Welcome to the homepage of the 2011-2012 Winter Break Mizzou Hillel Taglit-Birthright Israel trip. From Jan 2nd, 2012 – Jan. 13th, 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:
Check back to this page regularly during and after the trip for updates including pictures, and blog posts documenting the experience!
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Shalom from Jersualem!! The first two days of the trip have been utterly amazing, and we cannot believe we have more than a week left to go! After arriving in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport early Tuesday morning, we hit the ground running on the beginning of our 10 day journey together through the land of Israel. Along with our bus of 41 total participants from all over North America, we first visited Jaffa, the oldest city just outside of Tel Aviv, and learned about its rich and interesting history. We then shopped and ate our first Israeli meal in a market in Tel Aviv. We concluded our first day with a brief group meeting and a delicious Israeli feast at our beautiful hotel just outside of Jerusalem.
We awoke on our second morning eager to finally visit the Old City of Jerusalem and the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall. Seeing this sight for the very first time was a very moving experience and something we will never forget! We then spent the evening at the “Mega Event” which included a concert and dance party with more than 4000 other Birthright participants from all over the world. A huge highlight of the event was seeing Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu address the audience.
Stay tuned for more updates to come! From Jerusalem, Mizzou Hillel says Shalom!
Thursday, January 5th, 2012
Another truly tremendous day here in Jersualem! After another delicious Israeli breakfast, our traveling community added 8 new members to it, in what this portion of the trip is called Mifgash, or encounter. For the next 5 days, 8 members of the Israeli army will be part of our community and travel with us to all of our sites and be a part of all of our activities. All 8 (4 boys and 4 girls) are on a brief vacation from their army service as they get to learn from us as we learn from them for these 5 days. They were instantly welcomed into our group, and after a few short minutes, it seemed as if we knew them forever!
Today, we learned about the Israel Democratic form of government and saw Israeli’s version of Capitol Hill, seeing Parliament and the Supreme Court. After a relaxing picnic lunch in a park nearby the Parliament building, our next stop took us to Mount Herzl, Israel’s National Cemetery, where famous leaders, dignitaries and many soldiers were all laid to rest. This moment on the trip was very moving and meaningful for our group, as we heard stories from staff and our soldiers about various Israeli citizens who died in their service trying to defend the Jewish Homeland for the Jewish people.
We returned to our hotel for dinner and a cultural program where we learned about and made our very own Mezuzah to bring to our own homes. Today was truly a roller coaster of emotions, but the group is in great spirits and ready for tomorrow to come. Tomorrow brings us a visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial, and then, a relaxing and exciting Israel Shabbat!
Shalom from Jerusalem.
Friday, January 6th, 2012
Here are some thoughts and feelings from Mizzou’s participants:
Being in a theater with thousands of Jews from all over the world was one of the most influential parts of the trip for me. The Mega Event in Jerusalem was one of my favorite and most memorable parts of my trip in Israel so far, I feel so lucky to have experienced it.
-Kelsey O’Donnell, Sophomore
Visiting Yad V’Shem was an unbelievable experience. My grandparents were in the Holocaust and it was so touching to hear similar stories from survivors. It is very emotionally tough and solemn, but an experience I believe every Jew should see.
-Ari Alexander, Junior
Visiting Mount Herzl has been the most worth while part of the trip so far. We heard so many inspiring stories that truly touched my heart. I felt so much more connected to Israel and to my Jewish heritage while I was there. I am so glad I am able to have this amazing birthright experience.
-Alyson Kahn, Sophomore
Yesterday we went to Mount Herzl and today we went to the Holocaust Museum. It was very interesting to see these two places back to back because they both hold a lot of meaning for the people of Israel. Each place has been designed with much thought, and every detail holds a meaning. For example, the Holocaust Museum has amazing trees that were planted as a memorial for the non-Jews who lost their lives helping Jews. I am so glad I got to see these beautiful places that mean so much to the people of Israel and Jews all over the world.
-Genevieve Labe, Graduate Student
My trip to Israel has been long awaited. I applied for the Birthright program about a year and a half ago but wasn’t able to go then. I was ecstatic when I was accepted to attend the Birthright program the winter break before I graduated. Being in the Holy Land has been phenomenal. The most meaningful moment has been touching the Kotel. Standing next to the wall and realizing my ancestors have stood at this same wall connected me to thousands of years of the Jewish people. I also realized how lucky I am for getting the opportunity to touch such an important piece of our history while so many have not been offered this same opportunity. There are still many more days left to this journey and I’m sure that I will have many more touching moments.
-Belinda Kocen, Senior
I’m having an amazing time here in Israel with my friends from Mizzou. Yesterday we walked around the Mount Herzel National Cemetery, which is Israel’s national cemetery and where IDF soliders killed in the line of duty are buried. (Like our national cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.) The cemetery is at the top portion of a mountain that below it contains Israel’s Holocaust museum and memorial. The symbolism of having Herzel’s tomb on top of the Holocaust memorial, and the implication of the country growing out of’ and on top of the Holocaust was really powerful. The graves were arrayed in terraces and had small plants and trees growing out of them. When I think of sacrifice, I often fall into the trap of thinking of it in an abstract sense. Standing over the grave of a solider who gave his life so that I could have a bond with other Jews around the world really brought home the totality of sacrifice, and made my connection to Israel much more meaningful. I’m looking forward to the rest of the trip!
-Ben Levin, Sophomore
For someone like me, who has an Israeli father, I have always felt very connected to the state of Israel but during this trip I have really felt that I have gotten closer to my homeland. The day that we all went to the Kotel, was truly one of the most powerful experiences I have ever felt and truly made me feel closer to my people and God himself. It was an out of body experience in a way to go to the most holy site in the whole world for Jews and made me realize I am truly proud to be a Jew.
-Michal Goldstein, Sophomore
This trip has been sababa(awesome)! Everybody has been great and the places we have visited have been life changing. It has been one of the best experiences in my life. I could write for hours about the experience. Shabbat Shalom!
- Sean Abekasis, Junior
Israel has impacted me most not from a Jewish perspective, but from a human perspective. The Western Wall did not move me because of its religious significance, but because of the millions of people who have traveled, in times of great joy and great sorrow, to celebrate and lament in the spot where I stood. If walls could talk, right? The rich history of this land, literally buried beneath our feet, is overwhelming. Here is where it all began. What could be more powerful?
-Kelsey Kupferer, Sophomore
SHABBAT SHALOM FROM JERUSALEM! MIZ-ZOU!
Monday, January 8th, 2012
We write to you today from the Northern Israeli city of Tiberias, on the Sea of Gallilee. What a crazy last few days it has been for our group. We last wrote to you from Jerusalem celebrating a beautiful Shabbat. It was very interesting to see an entire city like Jeruslaem completely closed down to celebrate the weekly day of rest. We ended our Shabbat with a Havdallah service overlooking the walls of the ancient Old City. What a specatcle it was to see the walls lit up at night. We then hit the town on our first free night out, living it up on the popular Ben Yehuda Street.
We awoke on Sunday and drove to the southern city of Sderot, which borders the Gaza Strip. This visit showed us a different side of Israel, one that is a sad reality in dealing with non-friendly neighbors. From there, we ventured further south, where we finally got to spend time doing one of the most anticipated actvities of the trip, camel riding! What an experience that was. Then, we learned about the traditions and culture of another member of Israeli society, the Bedouins. Bedouin hospitality and a delicious dinner ended our evening, before we all fell asleep in a massive heated tent underneath a cloudless moonlit sky.
Although a following morning 4:45am wake-up was no picnic, reaching the summit of the ancient Masada fortress mountain to see the sunrise was incredible and well worth very little sleep. Swimming/Floating in the Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth, was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience (And we’ve got the pictures to prove it!) The day ended on a somber note as we said L’hitraot (See you soon) to our Israeli friends whose 5 day adventure with us had come to and end. The Mifgash (5 day encounter with the Israelis) was life changing and truly a crucial element to making this experience as memorable as possible.
What made this day even more unique was seeing the Negev Desert in the South and the beautiful lush green country side in the North, all during a 3 hour drive. As they say, that can happen “Only in Israel!” Sleeping tonight in a luxurious new Youth Hostel in the town of Tiberias, we eagerly await learning tomorrow about the Golan Heights.
Lilah Tov (Good Night) from Israel! (Sorry no pictures on this post….but more are sure to come!)
Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
Here is a quick update from our journey in the Holy Land. On Tuesday, we visited the mystical city of Tzfat. We learned about the Kaballistic society that began there, as well as the Jewish traditions that arose in this beautiful city. Of course, there was also much time for shopping and eating! After Tzfat, we spent our entire afternoon in the Golan Heights Hula Valley Tourism Park, which is one of the most important bird watching locations in the world with more than 500 million birds migrating in the skies above each year. Our day ended back in our youth hostel oustide of Tiberias where we spoke candidly and openly about our opinions on our personal Jewish beliefs.
With 2 jam-packed days left to go on this incredible journey, and not much time to update this blog, here is a quick rundown of what is to come: a visit to the ancient city of Tzippori, a free and fun last night enjoying the nightlife of Tel Aiv, a visit to some very important sites that led to Israel’s statehood in Tel Aviv, and a final L’hitraot to this wonderful country and our new close friends.
We will next see you back in the USA. From Israel for the last time, we say Shalom, and of course, MIZ-ZOU!