The view of the Dead Sea from Masada

The view of the Dead Sea from Masada

by Rachel Lamb, senior editor

When I think of Israel, I think of conflict, religion and even more conflict.  Israel is a very complicated place that includes a beautiful variety of people and religious groups, which, a lot of the time, add more conflict.

This summer was a big deal. All 10th graders who are part of Habonim Dror, a Jewish Camping Organization, went to Israel to participate in MBI (Machaneh Bonim Israel), which is a continuation of our summer camp programs that takes place in Israel for five weeks.  As a group, we discussed social justice issues in Israel and around the world and what we, as youth, can do to resolve the issues of today.  However, the most powerful part of the trip was touring and visiting the unique sites found all across Israel.

Habonim Dror, as a Jewish organization, did not want the campers to feel like tourists.  While it was difficult to swim in the Dead Sea and walk around the Old City of Jerusalem in bright sneakers, hats and Camelbaks and not feel touristy, we tried.

But all the family debates, newscasts and school lessons about Israel had neglected to tell me one thing: Israel is gorgeous. From the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall to the sunrise over Masada and the sprawling desert in the south to the tall buildings and beaches in Tel Aviv to the glittering Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) in the North, it was breathtaking.

With such diverse geography, it is easy to forget that Israel is a very small country.  Driving from the Dead Sea to Tel Aviv takes only two hours.  Therefore, we could travel across Israel efficiently and view many diverse and equally amazing places.

My Favorite Stops

  • We started our trip in Jerusalem, one of the most well known cities in the world.  Standing on the street, one can see people from numerous continents, cultures and religious groups all interacting in one small area.  Cars, camels and donkeys at times share narrow alleys.  The sunrise over Jerusalem illuminates the limestone that is the building block for every single building in Jerusalem, by law.
  • The next part of our trip was to the deserts that makes up the south of Israel.  Our first stop was Masada, a historic location where Romans fought Jews in 73 C.E.  Then on to an area near Sde Boker where Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel lived and is now buried.
  • The following week, we traveled north, and stayed around the Kinneret, Israel’s largest source of fresh water.  Here we participated in my favorite activity of all of MBI: Rafsodiah. During Rafsodiah we built a raft out of bamboo, barrels and a lot of rope.  We then sailed the rafts across the Kinneret (sounds perfectly safe).
  • We then talked to Arab-Israelis and listened to their perspective on Israel.  In addition, we traveled to an Arab village and viewed the green line and talked about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
  • While we enjoyed the sites, it was the food that really made the experience.  We ate falafel, shawarma and the best hummus ever, as well as the best baklava and rugelach.  The food really is phenomenal.  In spite of all the marvelous places I went and experiences I had in Israel, I will probably miss the food the most.

Visiting Israel was amazing, educational, worrisome, beautiful and very, very hot.   But no matter how hot it was, every part of the experience was intriguing.  In spite of the constant conflict that makes the daily news, the diverse people and gorgeous landscapes and cities make Israel much more than the conflict that surrounds it.