some issues with theirs, which is something that I did not want to deal with on the trip. We were the first birthright group to arrive, so we had dinner in the hotel with just our group and most of us went to bed pretty early that night from being exhausted.
Hope everyone has been having a great winter break, and I’m so glad to be back.

What was the most memorable charity work experience you have had?
Best charity event? Worst event?

Random educational note: Tikkun Olam is a huge part of being Jewish. Besides the religious aspect to Judaism, doing good for others is a main staple. The phrase means to repair the world. Anyways, I like that Judaism has more a cultural aspect than religious because it sets us apart from others and makes us special.



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