This year four year 11s from BPS went on the LJY Netzer Israel tour. For three and a half weeks we travelled round the country with 33 other sixteen year olds and a few university aged leaders trying to get a grasp of what is going on there and having lots offun. Starting in the northern Haifa we trailed down through Tiberius, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem then finally headed to the south with Eilat and a stay on Kibbutz Lotan. A stand out day was when we climbed Masada at 5am, were down by 9 and swam in the Dead Sea that afternoon before being back in Jerusalem having family visits in the evening.
Because this is LJY Netzer and we care about education there was a lot of talk on the conflict and history of the country as well as many border tours- we even helped create a mural on the wall dividing Gaza from Israel and went into a village divided by the green line. One of the most interesting days was when we went to Dialogue in the Dark- a totally lightless museum where you are taken around by a blind tour guide and get to experience what it’s like to be in the normal world with only four senses. It was an utterly amazing experience. I think the Kinneret and the EcoKef at Lotan were my favourite places in the country. Swimming in the Kinneret (especially after not swimming in the Haifa beach due to jellyfish) was just a lovely few hours and the whole area is beautiful. The EcoKef is where they are learning how to live efficiently- we made mud bricks, donated to their toilets to help make amazing soil and built a wall with arches in justfrom mud bricks. I really enjoyed it there.
24 days is not a lot of time to get to know new people but when you’re together constantly it is a lot easier and I know we’ve all made good friends or grown closer with old friends on the trip. However it was also nice, amongst almost only Londoners, to have three others there from the same city and community. Being a tenth of the group created a lot of jokes about Birmingham but we stood up for the city well.
Coming home was sad. Admittedly it might have been the right time- I came home and slept for a solid thirteen hours and haven’t slept much less for the last two nights either. It’s very hard to get a full night’s sleep on a tour where activity programming can run for over twelve hours. Wearing our new blue jumpers (designed by the group while we were away and printed on the day of our return) we all hugged goodbye in the airport and only two days later groups are already meeting up to see each other. It’s strange being home. I don’t know when I’ll go back and when before that am I going to have the same opportunities? To ride camels, to sleep round a fire under the stars, to see how real wars affect real lives, to haggle for single shekels off of simple things just to see if I could, to see such a wonderful mixture of outfits and religious views in such a small space and to simply have so much freedom with such a great group of people for such a long time. Well I’m hoping to get some of those out of Europe tour next year (if I publicly say I’m going enough times that means my parents have to send me, right?) but it was definitely a once in a lifetime experience and I’m so glad I had it. I also feel very lucky to have gone on this journey with a movement almost as critical as I am who really educated me rather than just placing propaganda in front of me.
While there I intended to write a diary andJess Baker is a member of LJY-Netzer and Birmingham Progressive Synagoguenetzer.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Photo-10-08-2015-23-23-39-1-e1447898670840.jpg">
a blog. Eventually only one of those things happened (due to the aforementioned lack of time) but I’m very glad it was the blog. Every day, without fail, I wrote about what we’d done and my experience of and thoughts about it. I’m glad so many people enjoyed it while we were away as I didn’t put it online for nobody to read it! So if this brief summary of a long journey wasn’t enough for you then feel free to go to www.rambles-from-travels.tumblr.com (type it in) and read a full account of how tour really is.
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Jess Baker is a member of LJY-Netzer and Birmingham Progressive Synagogue