Whenever I return home from a trip there is always a barrage of questions awaiting me from everyone I know. I love to return to family and friends that are inquisitive and curious about my experiences, but I always feel a sense of disappointment in my ability to answer their questions. How can I put into words so quickly the things that I saw? How can I explain the ways in which I have been changed by the things that I saw? How can I convey the beauty and complexity that fills the world that we live in and how grateful I am for even a short glimpse into these complexities? This is what I am faced with upon my return from any trip, but I feel these things especially now after my return from Israel.
I was extremely blessed to be given the opportunity to go to Israel for almost completely free with a group of my peers from University of California Berkeley through Hillel and Taglit Birthright. I got to fly out of New York to Israel and tour around the country for ten days with about 50 of my peers including eight Israeli soldiers who joined us halfway through our incredible journey.
So, now I am faced with the problem that I always dread upon my return home, telling my story of what happened during those ten amazing days. It is difficult expressing all that happened on my trip because it was truly incredible in so many ways. I made so many friends and saw such amazing things that I do not think any words that I use can do justice to everything I experienced. But I will do my best, I will do all that the limit of words can do for me.
To begin? Let’s start where I did with an alarm going off at 3:30 am of the day my journey began. The day was long with travel, 3:3o wake up, flight left at 7:30am, 6 hour flight to JFK, 8 hour lay over, and then finally a 12 hour flight that landed us in Ben Gurion Airport, Israel. From there a two hour bus ride to the hotel/kibbutz that would be our home for the first leg of the journey.
We arrived, after over 24 hours of traveling, at the shores of the Sea of Galilee at our hotel, Nof Ginosar. It was strange because I had been in darkness, without sunlight, for over a day and arriving at our hotel we were told of the surroundings. Told of hills that shone with the glittering lights of homes scattered along hillsides in nearby Tiberias. Told of the softly lapping waves on the shores just outside from the great Sea of Galilee. Told of many things, but we arrived in darkness. There was nothing to see, we could only faintly hear in the distance the rustle of palm trees and ever so slightly the sound of waves. But we were greeted by darkness and the glow of our hotel’s lights. We were rushed into dinner and saw our hotel for the first time. I was very pleasantly surprised by our hotel, I had had very low expectations for our accommodations because we were receiving them for free, but it was extremely pleasant. We all stumbled in, not really knowing one another, tired, exhausted from travel, and just a little disheveled from our long day, and were greeted by a huge buffet of Israeli food. Everything was so bright, colorful salads, curries, and lots and lots of bread. Famished and tired we ate and began to familiarize ourselves with this new place and one another.
We all headed to our shared rooms in the dark dragging our luggage behind us, ready for sleep. Ready to greet the new day tomorrow. Our very first day in Israel.