Blogging about historical “facts” in Israel is absolutely impossible. I just attempted to write about the first day we spent in the Golan Heights (northern Israel – used to be part of Syria until 1967, still considered “occupied territory” by some). The historical information is far too political and controversial to explain anything. So if you’re looking for any kind of historical account of Israel, you’re going to need to find a legitimate source. I heard Wikipedia is great.
So I will just skip discussing anything worthwhile or political and talk about me instead. I’m way better at that.
Scratch that. Let’s talk about who I was with instead. My trip consisted of 39 UCSD, UCLA, and UCR students. It was a wonderful mix of Jews…Secular jews, religious jews, fratty jews, Jewish American Princesses, Jew-ish Jews. No Jews for Jesus though. I was really counting on one of those. The trip was led by two guys – one American who works for Hillel at UCLA and one Israeli who works for Hillel at UCSD. No one really cares about Riverside. We also traveled with an incredible tour guide and a private security guard.
How did we all get to know each other? If you stick 39 college age kids in a tiny Kibbutz with nothing to do after 9:00 pm, they will find booze and they will drink. It’s proven.
After sleeping off the jet lag on the first night, we spent the next night getting to know each other with Israel’s finest drinks (also known as the cheapest, most disgusting alcohol ever). To sum it up, I’ll just say it was one of those nights where I drank wine out of a bottle and discussed how classy I am.
Early the next morning the group headed to Tzvat. I was feeling absolutely wonderful especially after the two hour windy bus ride. To be honest, I was completely dreading the day. Hangovers in 100 degrees heat while having to cover shoulders and knees? Not ideal.
…Then we met Avraham and life was wonderful. To back track a little, Tzvat is where Kaballah started (think Madonna and red string bracelets). Kaballah is the mystical side of Judaism. We learned about Kaballah from Avraham. Born as Max in Chicago, Avraham moved to Tzvat after college to get in touch with his spiritual side. I’m pretty sure there had to be a drug induced epiphany in there somewhere because he was absolutely crazy. We sat in his tiny art studio on pillows as he discussed Kaballah. Every sentence was followed with a “It’s sooooooooo mind blowing. right????” or “Four THOUSAND years of history man” or “It’s just soooooooo awesome.” I’m not sure what Avraham is smoking or what book he is reading, but I would like an express shipment.
We spent the rest of the day touring Tzvat and getting to know Israel a little better. It was the first time where I felt like I was actually in Israel. The Jordan River and the Golan Heights easily could have been in California. Israelis are always talking about the connection to the land and the connection between the people. This concept started to make a little more sense in Tzvat.
As we took our bus ride back to Hispin, I started to reflect on the significance of a free trip to Israel. Despite thousands of years of history, calling Israel “home” has not always been possible for Jews. I tried to keep that in mind as we continued our journey throughout Israel. Next stop – Jerusalem.