October 4, 2010
Shalom to everyone at home!
This past week all the Brits ventured up North and we were introduced to a different environment and a different way of living than the one we have already experienced in the South.
Our first trip took us to the Lebanon border where we stood on the mountains of the North Galilee and viewed the stunning panorama of ex-Hezbollah headquarters in Lebanon. We were given a tour of the region by someone who knows the area well, having fought in the Second Lebanon War, and who currently works on border patrol. The talks were insightful and we learnt how Arab communities in the North live in peace beside their neighbouring Israeli communities, but have also suffered as a result of rocket attacks from the North – something I didn’t really know before.
At night, me, Gilad, Orrie, Daniel Dangoor, Tash Niman and Ellis Sharpe slaved over a hot bbq to prepare food for the 50 of us staying in the North. The next day we went to meet our Northern Israeli host families and set off for a hike towards an amazing (slightly painful to stand under) waterfall in the mountains. Kayaking down the Jordan River was a laugh; splashing the madrichim every time we saw their boat glide past was particularly amusing.
A highlight, for me, was staying with the Israeli host families in their small moshavim. I love their laid back attitude to having strangers in their house and the way they stress that you can just go and have a nose in their fridge whenever you are hungry. There is a very special sense of community in Livnim; the moshav of 100 families where I stayed. The families’ leave their doors open, take milk out of each other’s fridge and pull together to look after their village; a refreshing contrast to life in London suburbs.
In retrospect, I didn’t realise how much I would enjoy the trip up North. I suppose my mind was focused on starting Marva and having some time in Arad after Sar-El and the Chaggim. I soon realised that my initial lack of enthusiasm was completely unjustified, because all the activities: the kayaking, the boat trip, the bowling, making our own pitta, falafel and humous and our time in Tzfat, were incredibly fun. We met some great people and I felt that the trip really brought the Brits close together.
Simchat Torah in Tzfat was probably my favourite festival in the busy month full of holy festivals. The energy and atmosphere were just unmatchable! The boys went to a holy mikveh – which was a new experience for many of us. It was amazing that many of us – who generally come from secular homes – were dancing with the torah and singing and drinking together with all the pious Jews of Tzfat. More than once I found myself holding a torah, plonked in the middle of a group of crazy dancing men, singing the same songs and feeling an incredible sense of spirituality. It was a very unique, lively and special experience for all of us, I’m sure everyone would agree.
The end of a fantastic week signalled the end of our first month on gap year. We’ve been away from home for a month already! I hope I speak for everyone when I say that by now, we feel comfortable and settled into life in Israel and have really enjoyed our first busy month here. Home is always on our minds, but we can’t wait for the start of new things, like Marva, a regular routine and the volunteering projects.
Chag Sameach and love to all, Ellis Bolle