[Taglit 5-Year Retrospective-part 2 of 11] Achim Simcha

Five years ago today, I (along with all but one of the Americans on Shorashim Bus 247) arrived in Israel at about 14:30 local time.

The original journal entry can be found by clicking here, and today, I’d like to further reflect on the אחים שמחה (Achim Simcha) that we did upon meeting our Israelis.

Oh, and I have to apologize. I inadvertently lied yesterday, as I DID publish the Chicago-to-Tel-Aviv journal as my second blog post. But, I did edit a few things and mention a few new comments. I won’t make that mistake again!


The convening point at baggage claim, as I mentioned in my journal from five years ago, was called Smile Tourist Services. Despite possibly being a little jet-lagged, I shook off the fatigue, because I was all smiles in this picture! Once all of us Americans picked up our luggage, Dan prepared us, saying something to the effect of, “We’re about to complete our party. Are you all ready to meet our Israelis?”israel 012

However, I did not take pictures of what came next, but I really should have. I don’t think anyone on the bus trip did (or if they did, the photos never circulated to me). Oh well! Heading out from baggage claim, the Israelis were singing a traditional tune that I certainly recognized (printed below in Hebrew, then “Hebrish”, then English):

הנה מה טוב ומה נעים, שבת אחים גם יחד!

(Hinei mah tov u’mah nayim, shevet achim gam yachad!)

Behold–how good and pleasant, to sit in unity as brethren!

However, they probably should have replaced the word שבת (sit) with רקוד (dance)! After some hugs, handshakes, beach-ball tossing, and general happiness, we closed up into a circle, locking shoulders together. ניצן (Nitzan) then instructed us what to do, as we all began yelling:

אאאאאאאאאאאאאאאאאאחים! אחים אחים אחים אחים! שמחה! שמחה שמחה שמחה! …

(Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaachim! Achim! Achim achim achim! Simcha! Simcha simcha simcha! [repeats])

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrethren! Brethren! (x4) We are happy! (x4) [repeats]

Evidently none of us went to MIT, as while we were yelling this, we were also still locked together, jumping in the circle in a clockwise direction. In some sense, this reminds me of the LSE cheerleaders when they huddled up prior to the game, but simply yelled “Hey!” when the huddle broke up.

Honestly, this simple gesture was a HUGE change for me. It involved physical contact with other people, which I had not been particularly comfortable with before. But, I think there are a few things which made this different:

  1. In a new place, I had a different, more adventurous mindset.
  2. The explanation of אחים (brethren) really made it clear to me that I could have an extended family and network of close friends through this trip.
  3. My experiences earlier in the year with the Jewish community really seemed to open me up to socialization and even physical contact!

The Jewish population seems to have a smaller degree of separation than the community at large. Despite the fact that I was always a loser at the Jewish Geography game prior to the trip, I still felt very much at home with this group.

We all wore name tags on this first day, but did not have them for the remainder of the trip, so maybe I didn’t internalize as many names and faces as I would have otherwise liked. But, it was still great to meet everyone on this day, and enjoy the view of the Galilee and sunset as we said traditional blessings. It was much different, and more meaningful, to say these ברכות (blessings) over the wine (בורא פרי הגפן) and the newness (שהחיינו) IN ISRAEL! And then some photos, obviously, were taken. We didn’t get everyone into the photo because the lookout didn’t have enough area. But here’s one of them that I was in.

Galilee minigroup - Jared Garfield

In short, though I had just met all of these Israelis and even most of the Americans on the trip for the first time, I felt like there was an immediate connection, and not just because of the Judaism. I can’t quite put my finger on what the other connection is, however…

And indeed, this was the beginning of a very social trip for me, as well as an opening of myself to other social contexts, both Jewish and not, once I got back to the States. Looking back at it five years later, though maybe I didn’t include as many details as I would like now, I notice how even from the beginning, Taglit unlocked “something” in me.

So, it was a great first half-day in Israel, and thinking back on  אחים שמחה makes me realize, in some sense, what I had been missing prior to Birthright.

I could have written about עשרים ואחת ביולי, but since I did that in a previous post, I figured that I would reflect on something else.

I’m not sure where I will focus the mirror tomorrow, but I’m excited to write it!


Check out the remaining entries in this sequence!

[Taglit 5-Year Retrospective] The Travel To Israel

[Taglit 5-Year Retrospective-part 2 of 11] Achim Simcha (You are here!)

[Taglit 5-Year Retrospective-part 3 of 11] Take a hike!

[Taglit 5-Year Retrospective-part 4 of 11] A Shabbat in Israel

[Taglit 5-Year Retrospective-part 5 of 11] Awwwwwesome

[Taglit 5-Year Retrospective-part 6 of 11] Primary Sources

[Taglit 5-Year Retrospective-part 7 of 11] Sinat Chinam (and Ahavat Chinam)

[Taglit 5-Year Retrospective part 8 of 11] Coming soon!

[Taglit 5-Year Retrospective part 9 of 11] Coming soon!

[Taglit 5-Year Retrospective part 10 of 11] Coming soon!

[Taglit 5-Year Retrospective part 11 of 11] Coming soon!


Kenosha: 11 days.

Orientation: 25 days.

Day 1: 50 days.

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