Israel Recap!

So, as you all know, my blog has been sort of dead for the month of January because I was in Israel from January 8 - January 19th! I just want to begin by saying that this was the best vacation of my life. It seriously altered me on an emotional level and put me in a place of self-awareness and positivity. Not to mention the fact that I am really in touch with my religious beliefs for seemingly the first time ever in my life. This trip was just sheer perfection.

And, well, I want to share some pictures (and my journey) with you!

The first day that we were in Israel, we were in Tel Aviv. This city is so freaking gorgeous and our hotel was amazing. I'm not even kidding you, this was the view from my balcony and I even convinced myself to wake up early to go for a jog along the beach at 6am.

I was actually really sad to see this city go. It was gorgeous and we only got to spend a day there. D:

On our way to the Sea of Galilee we stopped in Old Jaffa and toured around. This city is gorgeous and full of history, but my favorite part was Independence Hall. This is where Israel became a nation. And we sat in that building. I thought it was pretty cool.


After Tel Aviv we stayed along the Sea of Galilee for three nights and these were three of the best nights ever. All we had to do was go on a ten minute walk from our hotel room and we could see some beautiful views.

Look at the water! :o
I went back to watch the sunset.
This is where I celebrated my first Shabbat. It's pretty much a resting period from Friday afternoon until Saturday afternoon. A full 25 hours of no technology and calmness and relaxation. For the first time ever I did yoga. A group of 40 people ages eighteen to twenty five got bored and played an epic game of tag along the beach, we shared horror stories around a fire with our worst injuries. We all pretty much bonded in ways I never thought possible, and while I don't observe Shabbat in America it's an experience that I respect and really loved.

Upon Shabbat's immediate closing, we spent a night out in Tiberias. It was fun, we all danced and lived it up, and then went back to Kib Ginosar and bonded again while discussing the Israeli army and the defense forces. See, in Israel, if you are a citizen you have to enroll in one of the army's twelve branches and protect your country for at least three years. Everyone does this and it's beyond respectable. 

The next day, we met our eight soldiers. Among them, an air force pilot, an air force commander, an air force intelligence agent, a first sergeant explosives expert, a sergeant in the artillery field, two infantry soldiers, a medic, and an engineer--all nineteen or twenty years old.

We are very territorial of our soldiers--they're now our best friends.


Left to Right: Bar, Shirel, Chen, Shany, Yarden, Alon, Tally, and Ido.

Upon picking up our soldiers and having them change into normal clothing, we went to Agamon Hula. The Hula Valley is an agricultural part of Northern Israel and it's a place where birds migrate to a lot when it's warmer out. There, we went on a five mile bike ride (that made me realize I have awesome bike riding legs) and saw the birds. At times, it felt like we were in the middle of a horror story because there was so many.

After that, we went on a three hour long nature hike in an Israeli National Park. This was perhaps one of the most gorgeous things I've ever done, but it was also really muddy and several people lost their cameras when trying to catch themselves, so I don't have any pictures myself. :( I do however have a group shot of us being tourists in front of a waterfall.


The next morning we explored Tzfat, another gorgeous city full of history. Let me tell you, Israel really made me hate the fact that America doesn't have ruins and beauty the way so many other places do.


Shortly after this, we met with a border defender that helps to protect the lookout point of Israel. You can see all surrounding countries from this point. And let me tell you, this guy was passionate and crazy. He dropped cuss words left and right and he genuinely did not care what anyone thought of him. His only objective was to protect Israel and, in his words, "he'd mow down anyone who dare threaten his people." This was a shocking experience because I've never seen someone so passionate that it almost led to insanity. It just shows how strongly united ties are to this nation.

After that, we helped out Lechet, an organization that farms crops solely for the Israeli poor and the remaining Holocaust survivors. We spent two hours picking beets, and we all looked like murderers by the end of it. My friend has this awesome picture of me holding a beet that's twice the size of my head, but he's still in Israel so I don't have the picture just yet.


That night, a Holocaust survivor named Sarah Goodman visited us in our hotel to discuss her experiences and prepare us for Yad Vashem (The Holocaust Museum in Israel) the next day. Sarah Goodman is such a strong individual and I highly recommend looking up her memoir if you get the chance. She has a zest for life that a lot of people lack and throughout the several hours she was with us, she never stopped smiling.


The next day was a really heavy day. We had Yad Vashem, the Herzl museum, and Har Herzl (the cemetery for fallen troops, sort of like the Israeli version of Arlington).

I have no pictures of Yad Vashem. It's simply not a place you take pictures. But I can tell you I bawled my eyes out for the four hours we were in there. We literally went on a journey throughout the entire Holocaust, beginning to end and the aftermath while trying to reach the light at the end of the tunnel--the museum is seriously designed that way. If not for the soldiers and my fellow group members, I don't know how I would have survived that.

I will, however, show you this:


Upon exiting Yad Vashem, you are immediately greeted by an outlook of trees. These trees are the trees that the Jewish communities around the world raise money for, buy, and then send to Israel to plant to represent those who have perished in the Holocaust, hope, and the survivors. They just keep multiplying. I can say I've helped with at least ten of them myself throughout my years in Hebrew School. And to see this after such a depressing museum, my heart swelled.

After this there was another memorial to the fallen children in the Holocaust. This room was, again, not a place to take pictures. It simulated stars shining everywhere and it was dark, you had to feel for the handlebars of the walkway around you to signify how lost the children were. There are pictures of their young faces hanging everywhere that make your heart ache, and their names are on a loop that never ends, stating their name, their age when they died, and where they were from. Newborns to teenagers alike are mentioned, and you can't help but bawl again because if I was alive during this time period, my name could have been among them. It takes over a year for the loop to complete and it's absolutely terrifying.

After Yad Vashem, we went to Har Herzl, the cemetery. This place is the final resting place to so many heroes, and again, it was life changing just like Yad Vashem.


This is the grave of Theodor Herzl. Herzl was a Jewish journalist who eventually became the father of Zionism, in turn he became the creator of the state of Israel. Sort of a big deal, eh?


This is, in my opinion, one of the most important graves in the cemetery, aside from the famous leaders that are buried there. This is the grave of the man whose death led to the creation of the Lone Soldier Foundation. I mentioned the Israeli military above. A lot of Jewish individuals that plan to make aliyah (move to Israel and become a citizen) often join the military. The man above was no different. He moved so that he could join the military and fight for his country. He pursued this goal with abandon. One day, while on leave to visit family back in America, a war broke out. He called his commander and forced him to allow him to return and fight. While in battle, he was killed. He had nobody in Israel, his parents and friends had to fly out for his funeral. While soldiers can go home on the weekends to their families, he went back to an empty, tiny apartment. But when he was buried, thousands of people showed up to commemorate his sacrifice and desire to protect his country even though he was born so far away. This is the grave of an amazing man, and it is important to me because I have a friend in the army who is a lone soldier, and I have several more who will be lone soldiers in the following few years--one moving as soon as a month. Because of this man's sacrifice, lone soldiers will no longer truly be alone.

Heavy day, right?

To make it all better, our birthright organization entitled Taglit sent us to a megaevent. The prime minister of Israel even showed up to welcome us and give a speech! This event was pretty much a two hour long concert full of Israeli celebrities. Some of them covered English songs, but most shared their own in Hebrew, and while I couldn't understand them all, we had an amazing time. There were thousands of Jewish people ages 18 to 25 from America, Israel, Canada, Ethiopia, Uruguay, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, and so many more places celebrating our heritage together.


The next day was our first day in Jerusalem and what I was most excited for was the Wall. It was an amazing experience to say the least and I put some serious thought into writing my note. It took me a solid two hours to put that together.


This is a picture of my friend and I after we walked backwards and were about to exit the women's area of the Wall. If you are in Jerusalem, you must visit the wall. Seriously. The rest of the day was spent exploring this beautiful city.

That night was my favorite night of the trip. One of the soldiers, Shirel, had his father bring him his guitar and a singer on the trip, Avital, and him had a jam session. Shirel then passed the guitar to a bunch of other people and we spent hours taking turns and jamming to songs and just wow. This was a perfect night. I'm near the bottom of the screen between the two guys, curled up in a ball so that I wouldn't have to display my tone deafness, but I belted out Let It Go anyway.



The next day we were supposed to go on an archeological dig, but there was a scheduling mishap and the fact that they gave us a guide that only spoke Russian by accident. Oops. So, instead, we just crawled in the caves at Adullam. These things were awesome. We pretty much crawled up a mountain while underground. Israeli guerrilla fighters used these caves to protect themselves. Here's a picture of all of us stuffed into a passageway while we were preparing to go into a new tunnel. These tunnels were so tiny that I discovered I am near claustrophobic. Yup. And then I overcame that fear.

I am near the upper left of the screen.
Shortly after this, we had to say goodbye to the soldiers. They had to return to duty and we had to say goodbye. :( So, I guess I'll just share some pictures of me and the three soldiers I got closest to.

Chen (meaning grace) and myself
Shirel (meaning song of God) and myself (Shira, meaning song)

Alon (meaning oak tree) and I. I really love this picture.
After leaving the soldiers, we journeyed into the desert and spent the night in a Bedouin tent. Let me tell you, Bedouin tea is the best tea in the world. I lost count at 47 cups. We spent the night bonding around a campfire and then we all froze our butt's off while sleeping in a tent.


Yes, I slept here while sick. And got way sicker. But that's okay because I woke up to my favorite day ever!!!!

The best day ever started with me waking up at 5am to watch the entire process of the sunrise after wandering away from the Bedouin camp and into the real desert for several hours.

One of the most beautiful and jaw-dropping things I have ever seen in my life. You can see the sun's rays!
So worth waking up at 5am and functioning only on two hours of sleep while I hacked up a lung.

Shortly after eating breakfast, we went to ride camels! This was an awesome experience, but it freaked me out because camels stand up with their hind legs first, so I was on a 90 degree angle with the ground at one point.



After riding camels, we immediately set off to head to the Masada. We climbed it. And to say I made it up this thing while sick is like the accomplishment of my year. The views, the process, the stories are all spectacular, but your guide reminding you that you're walking on an area where a mass suicide was once committed isn't that pleasant.

Entrance to the trail.

View from the top on one side, you can see the Dead Sea in the distance.

View from the top on the other side.
And we ended the day at the Dead Sea! Guys, it's awesome floating like a dead person. That's all I've got to say. Here's a picture of my friend and I preparing ourselves with the exfoliating mud (which I stole and brought some back to America). I was only half way done when the picture was snapped. Oh well.

After this, we journeyed to a Kibutz that was about twenty minutes outside of Jerusalem to spend our last night there, as well as Shabbat. This kibutz...hated me. While Shabbat was very peaceful and I showed signs of finally feeling better, we had no curtains and I actually had to take a shower with a flashlight because we had no electricity. Oh, and we had to hunt down the family that owned the property every time we wanted to get into our room since our legitimate key always jammed and did not actually open our door. Keep in mind it was three people to a cabin and this only happened to my cabin. My luck, right?

This was our solution to curtains to block us from the parking lot and old men right outside. LOL
The next day was my Bat Mitzvah! While it was still Shabbat, I have no pictures. But it was a calming day full of meditation and us saying good-bye to Israel. When Shabbat ended, we did the usual chair lifty thing and someone did get a picture of that.

This is honestly fun as hell.
We explored Jerusalem until 2am, drove back to Tel Aviv, took off at 5:30am, and came back home.

And this was truly the trip of a lifetime. It changed me on a personal level and I am already dying to go back.

I hope you enjoyed this post. (: Would love to hear your thoughts below!










23 comments:

  1. I'm glad you enjoyed your time in Israel, Lili! It looks so beautiful and peaceful there.

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    1. It really is. Truly. Like...it's such an amazing country. <3

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  2. I loved this post! I've been to Israel before and it was such an emotional, important experience :) I'm really glad that you had such an amazing time!

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    1. It seriously was, though. Like, it changed me on a deep level, emotionally and spiritually and I'm much more care free. I'm just...happier. I started 2014 off so happy in a way I haven't ever started off previous years.

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  3. Awwww... reading your post and seeing your pics brought back memories of my own trip to Israel which I made when I was a 17.. .ahem... 15 years ago!!! And I felt the exact same way going through Yad Vashem and the cemetery. But did you see the burned out cars and stuff in the valley next to that steep winding road to Masada? Did it freak you out? LOL... I would love to go back... Thanks for sharing with us!!!

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    1. I didn't see the burned out cars in the valley! As I said, I was really sick the day we climbed it so I was actually passed out on the bus on our way there. But I asked around in my group on facebook and nobody remembers those. It's possible they were moved or you went up the side we went down, so we didn't see them.

      But ahh! I'm so happy you had an amazing time on your trip too!

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  4. Read this on my kindle and just now had time to comment. This is SO awesome Lili! I'm so glad you got to go on this trip. It sounds amazing. I really want to go to Israel now! Haha, of course I've always wanted to be able to travel out of the country. Trips like these would be so cool! And the fact that it's more personal just makes it so awesome.

    You saw so many cool things! I love the pictures. Dang those sunrises/sets are gorgeous! And the Sea of Galillee! That is awesome!

    Lili. You rode a freaking CAMEL. That is awesome. I've seen live camels and they are big. And their knees are insane. I'd kill for strong knees like that. Not in looks though. So many cool things you mentioned! Exfoliating mud?That seems so cool! And the wall in Jerusalem. Sweet! I'd love to see/go there.A shabbat experience in the Holy Land? That would be cool! I don't participate in Shabbat but it seems really neat! And the holocoust museum. Oh man. I can understand the feels. I would love to visit one of those museums. Seems like a really special place. however difficult the topic.

    Seems like you had an awesome group of people and experiences. So cool you shared it. I'm glad it was so awesome!!

    XOXO, Inky.
    Ps. On an unrelated note...guess what I'm reading?

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    1. You should go to Israel! It is so so worth it!

      There were so many sunrises and sunsets. They're just so much better in Israel then they are in America haha

      I RODE A CAMEL! I cannot believe it! The mud feels so awkward haha but it's great. THE WALL is just...wow <3 And yes! Two Shabbat's in the Holy Land, actually. I don't either, but it was actually a super soothing experience. The Holocaust Museum ripped my heart out. It seriously did. The soldiers pieced it back together again though.

      I'm so happy it was awesome too!

      - Lili

      P.S. I guessed on twitter ;)

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  5. OMG, I love that you got to do this and that you seemed to have such a well rounded trip! You got bits of fun and laughter, lots of tears, met interesting people and even got music too! It sounds like it was magical and spiritual and all the other wonderful things I can think of! Thanks for taking time to share this with all of us! I know how long posts like this take!

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    1. This post took forever, but it was so worth it.

      And yes, this. This entire little paragraph sums up the trip perfectly. THIS <3

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  6. What an incredible trip you had! So glad you shared it with us so that we could live a little vicariously through you. I looked up Sarah Goodman's book. I think it's out of print, unfortunately. But maybe people could find it in a library. All your experiences seem so different and meaningful. The story of the lone soldier is absolutely incredible, and heartbreaking. Such strength and courage.
    So happy the trip had a profound impact on you! Liza

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    1. That's terrible! She talked about it constantly and I wanted to look into it. I didn't know it was out of print. :/

      The lone soldier really got me. Because of his sacrifice, my friends will never be alone.

      I'm happy it did too <3

      Thanks for commenting, Liza!

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  7. Wow. Wow. Wow. Your trip looks absolutely incredible! Girl, you rode a camel!!! (BTW, your camel looks really pleased with himself, so you must have been a badass passenger.) I love when places/trips can be fun and inspirational, so when you look back on it, you'll have all these different mixtures of emotions. So cool. Thanks so much for sharing your photos and story with us!

    P.S. I would have been claustrophobic in that cave as well. It looks a little...small, lol.

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    1. I KNOW, RIGHT?! I RODE A FREAKING CAMEL! I was a kickass passenger. I let him do his thing and enjoyed the ride.

      No problem!

      P.S. It was small as hell. The actual tunnels were so small we had to suck in our breath on our hands and knees to get through!

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  8. Wow! It sounds like you had an amazing experience. I'm glad that you really enjoyed yourself and it affected you so positively.

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  9. This is the experience of a lifetime for you and I can read your emotions through your post. I am so glad you got to do this because it's something that will stick with you forever.

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    1. It seriously will. I can't believe that I almost didn't do it!

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  10. This seems it was a beautiful and heart felt trip. I'm glad you got to go! It seems like something that will stay with you forever. :) Thank you for sharing!

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  11. Happy Bat Mitzvah! Wow, Lili, what an amazing, epic, life-changing trip. I am definitely recommending this book if you haven't read it: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/491944.How_to_Ruin_a_Summer_Vacation

    Any's story of her first trip to Israel is not nearly as serious as yours, but I think you might like it.

    Also, how terrible is it that Adult Me is going "Wow, What a learning experience!" and Teen Me is going "Those soldiers are totally adorbs!" :)

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    1. Whoops, forgot to mention how naturally gorgeous you look in all of these pictures :) Someone ought to put you in a book someday >_>

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    2. Ahhh thank you Paula! <3 and the soldiers were seriously adorable lol and it was a learning experience, so both comments are correct!

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