By Kelsey Kramer
As I’m woken from the sounds of buses outside our hotel room window my best friend Megan and I know the day is about to begin. We sluggishly crawl out of bed,(keep in mind not only our we still jetlagged, but we’re still on “college” time EEK) head downstairs, and enjoy a breakfast of various fruits, eggs in oil, and custards similar to American yogurt. We pile onto the bus in route to our first destination, the hike to Banyas. I must say, those bus rides are a really good time! Today we even introduced the idea of Laties’s, a Greek tradition at UCF where you sing and rhyme to entertain the bus. Before we reach the Banyas we await the one part of the trip I’m sure every American boy and girl have been waiting for…. picking up the Israeli soldiers. The soldiers were young just like me. Most are anywhere from 20 to 22. They look like us, dress like us, and share most of our interests.
When we reach the Banyas we are completely overwhelmed with natures beauty. As we hiked down the mountain trail, we are met with the scents of nature (some not so pleasant AH), the sounds of the fresh water stream below, and the laughs of enjoyment from our friends around us. After our hike, we head over to a kibbutz. This is by far the most enjoyable aspect of the trip I have experienced so far. No No, I know the “partying”, the shopping, and the adventures are fun as well, but really hearing the natives speak about their passion of Israel made me reflect on why I embarked on birthright or Taglit in Hebrew in the first place. Not only did the speaker of the kibbutz’ s words touch my heart, the view was by far the most wonderful sight I have seen in my life (besides my family of course ☺). You could see for miles. Mountains covered in snow, small villages hopping with people, and rolling trees and grasses covering fields upon fields below.
Next, we stopped for a quick snack at the local mall. Our tour guide informed us that our bags might be searched upon entrance into the shopping area. Isn’t that crazy! We never think in America that something as simple as going out to shop for a new pair of shoes could yield death by some sort of radical terrorist as it does in Israel. We had lunch similar to McDonalds in the states, but boy let me say it was EXPENSIVE! Finally, we jumped back on the bus, and made our way to the Jeep tour. Now if you like roller coasters, and consider yourself a daredevil this was the thing for you! We drove Jeeps similar to four wheelers all throughout the mountaintop. We even drove within arms distance of about 50 or more cows freely roaming the fields.
Lastly, upon arrive back at the hotel we gathered as a group where we participated in several games that Israelis play. One was to find a partner, place a balloon in between the two of you, and without hands try and pop the balloon. First one to pop the balloon wins! Now just take a guess at who won this game…bingo you guessed it, ME!
All and all today was more than I could of ever asked for.
Hilary Shapiro and Michelle Railey
We've been in Israel for just one day and we are already having the time of our lives. We are meeting some amazing people and experiencing things we couldn't do anywhere else.
This morning we woke up bright and early to visit the Golan Heights we were unable to hike because the weather (it rained last week so the trails are muddy) but it didn't stop us from a seeing the spectacular view at Mitzpe Hashlom.
We then we visited the Golan Heights olive mill (www.capernaumvista.com). It was our first time to spend our shekels in the gift shop on natural oil products such as olive oil, body washes, lip balms and moisturizers. After we went to Mount Ben Tal overlooking the Syrian border and really got to see the beauty of Israel in the mountains we took lots of pictures we will have forever. We took our first stop in the Golan village of Katzrin where we had our first falafel (of many) of the trip! Then we went to an environmental site where we learned about the migration of birds and their unique tracking system.
It's only been the first day and we have experienced so much. The staff is awesome and our group is getting along great. After talking about going on birthright we can't believe we are here and look forward to the rest of the trip!
In an hour we will heading out for dinner in a local Tiberius Cafe and a night on the town!
By Jeff Popluder
Boarding the plane in New York as Mayanot 57 the group was finally assembled, the vibe really amplified and the excitement building. Getting ready for the eight-hour flight everyone was meeting each other and the icebreakers began. After a long flight of bonding and recharging our batteries, we finally landed in Austria a little more acquainted and definitely more excited to finally get to the Holy land.
24 hours later and we’re driving through the streets of Israel viewing the scenery then arriving at our hotel in Tiberius we lit the Chanukah Candles and sat down to enjoy our first schnitzel and traditional roasted potatoes. So far everyone has been extremely friendly and meshing very well. Although the 1st day of the trip is coming to an end and the itinerary has been discussed we all can’t wait for what’s planned ahead and what a great trip is awaiting us.
Chabad at University of Central Florida • 600 Oak Cir • Oviedo, FL 32765 • 407-949-8838