Welcome to the homepage of the 2011-2012 Summer Break Mizzou Hillel Taglit-Birthright Israel trip. From May 14th, 2012 – May 25th, 2012, 9 students from the University of Missouri and Hillel Director Brian Mitchell will be taking the journey of a lifetime, embarking on a 10 day trip all over Israel.
Here are the MU students on the trip:
Wanna see where we are going? Click below to see our detailed itinerary.
Check back to this page regularly during and after the trip for updates including pictures, and blog posts documenting the experience!
Tuesday, May 14, 2012 – Arrival in Israel
After a long day of travel, we finally arrived in Israel! Our group of 9 Missouri students met up with 31 other young adults from all over North America at JFK Airport on Monday afternoon, rounding out our group of 40. Our trip departed on time, and the plane ride was smooth, uneventful, and hopefully included a few hours of sleep.
After close to 9 hours of flying, the pilot finally announced that the plane was less than an hour from landing in Israel. At that, everyone perked up, eager to finally begin this journey of a lifetime.
We touched down just after 2pm local time, and from the moment we left the airport, it was go, go, go. We met our Israeli Tour guide, medic/guard and bus driver, and we were on our way. We had our first glimpses of the Israeli countryside during our 45 minute trip to Jerusalem. We stopped at a beautiful overlook of the Old City of Jerusalem, where we had an opening ceremony that included a few Jewish blessings with an amazing view as our backdrop. Check it out for yourself….
Tired and hungry, we drove to our hotel just outside of Jerusalem where we had a delicious dinner consisting of customary Middle Eastern delicacies, had a brief orientation meeting discussing rules and policies for the days ahead, and then went to sleep, ready for the next day’s visit to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Western Wall.
Lailah Tov (Good Night) from Israel!
Wednesday, May 16, 2012 – Jewish Quarter of the Old City
Have we really only been here less than 2 days? With how much we have done, how much we have seen, and how close our group has gotten, it seems like we have been here a week!
Today’s visit to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem was amazing for so many reasons. We learned about the rich history of Jerusalem and how it came to be the center of the Jewish world. We saw the site of the destruction of the Second Temple and the Temple Mount, which has been partially excavated. After that, we finally made our way to the Kotel (The Western Wall), the holiest place for Jews in the world. Some of us prayed, some of us left notes in the wall, and all of us were moved emotionally and spiritually by this amazing place.
Our afternoon continued with free time in the Jewish Quarter, which included lunch (Falafel and Schwarma!!) and shopping. We then continued our tour to learn more about the ancient paths that we were currently standing on. All in all, our visit to the Old City. although under hot and sunny skies, could not have been any more meaningful or memorable.
We ventured back to our hotel where we participated in a cultural activity that taught us about the meaning of a Mezzuzah, and then we actually made our very own out of clay. Hopefully, these beautiful Jewish symbols will find their way to a doorpost of our home in the future.
After another delicious dinner, we had a brief meeting preparing us for what promises to be one of the most meaningful components of the trip, the Mifgash (Encounter with 8 Israeli soldiers for 5 days).
It’s off to Sderot and the Bedouin Tent for tomorrow…..
Lailah Tov again from Jerusalem!
Thursday, May 17 – Friday, May 18, 2012 – Sederot, Bedouin Tent, Masada, Dead Sea, Shabbat
First and foremost, Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem! As you can see, we are back in Jerusalem tonight where we celebrated a beautiful Shabbat evening with a musical worship service and a delicious dinner. But, so much has happened since we last wrote, so let’s catch you up…..
When we last posted, we were picking up our new friends, 8 Israeli soldiers who are joining us for this portion of the journey. We met them and got to know them on our way to the southern city of Sederot. They are a great group and we already love them! In the town of Sederot, we toured a city that is located merely miles from the Gaza Strip, and we learned how they have learned to live and survive in such a turbulent and unsafe area.
After Sederot, we made our way to the Bedouin Tent, where we participated in one of the trip highlights, riding on a camel! After our exciting camel rides, we learned about Bedouin hospitality and ate a delicious feast.
Sleeping in a Bedouin tent, although different and thrilling, was very short lived as we were awoken at 4:00am so that we could make it to the top of Masada for a stunning sunrise. What a site that was! We toured the top of Masada and learned about the story of human sacrifice that took place there in order for the Jewish people to survive to this day.
Under a very hot and blazing sun, we hiked back down the mountain, eager to make it to our next two stops of the day, which all took place BEFORE 1pm! We did another beautiful hike in Ein Gedi, which had a waterfall at the top of the hike. After cooling off there briefly, we made our way to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, where we floated and relaxed for a few hours, taking in the amazing setting.
And now, we are caught up, and back in Jerusalem, where we are spending a restful Shabbat tonight and tomorrow, until we close with Havdalah and go on our first free night out, to Ben Yehuda Street in downtown Jerusalem.
Again, wishing you a Shabbat Shalom wherever you are spending it, from all of us in Israel!
Shabbat – Jerusalem
As we sit and enjoy this relaxing Shabbat at our hostel with a beautiful overlook on a breezy sunny day, read what Mizzou Hillel participants have enjoyed about the trip thus far:
Shabbat Shalom!!! This trip has been absolutely amazing so far! All the people have been so much fun and exciting. I find it incredible how so many people from different places (even our Israeli soldiers who have joined us) can have so many things to talk about and get along so well. While I am not the most religious person to be found I feel so blessed to be on the Kesher Taglit trip to Israel. I think my favorite part of the trip so far is seeing all of the places that I had only heard about before. Nadav, our guide, knows everything about everyplace we go. Hearing about these places while actually being here makes it so much meaningful. The people and the places have been the best parts about this trip. Thank you Kesher and my parents for sending me on one of the best trips of my life!!
Alexandra Bankston – Senior
My favorite part of this trip has been the similarities that exist between Jewish people all over the world. We all know the same customs, prayers and tunes even though we are from all over the world. It really shows a Jewish closeness. Seeing all these places in Israel makes me feel even more connected to Judaism than before.
Lori Halpern – Senior
I am really surprised at how fast our group has bonded. We have become a community and the Israelis have been a wonderful addition. I love discussing our amazing similarities and differences. This country is beautiful and breath-taking. Every visit makes this trip even better, and even though we’re only half way through I know this has been the best experience I’ve ever had.
Sophie Newman – Freshman
Shabbat Shalom! It’s the fifth day and we have done so much and have so much left to do. I’ve loved every minute so far from touring the old city of Jerusalem, to the camel riding, to waking up at 4am to hike up and down Mount Masada. Every single day has been more than exhausting but even more incredible and breathtaking! My experience here in Israel with everyone from all over the country has been one of the best of my life. I can’t wait for the rest!
Julia Manewith- Freshman
We’re halfway through the trip and it feels like we’ve been here a lifetime. Each day is packed full of something interesting and the falafel and ice cream are better than any American version. The group becomes closer each hour and I hope to come away from this trip with lifelong connections, Israeli and American. The hiking, swimming and camel riding that comprised yesterday resulted in an exhaustion I haven’t felt in awhile and a much greater appreciation of the true meaning of Shabbat rest and relaxation. I know this trip will continue to be eye-opening and meaningful and I am looking forward to everything that Israel will bring.
Ellen Gold – Sophomore
Shabbat Shalom everyone! We have been in Israel for five days now and it has been the most amazing five days of my life. I have experienced so much and made friendships that will last a lifetime. It is so amazing how fast all of us 48 particapents have become so close, as if we have all known each other for years. In the past five days we have been to the Western Wall, the Old City of Jersuselum. It was a very educational experience, we all learned so much about the six day war all all that happened in Jerusalem. Next we went to the city of Sederot with is near the Gaza Strip. Although it was not the safest place to be I truely felt completely safe, it was so amazing to feel this even though we were so close. Yesterday we climbed Masada, and floated in the Dead Sea, all I can say about this is, “What an exhusting but honestly one of the most wonderful days of my life.” Watching the sunrise form the top of Masada was so breath taking. I have had the best time here and cannot wait for the next five days.
Emily Schiffman – Sophomore
It’s only been a week, and I honestly feel like it’s been months since we’ve arrived in Israel. There is so much to talk about, so I’m going to narrow down to the few moments that stood out to me the most. Camel riding was probably one of the most outrageous, amazing, and strangest thing I’ve done in my life. We named our camel Wanda, and she had quite the character. As stubborn as she was, she definitely made our ride ten times better. Following that day, waking up at 4am and climbing Masada and being one of the first 5 people making it to the top, was truly amazing. It was a moment of accomplishment, and a moment to take in the culture, and Jewish spirituality in general. Seeing the sunrise from that height….absolutely speechless. I can only imagine the adventures we will encounter from here on out.
Becca Sakin – Sophomore
Although I’ve only been in Israel a week, it feels as comfortable as my own home. Coming here I believed that the entire purpose of the trip was to see the sights and understand its history as any touristic adventure is. What I did not expect to find was how much a part of the culture I envied. Although I’ve experienced many Shabbats before, not until this day have I understood its purpose. Not until today have I truly respected its meaning. This place is special in ways I cannot describe. As I just said , “If the trip had to end today, I would be completely satisfied.” It is amazing that this feat only took five days.
Brad Tessler, Graduate Student
Sunday, May 19, 2012 – Jerusalem, Tiberias
Erev Tov! We write this evening from the northern city of Tiberias, located on the Sea of Galilee. What an emotional roller coaster of a day we all just experienced.
After spending a relaxing Shabbat in Jerusalem, and experiencing a fun free night out on the famous Ben Yehuda Street after Shabbat ended, we spent most of Sunday morning and afternoon on an emotional roller coaster. In the morning, we visited the Muslim city of Ein Raffa where we spent time in a Mosque, and learned about Islam and Muslims living peacefully in Jerusalem.
From there, we made our way to an Israel Shuk (Outdoor market) where we got to really see an authentic side of the culture. We ate, shopped, ate, explored, and ate some more as we saw how true Israeli citizens do their shopping.
What was a total surprise to us all was that today was Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) which had many celebrations and events attached to it. One of which was taking place at our next stop. Mount Herzl, Israel’s Military Cemetery. We saw the grave sites of Theodore Herzl, Yitzhak Rabin, Golda Meier, and thousands of soldiers who died while defending this great country. This visit was a very moving and meaningful visit for us all, as it really hit home how people have had to give their life in order for us to be visiting here today. We left Mount Herzl emotionally drained, but forever grateful for the sacrifices those grave sites represented.
Now, we are in the city of Tiberias, exhausted and gearing up for tomorrow, which again promises to be another emotional roller coaster of a day, including hiking, seeing borders with neighboring countries, and sadly, saying goodbye to our Israeli friends who will be leaving us after their 5 day journey with us.
L’ailah Tov from Tiberias!
May 21, 2012 – The Golan Heights
Another fabulous, yet bittersweet, day for our group here in Israel. Let’s start with the fabulous portion, which took up a majority of the day.
Our morning began with a challenging and beautiful 2 and half hour hike that had us trek through a roaring river on a few occasions, but also had spectacular views of the Golan Heights. With a few steep inclines and descents, we all were very proud of ourselves for completing this hike successfully!
the Israeli borders with Syria and Lebanon, which were only a few short miles away from our overlook. To see how close these borders were to each other was fascinating.
Our outdoor adventure afternoon continued with an exciting floating trip down the Jordan River, with the option to kayak or raft. This was an exceptionally thrilling part of the day with a steady current the entire trip.
The bittersweet portion of the day concluded with us saying L’hitraot (See you soon) to our new Israeli friends, whose stint with us on this journey concluded today. It was very sad and emotional to watch these people who we had grown so close to in only a few short days, return to their lives serving in the army. But, as we parted ways, we know that we have made 7 new friends who we will hopefully see again in the near future.
Off to the mystical city of Safat and the ancient city of Tzippori tomorrow before we make our way back south to Jerusalem in the evening.
Lailah Tov from our last night in Tiberias!