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World on a Shoestring A beginnger's guide to traveling around the world...as written by beginners...

The Rest of the Trip

ISRAEL | Tuesday, 9 January 2007 | Views [1150]

Given the length of "Day 1" alone, and in an effort to save bandwidth and not crash THE INTERNET, I'm going to post highlights from the trip as opposed to each day in its entirety; were I to actually do a play-by-play for each day, I'd overload cyberspace, and that won't make anyone happy.  If you would like a full record of everything we did that I included in my journal, let me know, and I'll shoot you a copy of the whole thing...all 16 or so pages.  I'm doing everyone a favor, believe me...

I'm going to try to squeeze ten days of activities into a few paragraphs without being too longwinded, which should prove about as easy as parking a 747 in my driveway.  Israel is such a spectacular country with such spectacular people, its hard to say what had the greatest effect on my.  We did so much, and saw so much, that if it hadn't been for my journal most of it would easily have been forgotten.  We visited a ton of ancient cities and towns, learning so much about our history as a people and as a religion.  When you arrive in Israel, they don’t say “Welcome to Israel,” they say “Welcome Home!”  And without a doubt, Israel truly feels like home.

What trip to Israel would be complete with a stopover at the Dead Sea and Masada.  You can’t understand what it is to float in the Sea until you’re toe-up, hands behind the head floating around with your friends.  And to have wrapped Tiffilin at the top of Masada was a truly an overwhelming religious experience.  Such a beautiful country, we watched the sun rise over the Negev just beyond our Bedouin campsite where we had the opportunity to ride camels.  But topping out the most affecting experience has to be our trip to the Kotel (the Western Wall) on Friday night.  Hordes of Jews praying and celebrating the Shabbat; dozens of us dancing in circles and praying at the top of our lungs, prayer becomes a celebration, and no longer is boring and routine like it is at home.  I was raised above the crowd on the Rabbis shoulders and given a bird’s eye view of the whole scene and it really gives one a sense of inclusion.  It’s interesting to feel so at home in a town where, when you stand on the roofs and look into the Moslem quarter, you can hear the call to worship while the rest of the city goes about their daily routine.

To spend ten days on a bus with so many people you don’t know, you soon learn everything about everyone.  We met and made friends with so many new people on this trip, its hard to believe that these people were once strangers.  We shared a Febringin with Yeshiva students, staying up to the wee hours gathered around the Shabbat dinner table taking L’Chaim’s (small vodka shots) till we were are singing at the top of our lungs!  But the celebration was carried beyond the walls of our parties to within the walls of Mt. Hertzel and Yad Vashem, the fallen soldiers and Holocaust Memorial, respectively, honoring those you have given themselves for Israel.  Unlike America, where war is a foreign crisis, it is hard to ignore the presence of war in Israel, where homemade armored car lie in ruins along the highways as a memorial to those who defended their homes during the War of Independence. 

Should you ever visit Israel, allow me to make some recommendations.  If you happen to find yourself in Jerusalem at night, and are looking to party, check out a bar called Nadin on Ben Yehudah street, Jerusalem’s answer to Philly’s south street, or NYC’s SOHO.  Here you’ll find good Israeli beer, cheap shots, and free hookahs if you order more than two drinks.  For good jewelry, just up the street from Nadin, two alleyways from the top of Ben Yehuda, you’ll find a jewelry stand run by a guy named Esau, who makes all his own jewelry with his brothers.  Also, check out the Shabbat market in Jerusalem on Friday afternoons and be sure to get chicken Shwarma from the lady from New Jersey.

There’s so much more I could write, and so many other emotionally moving stories I could tell; we could be here all day.  I have to say thank you to all of the Chayalim (Israeli soldiers) including Idan, who traveled with us, and with whom we’ve become great friends.  Lastly, let me leave you with this story:

At the end of the night after the boat ride on the Knesset, we all went to bed.  Witnesses testify that Zac tucked himself into his own bed and promptly passed out.  The next morning, it is reported, Bryan woke next to his girlfriend, Sharee, and rolled over to find passed out Zac inches from his face.  There was no reasonable explanation as to how or why Zac left his bed in the middle of the night and managed to end up bed with those to, nor as to why those two didn’t notice a 6’2” man crawl into bed with them.  Like the Israeli army is populated primarily with heroes and heroines, so to is our trip to Israel populated by stories like this.

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