May 3-4, 2013

I could not choose a better time than at Yaarot Menashe for this blog’s 100th post. Yaarot Menashe, or Menashe Forests, is where so many YCers enjoyed another music festival. Everyone set up their tents outside and then entered the main wooded area for concerts, food, and other entertainment. I didn’t know any of the artists or their music before going, but the spunky, catchy songs didn’t need to take getting used to for enjoyment and dancing. The only artist I did know was a surprise performance on Friday night by none other than HaDag Nachash. Once again, they had an amazing performance that made the crowd go crazy. Over the two days we went to different stages and danced alongside all of the different friendly, relaxed people that were there (mainly Israelis). We appreciated all of the funny little decorations around the festival, whether it be books hanging from branches, decorated trees, painted fabrics, recycled records, and more. It was also so hot out that we slept on mats outside of our tents and by the end of the weekend, we all looked like we got great tans because of the extra layer of dirt that covered our bodies. I loved spending this great time with my friends, and the combination of the festival and the glow run made this the dream weekend.

May 2, 2013

Many people from our section supported Tzeva Kachol in the Be’er Sheva Glow, a 5k or 10k race at night made exciting with pump up music, glow sticks, and neon face and spray paint. We, as Tzeva Kachol, got sponsors to run and raised over $1000 for the Koby Mandell Foundation. Each of us ran for a specific victim of terror whose short story we wore on our back. With the amazing energy, excitement, and fun, this race was by far my favorite. I finished the 10k in 1:02, which I was disappointed in because I thought I was running faster than I apparently was. At the same time I’m proud of myself because I didn’t stop running at any point of the race and when I finished I still felt good enough to keep running. After we finished and collected our medals, we proceeded on to dance next to the stage blasting music and watched the award ceremony. Throughout the entire night I was either running, dancing, or laughing, and it was a great beginning to one of my best weekends.

April 30, 2013

For Zionism class we went on a trip to Mitzpe Mesua and did a simple hike there and made it to underground caves that the Bar Kochba rebels hid in when they revolted against the Romans. We got climb through the caves and I felt like I was in the blind tunnels at the Liberty Science Center again, except this time I didn’t cry. It was nice and cool inside, it was pitch black, and sometimes spaces were so cramped that instead of crawling on my hands and knees I had to wiggle through like a worm. Frances was wearing a headlamp in front of me so I was able to anticipate some unexpected changes in the rock, plus everyone was giving the person behind them special instructions. Despite my scratched up knees, I enjoyed it so much that when we made it out I was upset that there wasn’t more.

Lag BaOmer!

April 27-29, 2013

This year, the holiday Lag BaOmer, celebrated by making huge bonfires, had two nights/days of excitement. On the Jewish calendar it was scheduled for Saturday night, but the rabbinate moved it to Sunday night to allow more time for preparation because Shabbat ended too late. When traveling home from Zichron, we smelled the bonfires everywhere. We even had to close all of the windows of our 4th story apartment so that the smell of the smoke wouldn’t cling onto our clothes and such. On Sunday night it smelled like all of Israel was on fire again, and we got to be a part of it. The scouts prepared a bonfire and cooked poyke near the beach, but we were on a grassy area where fire was forbidden so we had to put it out. A bonfire nearby got so huge that a firetruck that was at the ready had to put it out. It was a great night hanging out and being a part of the greater Israel sitting around a fire. The next day we had off from volunteering so all of us went to the beach to enjoy the gorgeous and boiling hot day.

April 28, 2013

A month and a half later and I still remember how hot it was on this Sunday afternoon when some of us volunteered for Leket, an organization that grows its own crops and donates them to soup kitchens in Israel. We were assigned to picking huge radishes that were overdue. The soup kitchen I volunteer at gets crates of vegetables from Leket, and it was cool to be on the other side. It also allowed me to advise everyone that even if they think a radish looks disgusting, they should still put it in the bin. My boss at the soup kitchen succeeds in salvaging anything she can (it’s actually pretty gross).

April 26-27, 2013

My weekend kicked off with an optional trip provided by YC to Hof Dor, a beach where you can go snorkeling for snails. The significance? It was discovered that these are the very snails that were used to make the blue dye for the tzitzit, specially knotted fringes worn by observant Jews. I mainly went along for the snorkeling and a ride to the north. We went into a museum that displayed different artifacts from the coast and watched a movie about how the dye is made. I blame the fact that I was really tired, but I started crying a bit after seeing how exactly they kill these snails just to make a string blue. After killing the snail, you go through a whole chemical process that we did outside (we didn’t kill any snails). It felt like a cute little science experiment until it smelled terrible. Then we finally went to the shore to look for the snails in the water. Turns out you can’t take or kill them because it’s against the law, so the snails are imported from some nearby Greek islands. It was a weird morning, but a nice experience on a beautiful beach. From there, Sarah, Emma, and I went to the close city of Zichron-Yaakov to spend Shabbat with my uncle and his family. It was really nice being able to relax and watch television. We had a nice Shabbat dinner and then the next day my family took us around the area. We went to Ramat Hanadiv, where there are beautiful memorial gardens for Baron Edmond de Rothschild and then went to Zichron’s famous midrachov and took in the vibrant atmosphere. The three of us also took a walk around the neighborhood to appreciate the beautiful views of Haifa and the Mediterranean coast. 

April 21-23, 2013

On Sunday, the Activism Track heard Micha Feldman’s story of when he played a main role in Operation Solomon, Israel’s covert operation to airlift Ethiopian Jews to Israel. The story is magnifient and Feldman is very good at telling it.

With a bit more than a month left of YC, we were really starting to feel the pressure of making the most of every moment. With that excuse, I got Frances, Edden, and Sarah to join me in a trip to Jerusalem on Monday night to see my grandma and experience special Earth Day events in the city. First we had a delicious meal with Savta and played rummikub. Then we headed to the Old City to see what was apparently the first solar powered movie, screened on the Old City walls. It was a national geographic-like movie about the animals in Israel. I think we watched for approximately thirty seconds before we moved on to our next activity. Outside of the Old City we went to the outdoor exhibit, Cool Globes, which has been featured around the world. It is a line of 18 big globes, each subject to a different artist’s interpretation of earth and what we must do to save it. It was really cool to look all around each globe and appreciate the creativity. Afterwards we went to a cute cafe next to Ben Yehudah and then went to Beit Ar El to crash in fellow YCers’ apartments.

It worked out to sleep in Jerusalem because our Zionism field trip the next day would be in the same city, or so we thought. We already got permission from our counselors to meet them in Jerusalem, but of course they got the wrong information and the class’s bus wasn’t actually going through the city. After annoying calls, two public bus rides, and waiting at a random mall for half an hour, we met up with the class and only missed a bit of the lesson. That day we went to the Castel to learn about the War of Independence. I found out that it started earlier than I thought, after the Partition Plan, with guerrilla warfare over borders, neighborhoods, and important roads. Afterwards we went to a nearby memorial cemetery for fallen soldiers of that war and observed how people of different ages and backgrounds fought for the state of Israel. It always hurts to see that a Jew escaped persecution/antisemitism and was so close to the creation of a modern Israel, but never made it to see the state.

On Wednesday night, a few of us ‘classic’ Judaeans went to Rishon LeZion to visit the Habonim Dror house. If you remember, I mentioned that the Judaeans clicked with the members of Habonim Dror, another Zionist youth movement that identifies as socialist, at the Masa Leadership Summit. All of them live together in one house so we visited the house, got shown around, ate dinner, chatted, and played a lot of fun games. It’s always a great night spent with other passionate Zionists.

April 19-20, 2013

A few of us girls decided to go camping and hiking over this Shabbat. We originally planned to go north but it was raining all weekend so we went south to Sde Boker. We didn’t know exactly where we’d camp but our friends that stayed at the army base there said there was a campsite in walking distance. This camping trip taught us how difficult it really is without a car. We originally intended on cooking on a portable stove and making a campfire, but we simply didn’t have enough space to carry the stoves, pots, and wood (you can’t take the wood from the reserve, we found out the embarrassing way). We already looked like idiots scrambling through the desert with our tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, and containers of precooked pasta, peanut butter, pita, tuna, and an assortment of fruit. It was actually really funny. We set up camp, watched the sun set over the desert, ate dinner, and just hung out. We played shesh besh and did some private journaling as we started to feel the cold creep in. We knew that the temperature would reach a low of 45 degrees that night, but some people still weren’t fully prepared. I made sure to bring many layers and was very comfortably warm all night, but other experiences vary. At night as we were hanging out playing cards in a tent, some guys standing outside of our tent invited us over to their campfire for some poyke, pita, and tea that they were cooking. Only in Israel. After having plain pasta for dinner, how could we turn down the offer? I’ve never had poyke before but it was amazing, and other experienced poyke eaters vouched that this was the best poyke they’ve had. It was nice just chatting and eating and eating and eating. The next morning we woke up early to see the gorgeous sunrise over the mountains and then returned to sleep for a couple more hours. We had all day until Shabbat was over and we could catch a bus back north, so we waited around before hiking so that we wouldn’t have to carry our heavy bags with us for longer (we decided to do a shorter hike). In the end we hid our things in the bushes and went hiking without them, so I regret not doing a more intense hike earlier. Turns out it was less of a hike and more of a walk, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere. On our way back to the bus stop, we had to climb up a very steep hill, which was a bit of a challenge with everything we were carrying. We were extremely lucky, though, because about two minutes after we made it up it started intensely pouring rain and we were drenched in about 30 seconds. It made for a very uncomfortable bus ride back. Nevertheless, I loved going back to the desert and taking in the calm. I missed me some good ol’ Negev.
April 15-16, 2013

Slightly controversial, Israel transitions from saddest day to the happiest day in one night. As the sunset ended Yom HaZikaron, it began the celebration for Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. Everyone had a crazy time partying Israel’s 65th on the streets of Tel Aviv on Monday night. Kids were running around with cans that spray foam and people were hitting each other with blow up hammers, both traditions that I learned about that night. The next day, all of Israel was having barbeques. Every park or even patch of grass that I passed, I saw a group of people enjoying a barbeque. Our section had our own fun barbeque in Park Hayarkon in Tel Aviv. 

Side note, it rained that day and also poured two days later. Please explain why it was raining in Tel Aviv in mid April!

April 14-15, 2013

Sunday evening marked the beginning of Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s memorial day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror. All of Year Course joined many other gap year programs at Latrun for a ceremony that was put together by Masa, and once again I shook my head in disappointment in how much of Israeli taxpayer money was put into this event. That said, it was a very nice ceremony that was strategically planned to make everyone cry. On Yom HaZikaron there are two sirens, the first one on the eve. The ceremony started with us standing for the siren and I got chills. The rest of the night consisted of live performances of depressing songs, a few speeches, and memorial videos of Olim (immigrants) that were killed while in their army service or in a terrorist attack. The next day, my section volunteered at the second largest memorial cemetery in Israel, handing out water and cleaning up. Before we began we heard a father’s story about his son’s kidnapping and then murder and how it was concealed by UN troops. That morning we also took part in the memorial ceremony at the cemetery and stood for the siren. While walking around the cemetery, we got the opportunity to talk to those that were grieving and ask them questions.