Posts Tagged With: War

Masada in the Morning

Jan 8 2009
The lights in the tent turned on and I heard movement. Wake up time. It was extremely early and still pitch black outside. I got dressed and ate some of the crackers they put out for us. We boarded the bus and waited. It turned out that Jordi was sick. We waited for her for a bit. Finally, we learned that we’ll have to leave her behind with Anna. Staci boards the bus and immediately gives us a lecture about staying hydrated. We each purchased a bottle of water from the bus driver.

We reach Masada National Park and Shabat and Staci rush us up the Roman Path. We can’t miss the sunrise! The Roman Path is the easier path, but a lot of us were having a hard time breathing. This was probably because it was steep, early in the morning, change in altitude, and we were rushing. Not to mention my 9/11 weird asthma thing didn’t help matters. Eventually we got to the top! All of us thought we missed the sunrise because the sky was light, but we were wrong. Shabat had us sit on the mountain and wait. We sat watching another mountain. Slowly, the sky went from red to yellow to orange. Then we slowly started to see the sun peek out from the mountain in front of us. We kept watching as it rose. It was magical!

Then Shabat made us sit in a circle and told us the story about Masada. All the Jews living on Masada killed themselves instead of letting the Romans take them. It was a very sad story and it impacted all of us. Next he took us over to the side of the mountain where we could hear an echo. We screamed a bunch of phrases and heard them come back to us.

We looked at some of the ruins including a synagogue and then we used the restroom. After that we started our long trek down the Snake Path. Where do I even begin with the Snake Path? It was super scary and super long! There were no handles most of the way, so if you slipped you could pretty much fall off the mountain. The walk down was narrow and took forever. Morgan slipped and hurt her ankle. When we got to the bottom I wanted to jump for joy!

We walked to an area with tables and we were given a boxed breakfast. I only ate the chocolate and the bread. I gave my food to whoever wanted it. Then we were given some time to shop in the gift shop. I bought a pair of earrings and some postcards. Then I spent a while debating about which expensive necklace to buy for my mom. I finally decided on a blue and white star. Alan bought a really cool shirt about climbing and conquering Masada.

While we were leaving Masada we found out that the northern part of Israel (where we were yesterday morning and the last time we had cellphone reception) had been hit with a missile. Pretty much none of us had spoken to our parents in 24 hrs and the last they knew we were in northern Israel. Needless to say a bunch of us called home.

We drove to the Ein Gedi Spa where we would spend some time by the Dead Sea. We each got a towel and we had to share lockers. I changed into my bathing suit. We had to wait and catch a shuttle to take us from the spa to the Dead Sea. This is because the Dead Sea has dried up and is no longer right next to the hotels and spas.

When we finally got to the Dead Sea, Lindsey, Jen, and I put our stuff on lounge chairs at the farthest end of the “beach” area. Then we all headed over to the mud pit. Everyone (but me) covered themselves in the mud. Ricky even swam in it. Since I didn’t go in the mud, I took all the pictures. I put a bit of mud on my screwed up thumb and that was it. A family even approached me to take pictures of them. Everyone’s pictures were hilarious.

Afterwards, we all went into the Dead Sea. I was a little scared since I hate water and swimming. It felt extremely strange to just lay back and float. The entire bottom of the sea was covered in hard sharp salt. I cut my toe open and the salt water burned so badly. After I got out of the water I felt nasty. The salt residue was gross. Before we went back to the hotel the girls took a group shot. Then we boarded the shuttle.

Back at the hotel some of the people went into the mineral pool, but I didn’t feel like smelling like sulfur. I already smelled like camel and salt. I went to the showers and rinsed the salt off. After that I walked around the shop for a bit. I got a couple of free samples for my mom.

When everyone was ready we headed to lunch. We each got a ticket that was good for certain items. We had to wait on a really long line for food. We were able to get a drink, desert, bread, and one item. I got baklava, a roll, and yummy french fries. The place was packed and it took us a while to find a table. Unfortunately, we were rushed through lunch because of our tight schedule.

We then drove to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. I immediately spotted a press a penny machine and got a penny. Yeah! So did Alan. We walked through the reserve and there were so many animals. They got so close to us, which was freaky at times. Shabat had us sit down and talked to us about some of the animals. He had Noah taste poop. He also had Ricky, Zac, and Roi act out a mating ritual for us. It was hilarious.


We stopped at some waterfalls and some of the group went swimming. I spoke to Dror for a bit about his upcoming trip to the USA. The reserve was absolutely beautiful and very calming!
We drove to Jerusalem and dropped Guy off. Then we went back to the Shalom Jerusalem Hotel with its horrible elevators. Rachel, Sarah, and I got a room in the middle of the hallway. We were directly across from Lindsey, Jen, and Jordi’s room. Sarah took the cot. Our shower didn’t flood this time, which made us all happy. However, our toilet wasn’t acting right. We all put our clothes on the shower rod to dry and went down to leave for dinner.

We drove to Ben Yehuda St. for shopping and food. I walked in and out of shops with Jen and Lior. It was a little unsettling to see signs thanking the brave tourists for shopping. Someone, maybe Lior, told me that the street had been attacked before. I ate a bagel for dinner. I found a Sephardic bakery and loaded up on goodies. The bakery was on a small side street so I was so glad I found it. I bought a shirt, some postcards, and an evil eye bracelet. I didn’t want to buy too much because everything was a bit over priced. Josh got a shofar and kept blowing it. Ali and I went to McDonald’s to use the restroom before we boarded the bus again.

I went back to the hotel and immediately took a nice long hot shower. Bye bye camel salt sand smell. After I showered I hung out with a bunch of people in Lindsey, Jen, and Jordi’s room.

Categories: Asia, Food, History, Israel, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good Times in Israel

Jan 6 2009
I woke up at the usual time for breakfast. I toasted and ate the bagel I bought yesterday in Tzefat with Jen. It was amazing. Since a lot of people chose to skip breakfast and sleep in, I went back to the room for awhile. We got on the bus and were left off in what seemed to be the middle of no where.

There was no bathroom and a lot of people had to use the restroom. Shabat suggested the bushes. Um no. We were asked to break up into groups and get into a jeep for a tour. Lindsey, Michelle, Ali, Ben, Jen, Ricky, and I picked the closed green one. Staci joined us and sat in the front. We had so much fun! It was so bumpy and we were falling all over each other. We saw lots of cows, ruins, mine sites, fields, etc. Our jeep driver was really funny! We passed a lot of signs that said, “Danger Mines!” The driver said that in Hebrew and in English it says danger mines, but in Arabic it says picnic area. Later on he said, “If we bust a tire the stronger sex will have to get out and push, while the men stay inside.” Ricky said something about male chauvinism and the driver told him it wasn’t chauvinism, it was the truth. He heard us talking about Will and Grace and asked us if we were all gays and lesbians. Ricky answered that we were a mix. The driver went on to say he didn’t care and that it is a free world and we can be whatever we want. We all thought that was really cool.

We stopped in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. We listened to some guy talk to us about Syria and point things out in the valley below. The view was beautiful. We took some photos and in one of them another jeep driver made us all stick out our middle fingers. I took two rocks that looked volcanic and were really cool. When we were driving back down a branch fell and was in the way of our jeep. The driver took out a big knife and just hacked it. We all thought that was kind of cool.

We got back on our bus and drove to a shoe factory Kibbutz. We had to listen to a whole long speech before we were allowed to use the bathroom. The bathrooms were nasty because they were flooded and there were only two stalls. The line was extremely long! A bunch of people bought ice cream and shoes. I just wanted to get out of there because the place gave me a horror film creepy vibe.

We then went back on the bus and drove to Mt. Avital-Mt. Bental Nature Reserve. The mountain hangs over Syria. Shabat brought us to the very tip/edge of the mountain to talk to us. It was FREEZING! There was a great view and the stories were interesting. There were black cut out people that everyone was taking pictures with, in particular Roi. The soldiers explained that the black cut outs were used to fool the enemy.

Then we went down into a bunker and I had to use my flashlight. The stairs were narrow. The passageways were very small narrow as well. We were able to congregate in a small room with walls covered in graffiti and messages. My name was written on the wall twice. Ali took one picture of me next to it. After we got out of the bunker Shabat said we were headed straight to the bus. We didn’t have time to go to the coffee shop nor were we able to stop at the shop. The bathroom was locked, which sucked. A bunch of us took pics with the big metal dinosaur.
Afterwards we drove to what Shabat called a mall. I definitely wouldn’t call it a mall. It was a grocery store, a couple of bad stores, and a food court. I went to the grocery store and bought some chocolate and cinnamon buns. The cinnamon buns were the best I have ever had!!!! I met everyone else in the food court. The Pardos had some awesome looking calzone that I had a small piece of. It had a strange taste. Jacob had some jamming fries. They were nice and crispy. After that Ali and I went to the bathroom.

We then all split into 3 groups: the political discussion group, the hike, and the circus group. Anna and Staci joined our group, which was the circus group. They had us line up by our numbers just for the fun of it. We were informed that the circus wouldn’t start for a while, so we would go to a winery first.

The winery was across the street from the mall, so we walked there. We were taken into an auditorium that was lined with wine bottles. There was a mosaic lamp in the middle of the room that looked like Aladdin’s lamp. A guy came in and introduced himself and started the movie. The movie was hosted by a genie from the lamp. The movie was educational, but it was also really interesting. It was sort of 3D and reminded me of the videos they play with movie themed rides at amusement parks. After the movie they took us to where they store the wine while it ages. It was very humid and all the barrels were red. He told us it takes 3 years to make the special barrels. Next we moved to the tasting room. We were each given a glass that I really liked. We tasted 3 wines. I tasted a sip of the first and the third. The second one smelled way too strong for me. I gave all the wine I didn’t drink to Jen, Sarah, and Hilla. The pretzels they gave us were really good. Our guide said we could keep our glass, which I was so happy about. Then we went to the gift shop and I really wanted to buy Gayla a shirt that had a big G on it. However, they only had one left and it was the wrong size. We all used the bathroom and boarded the bus.

On the bus I sat across from Hilla and Ali. Hilla bought wine for her boyfriend and Sarah bought dessert wine. They both said the wine was very cheap. It was interesting to talk to Hilla. We discussed G-d, her military service, Gaza, and her boyfriend. She said that she’s very proud to be an Israeli and to fight for her country. She said we would want to fight too if someone was always trying to take away our land. We then talked about music. She played for us a song she wrote and sang. It was really good despite the fact Ali and I didn’t know what she was saying. I played Fountains of Wayne for her. She seemed to like it, but didn’t understand what they were saying. Ali explained the lyrics to her and then we all cracked up. We were driving for a long time and Hilla really had to pee. She was really funny about it. She was cursing and bouncing in her seat. We felt like we were driving for forever. We didn’t know where the circus was located. Then Hilla pointed out that we were driving towards Haifa, which is far away from the Golan Heights. We wound up going to a place in Shorashim, which Hilla said wasn’t too far away from where she lives.

They had us listen to some really boring lecture. I didn’t pay attention to it. Ali, Hilla, and I talked for a while in the back of the room. She showed us pictures on her phone. When the lecture was over we used the bathroom, and boarded the bus.

We then drove 10 minutes away to a school. We were going to watch a group of school children who were half Arab and half Israeli perform. It wasn’t the circus we were expecting. However, it was still entertaining. Afterwards they gave us time to try some stuff out. I wanted to, but I was afraid of getting hurt. I watched Sarah on the trapeze for a while. Ali and I went in search of the bathroom because we knew we had a very long drive back. The fist bathroom was flooded, but luckily we found another one. We boarded the bus and left. I sat behind a girl who was on the phone for the whole ride complaining that she didn’t want to go to the bar later that night. She said she would have them call a doctor for her so she wouldn’t have to go. I didn’t want to go either, but I wasn’t causing a scene.

When we got back to the hotel it was really late. I realized I had the key and probably locked Rachel out this whole time. I did, but the hotel let her into the room. When I walked into my room there were so many people in it! They were all getting ready for the night. They were deciding on clothes, doing their make-up, and straightening their hair. Then they all went down to dinner, but I decided to stay in the room. I ate my cereal, tried on my clothes, got my stuff ready for the next day, and packed. I knew I wouldn’t want to pack when we got home from the bar.

After dinner the crowd came back to my room to finish getting ready. Ricky served as the fashion consultant for all the girls. I really didn’t want to go to the bar. I much rather have slept. I was exhausted! When we got to the lobby they announced that there was now an option to stay in the hotel. I wanted to take them up on it, but I didn’t want to be the only one staying behind. Josh was also thinking about staying, but the group convinced him to go. The bar wasn’t too far from the hotel so we walked there.

I spent the night dancing with Lindsey, Ben, Sara, Maddy, Emily, Deb, etc. A lot of couples were created that night. The only American song that they played was Katy Perry’s Hot n Cold. They kept playing Geo Da Silva’s Do It Like a Truck. So of course for the rest of the trip we all had that song stuck in our heads. Before we left I meant to get a picture of Ben by the Big Ben Bar sign but I forgot. I remembered on our walk back to the hotel. I said, “o well next year” and he added “in Jerusalem,” which was the common phrase during our trip: “next year in Jerusalem.” So we all cracked up.

When we got back to the hotel, Rachel and I changed and finished packing. She climbed into bed and I was just about to do the same when Sarah and Ricky came into the room. We talked for about two hours. Then Ricky said he was tired and left. I finally climbed into bed at 2am. Sarah went in and out of the room for a while after that. So much for my much needed sleep!

Categories: Asia, History, Israel, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring Jerusalem

Jan 4 2009
One of the cell phone alarms went off at 6:15am. I let the other girls sleep until the 6:30am wake up call. We went to breakfast, which was yummy. I ate my bagel from last night and a lot of cake. I packed up croissants and cake for lunch. We then got on the bus for our ride into the heart of Jerusalem.

We stopped at the Haas Promenade where we listened to music, drank grape juice, ate challah, danced, took pictures, and listened to Shabat lecture. It was beautiful to see the Dome of the Rock in the distance. I was so glad to finally see it. The grape juice was really good and the challah was the best I have ever had. There was no bathroom so I was mindful of how much I ate and drank. I really enjoyed watching everyone dancing and the Israeli music was great. Shabat started to lecture us about the City of David. Staci stopped him to remind him that we had soldiers waiting for us. Shabat brushed her off and continued talking. There was a stray cat walking around that freaked Collin out. One thing I liked was that Leo called the cat over to him and was petting him. It was a strange contrast the gun and the petting of the cat. While we were at the promenade there was thick black smoke in the distance. It was scary and reminded us that they were in the middle of a war.

We then got back on the bus to head to the Old City. The Old City was interesting, but we went through it very fast. The buildings were amazing to look at. It really transports you back in time. We saw the room where the last supper took place. I honestly didn’t know it was located there. It was not how I imagined it. The room was empty, plain, and boring. If Shabat hadn’t told us that was the room I would not have been able to guess it. Shabat took us through a maze of side streets and then stopped us to tell us about the Kotel (Western Wall). Then we were able to take some pictures of the Kotel and the Dome of the Rock from a place adjacent to the wall.

We then went down to the Kotel. I was shocked that the men had so much more room than the women. There were barely any men there, but there were tons of women. There wasn’t any room to put our notes in the cracks of the wall. All the cracks were full. I touched the wall, but sadly did not feel a connection to it. A lot of the people took out their phones to call home and have their family members pray at the wall through the phone. I did the same thing and my mom answered the phone.

After we left the wall we all joined in a circle to talk about it, but a guard came over because we were all holding hands. Male and female students shouldn’t be touching. Most of us were disappointed by the wall. We then were given some time to eat lunch.

I chose to shop instead of eat lunch. I quickly shoved my breakfast leftovers in my mouth and started to wander in and out of the stores. In the 1st store I bought a Kippuh for my dad. I also bought bracelets for my mom and I. I also bought a charm for my grandma’s necklace. I went to another store where I bought some postcards and a pen. In the last store I got some more postcards and some keychains.

After we went shopping we went back to the bus to meet our soldiers. 4 of the soldiers were male and 3 were female. They were all in their uniforms. They were given role call #’s. The male soldiers are Roi, Idan, Guy, and Dror. The female soldiers are Karen, Sarit, and Hilla. All but Roi sat in the back of the bus. Roi told us that he teaches rookies and has about 3 months left in the army.

We then went to the military cemetery. The graves are different from what we are used to. They are all above ground and they are all the same. Shabat told us stories about some of the soldiers that had died. Roi told us about a soldier who jumped on a grenade to save everyone else. We also saw them starting to prepare the graves for the soldiers who had died in Gaza the night before. That was really emotional for me. Then we learned about some of the soldiers who were captured and mutilated. Shabat showed us pictures of other soldiers going through the sand looking for body parts to bury. That was so moving.

We got back on the bus and started our 2 hour drive to Tiberias. I fell asleep for a little bit. I woke up right before we got to a security check point. A man got on our bus with a gun at the check point, which was scary. I’m glad I woke up before he got on the bus.
Our hotel was Moriah Gardens and our room was 1206, which was another corner room. I was happy about that. I was also happy that we were on the 4th floor so we could walk if we wanted to. I was done with 16 flights of stairs or forever elevator rides. The room had a mini fridge, which I was thrilled about. I could finally have cold water and juice! The only problem was that there was one bed for 3 girls. I would need a bed. The door to our bathroom was broken, but the shower didn’t flood.

At dinner I found out our room was the only room not to have an extra bed, cot, or sleeper sofa. The dinner was disgusting!!!!! The rice was cold, the potatoes were spicy, the bread was hard as a rock, there was no dessert, and the carrots were nasty. I went back to the room and ate some of the cereal I packed. The tap water wasn’t bad. It tasted less salty than the bottled water and the tap water in Jerusalem.

We broke off into two groups to have a discussion about faith. All the soldiers aren’t religious except for Hilla. Guy’s comment about the Israeli Army protecting any Jew anywhere really struck me. The soldiers seemed upset that American Jews don’t give them more help. They were also very shocked to hear our stories about what it is like to be a Jew in America. They’ve never been in the minority. Then we played some games in the basement of the hotel.
Then Ricky, Kevin, Alan, and I continued the faith discussion in my room. It was nice to have an intellectual conversation. Then we went to hang out in Jacob’s room. Julie, Lindsey, Jordi, Jen, and Jacob were already in there. Marc, Leo, Rachel, Roi, and Josh floated in and out. We watched football, listened to music, and gossiped. Then Deb came and told us that she had an extra bed. I wanted it! I gathered the whole crew and we went to Deb’s room at the other end of the hall. Alan orchestrated the movement of the mattress, frame, and bedding down the hall. All the guys and I had the frame. A couple people had the mattress and someone else had the bedding. It was a team effort and it was a lot of fun. I wound up going to bed around 2am. However, most of our tour mates were drunk and passed out much later.

Categories: Asia, History, Israel, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Going to War

Jan 3 2009
I woke up at 6am and couldn’t fall back asleep. The girls’ alarms went off at 9am and 9:15am for breakfast, which they decided not to attend. I got out of bed and got dressed. I went to breakfast where I ate a lot of chocolate croissants and cake. I then watched everyone while they did yoga. The roof had beautiful views. Yoga looked like a lot of fun. I then went back to my room, but it was locked because the girls were still sleeping.

I went to 1612 to hangout with Jordi, Lindsey, and Jen. We talked for a while and I discovered that one of the memory cards I bought didn’t work. That was a waste of $20. We then went to lunch where I had rice, potatoes, carrots, and cake. I also took chicken and eggs for Ricky in my purse. It was kind of funny.

Lindsey, Jen, Jordy, Emily, Sarah, Chloe, and I got on the shabbat elevator. A guard from another group got on. We got stuck on 17 and the guard was scared. We were teasing him that for being a military guy with a giant gun he was a chicken. He wound up getting off the elevator. Then we had a guy from bus 803 join us. We chatted with him for a while. Then some Israeli girls got on the elevator and started flirting with the 803 guy in Hebrew. However, he doesn’t speak a word of Hebrew. They took his hat. As we stopped on every floor we got more and more annoyed. We wound up being late to the meeting.

At the meeting Shabat went over the rules for the Migash, our schedule, and we got our role call #’s. I’m #8. We went out for a short walk near the hotel. We got to the top of this street that had an amazing view. Then Shabat had us stand in a circle and throw our right shoe in the middle of our circle. Then we each had to pick a shoe and listen to a story from that person. I picked Sara and Collin picked me. The stories were all interesting. Then we walked back. I spoke to my mom when I got back to the room.

Then we drove to a street in Jerusalem for dinner. Everyone got falafel which looked and smelled amazing. I went to the market and spent 50 shekels on chocolate bars, a water, and mints. Leo suggested a chocolate bar so I added it to the bunch. Alan bought postcards, but I didn’t see an open store to get some. I decided to buy a bagel from Holy Bagel because they had just opened so the bagels were right out of the oven. I also bought one for tomorrow’s breakfast. Jen also got one.

Afterwards, we went to Ammunition Hill. We saw an old tank, pics, and a movie. I was so tired that I didn’t really pay much attention. Then we walked around a bunker. I happened to stand near Staci and Anna when Shabat called them over to tell them that Israel had invaded Gaza. That freaked me out! Anna and Staci said, “Thank G-d we are in a bunker!” We then went out to explore a tunnel and I had to turn on my flashlight because it was so dark out. I called my mom to inform her about what was going on.

When I got back to the hotel I packed my bag and we all watched the news. Then we put MTV on and then Pirates of the Caribbean. We wound up going to bed at 1am.

Categories: Asia, History, Israel, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel

I went to Israel in January of 2009 with Birthright Hillel. We had a unique experience because shortly after we arrived Israel invaded Gaza. It is referred to as the 12 Days War (there are other names as well) and we were in Israel for 12 days. More information about Birthright, Hillel, and the war can be found below. Additionally, you can find the link to all my videos from Israel and the trip plan below. Posts from the 12 days will be coming soon.

Birthright

Hillel

12 Days War

Videos from Israel

Trip Plan

Postcards from Israel

Israel Map

Categories: Asia, History, Israel, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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