[Tour of Israel Part 8] Along the Coast

Tuesday, June 13 (יום שלישי, 19 סיון)

When I woke up at 06:45, I headed to the dining room after donning today’s clothes. I had a potato boureka and an omelet, as well as cranberries. An unexpected face showed up: Gary Hochman! Yet another “Can’t take Nebraska out of Nebraskans” situation! He is on assignment for NETV, and needed to be here for some reason. I love bumping into familiar faces unexpectedly like this! Oh, and the scallion-spinach omelet turned out well. I should try their technique (beat an egg and add the ingredients to a rice bowl or similar bowl, and pour it all at once onto the griddle).

Loading up the bus, we checked out of נוף גינוסר. The road took us the same way that we came on Sunday, but though there was some traffic, there was no wreck or fire slowing us down. We got out the road toward Highway 6, via Highway 77. By the way, the Hebrew word for highway is כביש (kveesh). This road took us toward the town of זכרון יעקב (Zichron Ya’akov), which was a mountainous community.

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Somewhere between Ginosar and Zichron Ya’akov.

The name of the town is a memorial to יעקב רוטסצ’ילד (Jacob Rothschild) (after all, the town’s name literally means “Memorial of Jacob.” A water tower or just a silo-like tower honors Rothschild. We walked through to the NILI museum. There was no entrance where we were, so we descended stairs on the west side of the museum to reach the auditorium entrance. Of course, people used the restrooms that were outside first. The seats in the auditorium were really low to the ground!

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The tower honoring Rothschild.

NILI (or ניל”י) was an acronym for “נצח ישראל לא ישקר” (netzach yisrael lo y’shakeir / the eternity of Israel will not deceive). NILI started as a spy ring in 1914, and sought to drive the Ottoman empire out of “Israel” (since the state Israel wasn’t founded for another 34 years!). A movie explained the story of Aaron and Sarah Aharonson, Avshalom (didn’t catch the last name), and the fact that Aaron’s experience with agronomy allowed him to pull the double-duty. Under the auspices of science, Aaron was able to run NILI.

Naturally, the story, with war and spies, had a lot of death. One of these was Sarah, who committed suicide to avoid further torture by the Ottomans. She hid a gun in her house and used it to kill herself when the torturer allowed her to shower (there was strong opposition in the international community to torturing women) and change clothes.

The story was repeated through the relics in the museum, and since I was allowed to take photos here, I will tell the story through a few photos instead of words (wow, that’s unusual for me!)

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Some of the faces of NILI

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Information about Sarah Aharonson.

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Intelligence in science leads to intelligence in the security sense.

 

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Not heroes in the eyes of everyone…

Well, the next part of our tour had photos forbidden — the houses on the site of the museum. Everything inside the houses is original (well, maybe a few things are updated). In the east house, it was one long corridor, from kitchen to bedroom to dining room to study and back (front?) door to the living room. I noticed that there was no bathroom, but maybe it was in a blocked-off area or there was an outhouse. The house looked like a rustic place, but would have been comfortable to live in, methinks.

The west house opened into the study, and went into the living room, which had the slot on the door jamb that hid Sarah’s gun. A bedroom was beyond the living room, and there was also an entryway with kitchen, bathroom access, and cellar access. Sarah had shot herself in the bathroom, and the cellar was a stone grotto! This whole story was fascinating, but I know that my account is not doing it justice.

We exited the museum, and headed down the street and were on a shopping and lunch break at 11:30. Some restaurants weren’t yet open for lunch, and we had to return to the bus at 12:45. I went rogue, but ultimately got company. .אכלתי שניצל בפיתה במסעדת שווארמה גוטה והיזמנתי רק בעברית (I ate schnitzel in a pita at the restaurant “Shawarma Guta” and ordered solely in Hebrew.) The Hamicksburg offspring, Rosses, Cohen, and Watches also ate there.

 

Before we caught the bus, we saw an old tree that had its roots coming down rather than going up (see the photo below). It was interesting, but I should have wiped my wet hands on it — לא היו מגבות בשירותים (there were no towels in the bathroom)! There was also the Rothschild Synagogue at our rendezvous point, but no further stories were given since it wasn’t part of our tour.

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The roots start at the top and go downward!

On our way down the mountain and on to Highway 20, Gili talked about the song אלף משיקות (Elef Mishikot / 1000 Kisses), which I have heard on the radio several times before. Evidently it is related to NILI due to the song being sung by the widow(?). Yep, I am fuzzy on the details because I might have started to reach Tour Overload. Others were also mentally fatigued, and some may have been physically fatigued. When we saw smokestacks near חדרה (Hadera), Gili gave a “Long Answer” with the joke of them being Roman columns. Be on your toes for that information! Oh, and the power plant was actually in Caesarea.

Our stop in חדרה was a school for Ethiopian Jews (specifically, it was בית-ספר הרב תחומי). We entered ביניין-תמר (the Date Palm building), and the principal and several students were there. Grace, the principal, was at Brandeis when she heard of Operation Solomon, which were the sequence of airlifts of Ethiopian Jews to Israel on 24/5/1991. An earlier mission on foot was Operation Moses, but only 8 thousand of the 12 thousand refugees in that operation survived. The Ethiopian Jews went underground after 0 CE, but re-emerged later, so that they have a lot of history to contribute to the overall Jewish story. The ENP (Ethiopian National Project) tries to aid these Ethiopian Jews with assimilation into Israeli life.

The project that our group visited was an after-school program where teens get to do activities. We played a version of “Chutes and Ladders,” where each square had either a question to answer or “DARE!” If you landed on a “DARE!” square, the dare was a physical activity or a question drawn from a deck of “DARE!” cards. The rules, cards, and board were English-Hebrew bilingual. This was fun! My group got to meet עופר (Ofer) and עידן (Idan), the latter who had a better grasp of English. The game seemed secondary to the socialization and sharing stories!

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Ofer and Idan.

Our generation may be the last to hear first-hand stories of the שועה (Holocaust), as well as the Operation Moses: the walking to Sudan to catch the airlift. So we heard the story of טובה (Tova), in Hebrew and with Grace providing the translation. She lived well in Ethiopia until the age of 8, and loved school. One day, her grandfather kept her from school in order to prepare her to leave Ethiopia en route for Jerusalem. In 1984, the 3-4 week walk was survived by everyone in her group, but once their food ran out, the Sudanese food did not agree with their systems. In the refugee camp, she lost her mom and siblings to diseases.

I could tell that she was pained telling this part of the story. She mentioned that whenever something bad happens, something good is bound to happen soon. For example, her Dad remarried after meeting a fellow refugee on the airlift. She loves her current job with this program. Maybe a far cry from her background in graphic design, but college majors are not necessarily career paths!

The holiday of Sigd is celebrated in Israel, and it originated as a yearning for the return to Jerusalem. Moreover, the 4000 people who died during Operation Moses are commemorated on יום ירושלים (Jerusalem Day, observed 43 days after the first day of Passover). I should consider getting her book, סיפור חיים כעף שתול. Though it may be hard for me to read since it will be fully in Hebrew, I would welcome the challenge!

Back on the bus, we drove on the highway toward Tel Aviv. The road system has even numbers for north-south roads (and Highway 90 is the longest road in Israel), and odd numbers for east-west roads. We were on the Ayalon Highway: Highway 20. Gili explained how the Tel-Aviv/Yafo area is a megalopolis. My attention was split because I was trying to set up a lunch rendezvous with Taglit friend(s) for tomorrow. We quickly reached the Rabin Center.

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Entrance to the Rabin Center.

Before our tour began, I listened to Aunt Lori speak of over-saturation on the trip — she can’t take more information. I could somewhat see that in myself as well, but push on I must! We entered the museum’s main part by ascending stairs and going into a circular room where footage from the peace rally on 4 November 1995 and the news reports immediately following were given.

The museum had a downward helical slope (wonder if there’s symbolism here akin to Yad Vashem?), with off-shooting rooms. On the helix was a chronology of יצחק רבין (Yizhak Rabin), and on the offshoots were exhibits about the State of Israel, both before and after its formation. I will just share what I found interesting. Another name for תל אביב (Tel Aviv) is עיר לבנה (White City). The pride of Zionism was pioneerism, farming, and labor. Rabin was in the IDF as a commander and later as a chief. The עולים (immigrants) helped to build up Israel’s economy, as the country was impoverished at its formation. These עולים lived in transit camps to start. Israel’s war victories were amazing to consider when thinking about how badly outnumbered they were.

Rabin became an ambassador to the US in 1967. Though Israel won the מלחמת יום כפור, it may have been a Pyrrhic victory. However, Rabin later became prime minister of Israel. When Israel later ceded Sinai to Egypt in exchange for peace, the Jewish settlements there were dismantled too. His vision for peace caused factions in Israel including some that compared him to Hitler. Rabin’s study room was preserved for this museum, and the television program that he watched prior to the peace rally was an Israeli football match.

Before we left, we went to the porch for a group picture with Tel Aviv in the background. We then drove seaside on the bus toward the Dan Panorama, in a lot of traffic. Part of the drive went under a hotel, which is now the Leonardo Art. Six years ago, it was מלון מרינה (Marina Hotel), where my Birthright group stayed for one night.

In fact, during this stretch, Gili was in the back of the bus, and I commandeered the microphone to get some laughs: pointing out that hotel, as well as the bike-share bikes that were visible, and also the flashing חינם (FREE) on a sign for a parking area. Maybe I have some sort of tour guide impetus in my brain! After a while, we arrived, but before going upstairs, said farewell to Liz and the Slevins, who were leaving tonight. I had received no responses from Israeli friends, so I went to dinner with the Corens as well as Esti!

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Yep, this hotel underpass passed underneath the room I stayed at six years ago! Noah being the proxy tour guide!

Walking down the crowded Kauffman Street, we looked for beachfront restaurants. Our first option was Manta Ray, but it was non-kosher, expensive, and crowded. Moving on, we left the beach and found the תחנה (Tachanah) district, which was a decommissioned train station like what we found in Jerusalem. The kosher restaurant רג’ינה (Regina) was full-up, but our next stop, איטלקית בתחנה (Italian At The Station), was available (albeit non-kosher-certified). We ate there anyway, everyone ordering something vegetarian.

I got a margherita pizza, as did Jemma and Nancy. Ken got… oh, I forgot, and Esti shared pizza with the Corens. We talked a lot about language, as I read the Hebrew menu for kicks. The talk about עלייה was mentioned, and how Israel supports its עולים in getting started on their new life in the country. The אולפן (ulpan/Hebrew school) model must work out well! Some movies were discussed at dinner, and it was outside of my area of expertise and interest. Oh, and we ate outside and saw them retract the awnings. That was pretty cool!

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The dinner bunch. Counterclockwise from left-bottom: Jemma, Charlie, Ken, Noah, Nancy, Esti. Photo credit: Ken Greenfield. 

We all returned to the hotel together, before splitting up. I went to the pool deck: the door was open, but the pool had closed at 18:00. So I ascended to Room 529 and looked out the window at the sea and the pool at the next hotel over. For the evening, I listened to Israeli radio on the RLive app, and journaled. When Seth returned from his dinner with a friend that he hadn’t seen in 25 years, it was about 23:00. That’s a good time to fall asleep!

>> TO BE CONTINUED…

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(Dirty?) Thirty: 5 days

Nebraska Regional: 39 days

Semester Kickoff: 70 days

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Yad Vashem and the Negev (Israel: Part 7)

ABSTRACT: The most trying day of the trip so far included an itinerary change, mentally-taxing trip to Yad Vashem, and a disliked seat on the bus.  But, there were plenty of good things about the day too.

The photo references are from Albums Shalosh and Arbah, available HERE and HERE, respectively.

Tuesday, July 26 / Shlishi, 24 Tammuz

The day was on at 624h.  Donning my black flowers Hawai’i shirt and navy shorts, I woke up Heedye and Jared.  The packing was quick and easy today, and I headed downstairs to the elevator. There is interesting numbering here [503-504] which I really like 🙂 .  Breakfast was a cereal that looked like Honey Bunches of Oats, and it was reasonable.  Conversations were not much, or at least I was unable to remember any of them.  In retrospect, I wish I would have taken either notes about conversations at meals or photos of who was at my table.

It was my turn to help load the bus, and I gladly helped others.  Good, and exercise for me!  As we drove toward Tel Aviv for that Birthright fair, the bus had a talent show, and I took some road and show pictures [505-518].  Meredith opened with a freaky act of “the little boy stuck in the closet,” and then I sang Pitkhu Li, afterwards making the claim “even though this is two days too early.”  Of course, because of my inexplicable skip of days in my physical journal, it’s really six days until Rosh Chodesh. In separate acts, Eric then walked the aisle with the “wave” in his eyebrows, and Becky stuck her tongue to her nose.

Gleb did a Jersey Shore-style act, of which I didn’t understand at all.  Then, Heedye did a dolphin impression after a significant amount of bridging (another way to say stalling in improv).  Lina and Mike sang “My Valentine” (?), and “Sexual Healing,” respectively.  Scott did 30 seconds of (c)rap (as Dan put it), and then Amanda said something in sign language that included an expletive.  Rachel barked like a dog, and Eric stuffed the ballot box with a Dr. Strangelove imitation.  Not as part of the competition, Dan did “Hot Cross Buns” recorder-style, using no recorder!

I’ll pass through the Tel Aviv thing in four short sentences: We came.  We saw [519-527].  We escaped.  Moving on.

The bus ride back to Jerusalem had the Israeli ladies talking about volunteer opportunities.  We couldn’t do the original volunteer opportunity that was on the original itinerary, but a pen-pal system or English book donation seemed the popular answer.  After they finished with that, I got a small amount of journaling done, and also made a PSA over the mic: “stay hydrated.”  As we approached Jerusalem, Nitzan explained that we will be going to a market place (shuk).

The first standout for me was the 6/24 market [530].  On the approach, in the lead pack (that teacher’s pet characteristic of me 🙂 ), I snapped pictures of the market and the opposite side of the street [531-534].  Under an arch, the area reeked of urine near the Dental LAB [535].  This is our return spot at noon (the current time is 1045h).

I went with a part of our group through the market.  Whether fruit, restaurants, trinkets, or even mini-gogues (failed to snap a picture of the lattermost), there was a lot in the market [536-544].  That “Nah Nakh Nakhma” thing popped up again [542] which reminds me of a song that ShireiNU did in the spring concert.  Eventually, our squad ended up at Rakhmo [544-545].  The conversation partners at the table were Rachel, Sarah, and Meredith.  Memories of vacations were brought up, from multiple sides.  They are more worldly and country-ly than I, thus far.  Of course, I aspire to do more travelling heading on.

With them, we returned toward the LAB.  A bit away, Aaron offered me chalva, which tasted great!  I also got a picture of a motorcycle license plate [546], just because I wanted one that shows the “IL” with the Israeli flag on it.  After “misparay barzel l’hitpakeid” in the alley, we got back to the bus quickly, and boarded to clear from the public bus stop.  En route to Yad Vashem, the road offered signs, stone buildings, and more for me to marvel at [547-551].  The [552] was especially salient given my song this morning.

Atop Mount Herzl, the gates [554-555] of Yad Vashem awaited.  With the triangular prism building, valleys, and trees, this place is a site to behold! [556-566].  Out of respect (or so that’s what I interpret), the walk toward the auditorium was mostly silent, at least with the people around me.  Ascending stairs and seeing greenery and Jerusalem on the right, it was a serene (but toasty) walk, as opposed to the next few hours.

Eliezer [568] spoke about his survival of the Holocaust.  Because the whole experience at Yad Vashem overwhelmed my mind, because my notes don’t do justice to his story, and because I was way behind on the paragraphs in the journal when I got to this point in the paragraphs, I merely summarize what I had written for notes.

  • Eliezer survived five forced labour camps, and met with Elie Wiesel 30 years ago to tell the story
  • Prior to the Holocaust, he lived in prosperity in Poland
  • When he was 11, the Nazis came in to Poland and it was clear to him that the Germans hated the Jewish people there
  • Jewish people there suffered humiliation and decrees, and the places became the Ghettoes 8 months later… intended as temporary housing before transport to death camps
  • In the Ghettoes, people died from starvation and “clean violence”
  • He worked outside the Ghetto, with a work pass that allowed access in and out
  • On August 14, 1942, he was separated from his family on a deportation day. His mom said, “You will survive because it is meant to be.”
  • The work-type protection ended in 1943, and he was deported again to a concentration (i.e. forced labour) camp. Depression set in, but he became a shoe-maker
  • Deaths in these camps were due to hunger, freezing, or disease.  At times, the doctors made choices as to whether to move people to another labour camp or a death camp
  • In August 1944, he was shipped to Austria in a box-car, and his number was 84991.  People who forgot their numbers were killed when asked for it
  • He dug tunnels in 8-hour shifts each day
  • In February 1945, he was deported to yet another concentration camp, and at wakeup call, people were forced to bring corpses that were next to them
  • In April 1945, he had a “death march” to another camp
  • On May 6, 1945, the roll call was a trick: “The war is ending. Go to the tunnels.”  These tunnels had dynamite, and the prisoners didn’t go.  The guards escaped and the Americans came in shortly thereafter
  • At age 17, Eliezer weighed only 39 kg
  • He moved to Italy, where he served in a Jewish brigade, before settling in Israel in November of 1945…
  • …and he and his girlfriend joined the IDF for the Independence War, getting married in uniform later.
  • Today was his 80th birthday.
  • His key point: “Make sure that the Holocaust never happens again. We must all speak out against senseless hatred.”

After this enlightening-but-frightening story, we went to the “school” building [569].  Descending two flights of stairs, I desperately used the restroom (gee… it seems that overactive bladder is my travel malady this time.  At least it’s a minor annoyance at worst!)  Looking at a hallway, some posters echoed Eliezer’s message: to never let the Holocaust happen again, and to speak out against senseless hatred [570-571].

Going outside, we walked around with static in headphones that we had picked up in the school building: they’re personal GuidePorts that track the guide’s voice, similar to that museum in Topeka that I visited in tenth grade on a field trip.  At the main entrance to the memorial, there were two paths.  The right led to the garden of the “righteous people of the nations” [573], and the left, across a bridge, was the “path of the Nazis” [581].  The details are mostly ignored, for a few reasons.  First, no photography was allowed inside the museum.  Secondly, this was very taxing on my mind.  Thirdly, for the same reason as before, when I got to this point in the writing of the journal, it was Thursday afternoon, and my mind was not clear then either.  (Ha–I get to throw in a cliffhanger for those of you hearing my story for the first time!)

  • Inside the triangle, the walls were all grey.  There was a montage of actual Jewish footage prior to the Holocaust
  • Life was diverse back then, kids went happily to school, and the montage included audio
  • In this part, the guide indicated that the floors here are all made of concrete.  Symbolism!
  • Klooga was a death camp in Estonia.  Soviets found bodies burning there and the guide told us the story of [illegible]
  • Hitler’s agenda was written in “Mein Kampf”
  • Anti-Semitism has been around since as early as 500 CE, back then when it was anti-religion. However, Hitler was against the “race,” not just the “religion”
  • Regular Germans gave in to anti-Semitic propaganda (such as games, books, and posters)
  • Laws discriminating against Jews started as early as 1935 in Germany
  • In a living room, a poster shows a two-fold message, with a Menorah in the foreground and a swastika in the background. The message: “Judaism will die,” says the banner. “Judaism will live,” responds the Menorah
  • After Kristallnacht, although Jews could still escape Germany, there was nowhere for them to go
  • The people who were anti-Hitler were killed first, and then religious Jews were systematically eliminated
  • Ghettoes, yellow stars, and plundering of Jewish places were the first things
  • There were no ghettoes in the west, and Lodz was the longest-lasting one.  The leader several times was forced to give strategic speeches
  • In the museum, the floor turns to bricks several times to return to the story of the Warsaw ghetto.  Each day, people only ate at most 184 Calories
  • In Warsaw, underground theatres and schools continued… they had the will to survive
  • The lowest point (elevation-wise) in this triangle memorial is for June 22, 1941.  This was the invasion of the Soviets, and there were killing pits with mobile killing units.  Many people were buried alive
  • The Final Solution was a plan to more efficiently kill the prisoners, as the repeated shootings were starting to take mental tolls on the Nazis
  • In 1942, the leader of the Warsaw ghetto committed suicide, which was bad news for the prisoners
  • We saw a diorama of Treblinka, and that was the straw that broke my back… I’m going vagal…

In the vagal reaction, I got dizzy, my sight temporarily blacked out, and I was sweating cold.  Although it was incredibly unpleasant, I knew I would be OK after leaving the situation–I’ve had these “garden-variety” reactions before.  A few members of the group helped me to sit down on a bench, and after re-hydrating, Dan led me out, as I kept my head down to avoid looking at the rest of the museum, to a “cool-down” room where quotes and names appeared on an electronic wall, to calming elevator music.  He said that most people feel nauseated by the end, and that it’s hard for most people to take.  Even though he’s been here several times, it’s still taxing on him, mentally.

Leaving the triangular prism with everyone else (about 30 minutes later), many of the group members showed the “are-you-okay” concern.  True friends are these, as empathy is a virtue!  Outside, the symbolism was the overlook of Jerusalem [574-577], the ascending floor, and the extended walls (but I failed to capture the latter two of these).  I went with Dan toward the entrance as the rest of the group saw the children’s memorial.  All of us walked past a pillar [578] en route, but I was the only one to see Schindler’s (of Schindler’s List) tree [579-580].  While waiting, Dan and I were in the gift shop, and the prices were exorbitant.  There was a Kabbalah book that I chose to have Dan pose with in [582]… aaaaawwwwesome!

There was no group post-mortem from Yad Vashem once we got on the bus—thank goodness!  Instead, the finals of the talent show came—a much more fun activity!  I did not make it to the finals, but we got Lina, Meredith, Eric, and Scott.  Before these finals, Shiran was interviewed.  Unfortunately, I could not hear a thing, as I was in the worst seat in the house (the aisle seat right in front of the rear door).  Next time, I will reserve a seat on the bus early!  Ergo, the pictures turned out pathetic [583-593].

The talent show finals NOW commenced.  Scott led it off with forty-five seconds of rap, which was not my cup of tea.  Granted, he still did well, and I won’t let personal opinions about the genre detract from the performance.  Eric repeated the eye-wave with “We Will Rock You” playing in the background, improving the presentation.  Lina sang “And So It Goes,” before Meredith did the ABCs with the boy-stuck-in-the-closet [594-596].  A bonus thing that wasn’t part of the show (and was DQ’d anyway) was Gleb’s improvised rap about our experience so far.  The “tune” sounded like something I have heard before, but I’m not sure.

A few more fail pictures followed [598-599], and then Eric was voted runner-up, to take Lina’s place if she has to go to the hospital again (ha).  Eric got a flower circlet [600], and Lina won a Winnie-The-Pooh fan/pen [miss].  We found a gas station, I went to the restroom, and saw a convoy of tanks fuelling.  Neat! [602-603]

The desert led us past some Bedouin cities, some greenery (!), and some barrenness [604-610].  The education here: Kibbutz G’vulot was founded before 1948, as Ben Gurion said that the Jews should settle in the Negev.  The greenery here is watered by dripping irrigation, a la my back yard in Lincoln, which I mentioned.  The rest I couldn’t hear.  For the rest of the ride, I journaled a bit, and helped out on a group crossword collaboration.  We landed at G’vulot around 1900h.

As I wrote this, my camera had burnt out so that I couldn’t get the photo references while the battery was charging.  Ergo, I’ll simply describe without the photo references.  The photos for the rest of the day were from [611-631]. We walked a seemingly long path, turning at a fence that had a mini-basketball hoop.  I was assigned to Room 41 with Eric and Mickey.  Taking dibs at the bed on the window, I then used the necessary room before going to dinner.

Refreshed, I proceeded down the sidewalk to the dining hall with others.  Dinner had steak as well as the usual suspects.  I am having difficulty recalling who sat at my table, but the conversations seemed quite blasé anyway.  As I saw the sun set, I asked anyone to snap my picture in the background, which turned out really well when Aaron obliged!

I ran back to the room to snag my light and Israel map.  The assembly room was still locked, but people were flowing in from the dining hall.  Nitzan had the key, and when we walked in, the room was a FURNACE!  For the group activity, we started with the maps, and a synopsis of our travels so far.  I couldn’t see it well from the opposite side of the room, but I’ll fill it out later.  Dan modeled the map in an interesting display of balance!

The activity was Agree/Disagree.  Five statements (not questions) were read, and we moved to corners of the room that corresponded to our opinion.  The northwest corner was strongly agree; southwest strongly disagree; northeast (regularly) agree, and southeast (regularly) disagree.  No “neutral” was allowed, but people were allowed to shift sides during the discussion.  The first was: “The “disagree” side, myself included, but the discussion seemed to degenerate into what makes “ultimate Jewry” instead.  As some arguments were given, people began to gravitate toward the “agree” side.  The wording can sometimes change a response entirely!

The second statement: “You have to be religious to really be Jewish.”  Since our group is mostly secular, I was one of only a few “agrees.”  The key point seemed to be (pardon my turning into the Wicked Child here), “what means religious to you?”  Although I go to services semi-regularly, that is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for religiosity.  The third question: “One of the roles of the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) is to protect not only Israelis, but also Jews worldwide.”  This received almost mutual affirmation, under the general idea: protection need not be only physical!  The fourth question: “Diaspora Jews should have a say in major issues in Israeli politics.”  Most people disagreed, using the USA as an analogy.

The most heated question was saved for last: “Jews should marry only Jews.”  Topics like compromise, tradition, and marriage into a family (rather than to an individual) were the major arguments brought up.  Several of the Americans in our group come from inter-marriages.  Obviously the most difficult and contentious statement among the Americans, civility somehow remained in the conversation, relatively speaking!  Toward the end, I also added a little bit of humour by literally jumping the space-object fence between “disagree” and “agree”!

After that, we all returned to the rooms.  I chatted lively with Mickey, and instead of journaling, I reviewed with him the chronology of my chronicles.  Extra interests came up too, and we have both done “solitaire” style tournaments, him in Monopoly and me in Pokémon TCG.  Sports and “the usual small talk” also came up.  After he went to the pub, I inefficiently journaled until 0030h.  On one hand, I wanted to go to the pub in order to be in the presence of the group and improve my bonding, but on the other hand, I was too tired to be able to enjoy it, so I’ll just sleep.  Laila tov!

>> TO BE CONTINUED…