Tuesday, June 16, 2009

reflections, part 2

On June 16, 2008 I had one of the most adventurous days of my entire life. I was in Israel, having already experienced more than I had ever imagined in just three days of Birthright. We began the day visiting a Kibbutz on the Israel/Lebanon border, where we listened to a passionate speaker talk politics. The Hezbollah community on the other side of the fence had houses without windows. We were told they were built this way so they could be easily shot out of. There was no activity in the community - very few cars drove through; no people were seen.

We then went on a water hike - I've never hiked in my life, nevermind through a river, over rocks and around trees. It was a challenge - one of the first of the trip, but certainly not the last. The rest of the day was spent jeeping through the dusty desert and kayaking, which was not so much kayaking as it was floating and swimming down a river. I definitely spent more time in the water than in the raft, but we had a total blast - the boys jumped from raft to raft pushing the girls out, we collided with a group of young Israeli girls who tried to push us as far away as possible, Matt & Adam smoked cigarettes with older Israeli men in an adjacent raft, they swung from a tree landing with a splash in the shallow water. This "kayaking" was by far one of the most fun activities of the entire trip, where we all really bonded with one another - a truly important part of this trip for most of us.

It took us hours to get down the river, and once we made it to the end we were soaked, exhausted and happy. We did our best to get cleaned up, dressed and ready to go out in a very cramped camp-style bathroom/changing area. We had dinner in Tiberias, where we rejoiced to see french fries and pizza, along with the typical cucumber/tomato salad and hummus. After we devoured everything in sight, we went to a nearby outdoor bar right on the water in Tiberias, where we drank wine and danced the night away.

We headed back to our resort-like hotel in Hispin, where we all got into pajamas and sat outside, sharing stories, further cementing our strong group bond. It was nice to be able to laugh together, as well as be serious, having some very deep conversations about Judaism; about life. Matt and I went up to the roof of one of the hotel buildings, where the word "peaceful" could not even begin to describe the atmosphere. Everything was so still, so simple, so perfect. I remember feeling incredible in a truly indescribable way. And I felt an odd comfort in knowing these feelings were shared by and with someone who I felt I had known my entire life, yet was a stranger just days earlier.

In my journal that night I wrote, "I feel happy and proud and fulfilled." It was only the fourth day of my trip, yet I had already learned so much about myself, about my new friends, about community, about connection. And there was so much more to come.

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