Well, everyone, this is it; this is my last post.
That above picture is our group shirt, lovingly designed by Raelle and adored by the rest of us.
So. May 29th. The day we all got on Delta flight 153 (yes, I knew the number off the top of my head, so sue me) non-stop service to Atlanta, Georgia. It wasn’t all just a plane flight, though – they kept us quite busy our last day in the holy land.
We woke up in the morning and scrambled to get our rooms spotless. Menashe Maintainence Head then came by with a white glove and checked every nook and cranny of the room (read: walked in and said “alright” and walked out). Afterward we got out bags and, with a little trouble, dragged them all to the bus and filled the entire underneath with luggage. Needless to say the bus was a little more sluggish than usual, and by no fault of Watid the driver. Our first stop was to be tree planting. Isreal, as many of you know, is in need of trees. In order to do our part of tzedakah, many of us paid to plant a tree in Irael. The plot in which we planted our trees was all HSI people, and I’m happy to say it looked pretty full :)
We got a last minute stop at Ben Yehuda Street to eat lunch and buy some last gifts before heading to the Hertzl museum. We learned there about Hertzl and how he began the process which would eventually lead to the creation of the State of Israel. It was an interesting museum with lots of video and short enough that it kept our interest.
Directly after the museum we walked around Israel’s national and military cemetaries, both also located on Mt. Hertzl. We stopped in front of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s grave and learned about the differing views of Israelis in establishing and fighting for a Jewish state. We then walked to Hertzl’s grave, gave him a quick thank you or hello, and continued to the graves of Rabin, Golda Meir, and Levi Eshkol. After some quick time to ourselved we went to the military museum. The first grave we stopped in front of was that of Yoni Netanyahu. Yoni, the brother of Benjamine, former Prime Minister, was a great war hero and very talented writer. Yoni wrote letters about Israel, about how he believed people should behave and act, and eventually gave his life saving others in the name of Israel. We sat among the graves and Yossi read us some excerpts of his writing. It was very moving, and directly after we made our way to the grave of Michael Levin. Michael Levin was an American who attended HSI a few years ago and soon after made Aliyah to join the IDF and a close friend of Yossi’s. Last year during the war with Lebanon he fell in battle. He was 22 years old. We visited his grave and had a very emotional conversation before slowly leaving the cemetary.
We met Mrs. Zebrak on the way out and all got on the bus. It was now dinner time and we headed straight to the resturaunt at which we would have our final meal in Israel. The dinner was okay, and we had lots of appetizers and some kebabs. Warm pitas are so good.
Anyway, after dinner it was time to go to the airport. The ride there was full of singing and dancing. We played a cd of a lot of the songs that were related to our trip, whether planned or just something that came up a lot of times. Our madrichim gave us gifts and candy; I miss them so much. The bus ride was so much fun.
Our next stop was our last in Israel. We got of the bus, lugged our stuff out from underneath, and all gave Yossi a huge hug as he would not be accompanying us into the airport. Yossi, you’re amazing! We walked into the airport, went through the first round of security, and said a very teary goodbye to our madrichim. They were so sweet and brought out a tray of nut brownies and sparklers for my birthday (despite it being the day before), which was a big and really meaningful surprise for me. With a lot of looking back we walked through security. It was a little while before our flight, so we all went and bought candy in the duty free shops. Finally, it was time to board.
The flight this time around was full again of trivia for me. We watch movies (Pan’s Labyrinth is pretty good) and I even functioned as a pillow for both Noah and David. At one point I woke up after being slumped over the tray table to find two heads on my back. They were cute.
We landed. There was a monstrous cheer from our section of the plane. No one could wait any longer to get off and see our families. The way our of the airport went pretty quick, and when we boarded the escalator I can safely say that every single person was excited. When we got to the top a cheer erupted from our families. We all ran to get hugs and more hugs and some kisses. I can’t even describe how much I missed my family and friends.
The rest of my day was filled with present giving, shopping, and being with my parents and Rachael Mendel. I refused to go to bed until bedtime, and by 9:00pm I was already falling asleep in the car. So, I went to bed at 9:30 in my own bed, possibly one of the most exciting experiences in a long time.
Now I am here, at my own computer with a large monitor, writing my final post to all of you. My final post – quite the birthday present.
Israel was an amazing experience. I’ve changed from it, and I can say that without any doubt. I wouldn’t say I changed spiritually from the experience – I’m still the same Jewish I was beforehand – but the change was definitely internal. I’m more independent than I was, and my outlook on things is just different. I guess being away from home causes a quick kickstart in the maturing process, because, as immature as I still am, I think I’m now ready for college. Right now I’m in a bit of a haze; it feels weird to be home, and nothing is quite registering. Right now I’m just kind of going with the flow, sitting in the passenger’s seat of the car, letting people take me where they feel like going, eating whatever food they’re in the mood for. I missed home, and I love home so much; in fact, I think I spoke to my parents more than anyone else on the program, but there’s still something that I miss about Israel. I don’t know if it’s that it’s all Jews there, or maybe just that Israeli informality, but walking down the streets of Hod HaSharon and walking down the streets of Atlanta are COMPLETELY different experiences. I can’t even describe it, which means that for those of you who haven’t been to Israel, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to go for yourself to figure it out. Anyway, I know I’m probably rambling, and I’m currently having trouble finding any more words to say, so I think I’ll end this.
Living in Israel for three months with all of my friends is an experience I am so thankful for and one I will never forget. It was truly lifechanging.
This is my last update to this particular blog. While I may continue to blog in the future, it will not be here or on this subject. Thank you all for sticking with me and taking the time to read this. I appreciate it so much, because when I came to Israel I expected that this would be more of a personal journal with a few readers; it turned out to be a bit more than that. So again, thank you all, whoever and however many you are. Next year in Jerusalem.