Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 2 Reflections Continued

We began the morning running ten minutes early, so we had time to head through the hills of Zichron Yakov, where Yael is from. She showed us her home, the park she plays with her nephews in, her favorite shoe store, the main square in her town and of course the synagogue. Zichron is a mix of people, it sounds like a blending of old and new, Jew and non-Jew, the kind of place where you are forced to be a part of the world. As we head down from Zichron, we pass the German Factory that makes gas masks, the irony here is obvious and we acknowledge it. We head to Atlit, a detention camp that was originally used by the British to detain Jews immigrating to Israel (before 1948) and later taken over by Israelis to house prisoners’ of war. It’s a reminder of the struggles and maybe it should be a sombering place, but to me its an inspiring place. Its inspiring that people wanted to come to Israel that much, that they believed and still do in this place so much. Heading out from Atlit we hear about the white book and the tension within the Israeli population during WW2 over fighting the British, to be allowed to immigrate to Israel and joining the British to fight the Germans. The history here is so palpable, everywhere there is the fusion, this juxtaposition of old and new.

We head to Acre, one of the few cities here with a large Jewish and Muslim population. We see the Bay of Haifa, the Templar’s fortress that the city used to protect itself during the Crusader period, we eat a delicious lunch of chicken shwarma and falafel and climb through the Templar tunnel. The drivers here are crazy. They don’t stop to let you cross and they park as they feel. I wonder what driving here would be like, I’d imagine nerve wracking. Then we drive to the Rosh Hanikra cliffs and take the cable cars down to the grottos. There is a storm raging so we don’t get that far into the grottos, but we do go out of the ledge above the water. The waves crash and about half the group gets soaked. Our guide Raz tells us this is the worst he’s ever seen the caves. We board the bus, gathering dry clothes to change into and begin the drive to our hotel, by the Sea of Galile, Kibbutz Nof Ginosar. So the first day ends and I’m wondering how it possible to feel so connected to a place your parents aren’t from and you’ve only been in for a day.


Leah Kieff (University of Mary Washington)
Carrie Aefsky (George Mason University)

P.S. Mom I’m getting lots of compliments on the shoes.

Jaunuary 10, 2012

I woke up this morning to the sound of the wind ripping through the palm trees outside my window. I looked at my clock. 10:45 PM in the US. 4:45am in Israel. I knew it would be a long day, but jet-lag got the better of me. After waiting the extra two hours until I knew everyone else would be awake, I went down to the lobby of our first hotel, in Netanya (a town outside of Tel Aviv), and experienced a very different type of breakfast. Instead of muffins or bagels, there were several types of salads, fresh cheese, tomatoes, guacamole, and many types of fish. It was all delicious. After we had tried our fill, we departed for Atlit, the site of a British internment camp. Although we were in beautiful surroundings full of flowers and palm trees, we arrived to the site of the camp, where thousands of Jews were imprisoned when trying to migrate to Israel during and after WWII, where they had been promised a free state. The British, who occupied and controlled Palestine at the time, forced the Jews into the encampments, calling them illegal immigrants. These camps, although still using the same rules and layouts of the concentration camps during the Holocaust, were meant to just keep the Jews in one place, not to harm them in any way. Many of the people that were detained were survivors of the European concentration camps. When taken to the camp in Atlit, the Jews, most of who had just travelled by boat and by train, believed that they were once again going to be imprisoned and treated the same as they had been in Europe. Although they were separated (men on one side, women on the other) they were never harmed and were given three meals a day. The conditions they lived in, though, were far from ideal. Close to eighty people were squeezed into small barracks where they were locked in every night. I had never heard of the camp in Israel before, or that the Jews were detained while trying to reach the state where they believed they would find sanctuary. Learning about the horrible conditions of their travels to Israel, by boats which held up to thousands of people at a time (then being taken to further camps, after their experiences in the Holocaust) really made me realize what they had to go through in order to finally gain a place to call their own. I had never known what the Jews really had to go through in order to reach Israel. This experience today, and learning more about the determination of my people really made me connect to and respect what was done so that we may live in relative peace today.

--Kate Manstof, George Mason University

Boker Tov! Today was a lot of fun, we visited an old British prison for illegal Jewish immigrants and then we went to the city of Acre. The food was good, and it was really interesting walking through the narrow thousand year old tunnels even though it got a little tight when the ceiling started getting lower. After that we went north to the border to see the caves and that was really fun. The waves were really intense because it had been raining all day. I remained dry while others were not so lucky. We’re at the kibbutz now, and we’re all pretty tired. It’s been great so far though. Happy birthday, Dad!

-Aaron Isaacman, George Mason University

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