Sorry it’s been so long!
I’ve been busy—in the past two months we’ve done so much. We spent a week at a kibbutz in the South learning about kibbutz life and solar energy, participated in Gadna (army training), and went on a three day sea-to-sea hike—though it really ended up only being mountain to mountain.
Gadna was an experience unlike anything I’ve ever done. We were put in tzevets (groups) of about 15 separated by gender, and each tzevet had a mefaked (commander). The commanders are young Israelis who do Gadna as their army service. Gadna is meant to simulate the Israeli army, so they keep a “distance” from all their soldiers. Some of the most memorable moments were the few times that our commander lost her cool and couldn’t help but laugh at us—it only happened once or twice though. On our time there, we had kitchen duty, where we spent three hours setting up the kitchen for breakfast and cleaning it up until it was spotless. We only ate two meals in the dining hall, and the rest we ate out in the fields. The food was disgusting—we had canned tuna, chocolate spread, and bread for two out of three meals a day. Throughout the three days, we had classes on how to handle guns, to prepare us for the last day. We each got to shoot M16s. Out of 10 bullets, I got one on the small target and 4 on the piece of paper the target was on. Not the best, but definitely not the worst… It was also a time for bonding. I got much closer with the girls in my tzevet. There were times at Gadna when all I wanted was to go back to the Chava, but afterward, I really appreciated it—I even missed my mefakedet!
After Gadna, we came back to the Chava and had a host shabbat, but before we knew it it was Pesach break. I flew to Barcelona to meet my mom there, and we spent a really nice four days together there. We came back just in time for the seder, which we spent with family friends in the North. The Sunday after the seder, I met back up with TRY for our sea-to-sea hike. It’s supposed to start from the Kinneret and go all the way to the Mediterranean, but because of time constraints, we started a couple miles west of the kinneret and hiked a lot of miles east of the mediterranean (we took a bus the rest of the way, but because of the weather, we ended up at a parking lot near the mediterranean but couldn’t actually go to the water). For the hike, we were split into two large groups of two, and each group was split into three smaller subgroups. We did the major hikes with our bigger group, and prepared and ate meals with our small groups. Though for the majority of the day I was separated from some of my best friends, I was able to become much closer with people I didn’t know as well. The hikes were pretty intense—we did at least 8 hours of hiking each day. In our subgroups, we were given vegetables, meat, rice, matzah, pots, and a gas cooker in order to make our meals. We were able to make some delicious Israeli salad, but the first day for lunch, my group accidentally cooked our rice with strawberry-banana flavored water, which tasted awful. We learned from our mistakes though, and the next day our rice was a success! After our three days of intense hiking and no showering, we arrived at Kibbutz Hannaton in the North for the rest of Pesach. The Parent Trip started that day so the parents joined us and we spent a relaxing four days at the Kibbutz. Two of the days were chag so we prayed in the morning then spent the rest of the day hanging out in the sun, reading, chatting, and enjoying each other’s company. Finally on Sunday, we returned to the Chava after two weeks of being away. Even though I had an amazing Pesach break, it was nice to get back to our routine.
This past Thursday was Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). We were fortunate enough to be able to spend it at Yad Vashem (they had reservations a year in advance for us!). It was my first time at the main part of the exhibit. We had a tour guide who made points that had never occurred to me, which made it an eye-opening experience, but it wasn’t as emotional as I expected it to be. For me, one of the most moving parts of the day was the siren. Each year, a siren is sounded on Yom HaShoah througout the whole country of Israel, and everyone stops what they are doing in order to pay respects to the six million who perished in the Holocaust. I had been in Israel for the siren before, but never in the museum. Since the museum is partly underground, we were unable to hear the siren outside, but the museum sounded their own siren. Though I was expecting the loud noise, it caught me off guard for one reason—it sounded like a man screaming in pain. It was such an intense, shrill sound, and being surrounded by the stories of mass murders and lost families made the sound so real. I still don’t know if that sound was intentional or not (I don’t think it was), but it really made it all the more poignant. The second most meaningful part of the day was the children’s memorial. It’s a dark, mirrored room with five candles lit. Because of the mirrors, the candles are reflected millions of times. It looked like the night sky—like millions of tiny stars representing the fallen children. My first thought was that it looked like Neverland (like in the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland). I’m not sure if it is utterly depressing or uplifting, but upon further thought, I decided that it was fitting that it looked like Neverland—a place where children never grow up. The children killed in the Holocaust had their lives taken from them before they had the chance to grow up, so Neverland is the perfect place for them to be eternalized.
This week is Yom HaZikaron and then Yom HaAtzmaut—Memorial day and Independence day. Check back soon for a post!