Our last day in Israel was a whirlwind of emotions and experiences, beginning with a walking tour of Jaffa starting along the harbor in the magical port city. The views of the Mediterranean and Tel Aviv were breathtaking, and Eitan shared some of the city’s history with us, including the story of a rocky outcropping associated with the place of Andromeda’s chaining and rescue by Pausanias in Greek mythology.
Our tour was livened by the exciting discovery of a dead snake draped across a cannon, as well as several groups of Israelis on a scavenger hunt who stopped us to play “Simon Says,” dance the hora, and to trade T-shirts with them. We then enjoyed lunch and shopping in the treasure trove at the Shuk Hapishpeshim (with our sincerest apologies to Seth’s parents for his purchase of a drum).
In 1909, 66 Jewish families decided to move outside the crowded and noisy city of Jaffa, gathering on a desolate sand dune to parcel out the land by lottery using seashells in what would become Tel Aviv (Aviv is Hebrew for “spring,” symbolizing renewal, and Tel is a mound of layers of civilization, symbolizing the ancient). Eitan taught us about the origins of the city before we returned there to visit Rabin Square, the site where Prime Minster Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated on November 4, 1995. We learned how the tragedy unfolded that day and the impact of Rabin’s death on the peace process.
Our next stop was further back in time, to Independence Hall, the former home of Tel Aviv mayor Meir Dizengoff, where David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. It was a fitting location to end our trip, weaving together all the knowledge we’ve acquired over the past two weeks (and the past nine years!) in the place where it all officially began.
We then took some time to debrief our thoughts and feelings together in a park near the Shuk HaCarmel. Eitan asked us to respond to prompts that included: Fun or funny moment; realization of a dream; highlights of the trip; and something that I’ve learned. Here were some of the responses:
Something I’ve learned/realization of a dream:
- Walking down from Masada and seeing the Roman camps was really cool … and kind of scary since they are still there after thousands of years
- To face your fears because I’ve done a lot of scary stuff lately
- How the Jews were first detained when they tried to come to Israel after the Second World War
- I realized how much I love Israel, and it’s not enough to be here for just two weeks; I want to be here for as long as possible
- I’ve been to Israel so many times, but no matter how many times I come, I will always have something special and something I will learn
- You should listen to adults because they have a lot of insight; I was really glad that I was an active listener
- The trip made me think about a whole different way I could live my life beyond the expectation of going to college in the U.S.–I realized that there are so many different options
- I want to come back and spend a lot of time here
- We need to be grateful for Israel because we haven’t always had it and our people have fought so hard to get it; in the past I’ve taken it for granted
- I am so glad that my first experience in Israel was here with my CDS friends
- You have to go out of your comfort zone sometimes
- Going to Tzfat and going to the beach because it was fun to play with everyone in the waves
- Water tunnels, Masada, Dead Sea and Ein Gedi
- When I finally jumped off the wall at Aqua Kef
- It was great to do not only tourist things, but also get to meet and talk with real Israelis
- In the archeological dig when we were bringing dirt up the stairs, and I was singing Chanukah songs
- I really enjoyed the Bedouin tent and the Druze village
- I got closer to all of my classmates
- EVERY moment was fun!
- Meeting the kids from Misgav
- Meeting the soldiers
- Getting to be better friends with all of you
- The archeological dig
- Listening to Shuli fight about the Civil War with the shopkeeper
- Getting to know all of the Israelis and talking to you and hearing your viewpoints on the place where you live
- When I got stuck in a bathroom
- Top three: Ein Gedi, Dead Sea, water tunnels, the archeological dig, and meeting the Misgav kids
Eitan then reminded us of the story he told on the first day about the boy who held the life of the butterfly in his hands, and congratulated the group on taking the trip into their own hands to make the most of their experience, even when it was difficult.
“I know we went on a journey, but you are not tourists,” he added. “This is definitely your home. You guys just made this place more beautiful. I think it is very moving to see you guys really feeling more connected to Judaism and to Israel. This is just a promo for the next time you come here and for the long relationship you will have with Israel, Judaism, and our people.”
From there it was on to the “last supper” at Maganda Restaurant, where we bid farewell to friends staying in Israel and our trip staff … One thing is certain–for the Community Day School Class of 2018, it’s not goodbye to each other or to Israel … it’s l’hitraot!