Monday, January 17, 2011

JSU South Florida Goes Israel To See Young Judaea’s Year Course – Day 2

Kotel at sunrise this morning
After clearing customs at Ben Gurion Airport I grabbed my carryon luggage and headed for the airport exit. Just at that moment two photographers ran over and started snapping pictures, I thought maybe the new radio show had reached Israel, but of course they weren’t taking pictures of me, there must have been some celebrity standing next to me. I looked over and I didn’t recognize him at all, it must have been some European guy. Anyway I found the driver and met up with the group at a restaurant in Baka. After meeting and getting to know each of the other participants, we headed to the famous Kings Hotel and went to check into the room. I was already confused about the time and I am not even sure if I slept last night, all I know is that I called in a wakeup call for 6:30am and woke up at 4:30am to cancel it. I just couldn’t fall back asleep so I watched the Late show with Jay Leno and decided to go to the Kotel for a Netz Minyan. On the way to the Kotel, I passed the Waldorf Astoria construction site and walked through the outdoor Mamila Mall. The place was empty, because why would anyone be there at 5:30 ib the morning. When I arrived at the Kotel I found a nice mix of people to Daven with outside and at the moment that the sun rose, everyone that was gathered in the dozens of Minyanim were silent. It’s a truly remarkable experience, the only time of the day where everyone that is gathered at the Kotel is literally on the same page!

After breakfast, we departed for Ein Gedi and Masada to meet with students on Year Course that are volunteering at each of these places. As we were driving past the Dead Sea, we received word that there was a change of plans and the students that were supposed to meet us at Ein Gedi wouldn’t be able to, so we headed right to Masada instead. I have been to Masada almost a dozen times but this time was going to be different, because for the first time I had questions about the historical event. Over the past year I have begun to study Jewish History and I was trying to understand the context of the events that occurred, both for the Jews who lived there and also Herod and the Roman Empire. We have a great tour guide and we had a great discussion on the mountain top and everything seemed to fall right into place. We also received VIP treatment while at Masada. First, we had a private meeting with Eitan Campbell, the Director of Masada, the man who is literally the king of the mountain. Besides being a very nice guy and also a good friend of the Struhls from our community in Boca Raton. He took us up to Masada to meet three of the students that are currently working on the mountain on a number of projects. They told us exactly what they were each responsible for and also what makes the experience so meaningful. Next we headed to Bedouin tent, it was actually the same one that we had visited on the the March of the Living this past May. Year Course sent their students to this site to help teach the children in their local schools and also be on hand to assist with chores, such as tending to the animals and building fences. We heard how the students have a new appreciation for what they have in America but also have anew found love for Israel. So much of their lives have been spent with a preoccupation about their lives, but in this environment they are forced to think about others. Finally, we stopped at one of the Year Course apartments where we met with another six students. Year course rents apartments for all of the students and they are given the freedom and responsibility of an adult. They have to clean their apartment, they have to go shopping for food and make arrangements for meals. Another benefit of living in an apartment building is that you have neighbors. Many of the students have befriended their neighbors who have intern invited them over for dinner. This environment certainly forces a teenager to mature at an accelerated rate over their friends in America. The flip side is that this option is not for everyone. I am already beginning to build a composite of who this program would be good for and once again I want to thank Young Judea for letting me come to see their program. We are back in the car and heading back to Jerusalem for dinner.

Stay tuned for Day 3.

No comments:

Post a Comment