In three days, Brown RISD Hillel Birthright traveled from city to sea to desert, with students donning bathing suits in one locale and fleece jackets in the next. Sunday was the troupe’s last full day in Jerusalem, and the busy, emotional day included a visit to a security fence in the morning, where we learned about some of the many security issues affecting this land and its people. We then headed to Yad Vashem, Israel’s largest Holocaust memorial and museum. The poignant exhibits and dearth of historical information created a profound impact on all the museum’s visitors. After a short break to gather our thoughts and spend time with friends, the group traveled up Mt. Herzl, a site that includes the tombs of prominent Israeli politicians and figures, including Theodor Herzl, Golda Meir, and Yitzhak Rabin. At the adjoining military cemetery, our hayalim
(soldiers) shared some of their experiences with loss during their time of national service.
After this heavily emotional day, our buses took us to the beautiful ancient port city of Jaffa for a change of pace. We saw the internationally-lauded show “Not by Bread Alone” in which a group of blind and deaf actors speak about their experiences while simultaneously baking bread. A slice of freshly baked bread awarded audience members brave enough to step on stage after the show. Monday’s itinerary involved several long bus rides, and right before our departure from the country’s capital city, Bus 927 visited the Jerusalem Open House, a social justice and community resource for the LGBT community in the city and in all of Israel. A long bus ride led us through desert (with a stop at the most entertaining rest stop east of the Garden State Parkway), and eventually to the banks of the Dead Sea. With Jordan’s mountains looming in the background, we bathed in the salubrious waters, careful to avoid splashing our eyes (though one unlucky hayal
was pummeled by an unforgiving wave). Though we left the Dead Sea feeling fresh and clean, we soon sullied ourselves with the next activity: a camel ride through the desert at a Bedouin tent. A Bedouin man spoke to the group about his experiences living in Israel and served us coffee in a traditional act of hospitality. Students exclaimed that the meal, prepared and served as a Bedouin hafla
, was the best they had so far on the trip. A noisy night in the tent after several fireside games (“Mafia” is a group favorite) barely prepared us for the exhausting hike up and down Masada, but the view from the top was well worth the exertion. We said an emotional goodbye to our hayalim
on our bus ride up north and traveled to our kibbutz in the Galilee. Tomorrow our schedule includes a trip to a winery and a night out in Tiberias. But first, an overdue night of rest and relaxation at the kibbutz. L’hitraot!
-- Caroline Hughes '12