First Day! | Shorashim - Israel with Israelis
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First Day!

Carolyn Margulies

Good evening from Israel! It is a little past 5pm on Tuesday, January 5 (our first full day in Israel!) and we just returned to Kibbutz Gadot for a little rest after what has been a VERY long day.

Our day started at 7:15 with breakfast (fresh cheese, veggies such as cucumbers and tomatoes, eggs and, of course, lots of coffee). By 8 (and I do mean exactly 8- if we show up late, we have to sing a solo for the entire bus), we were on our way to our hike. We arrived at Har Bental soon after, and immediately were amazed at the amazing view from the top of the mountain. However, in the true spirit of Birthright, we did not only look at our surroundings but immediately started our hike towards what we learned was one of the most important cities in ancient Israel. As a group, we talked about why this city was so important and discussed how, being on top of a hill surrounded by valleys and mountains, the location of this site was perfect for defending itself from invaders. On the walk, students talked to each other and to the Israelis who are staying with us for the trip, trying to learn about each others ' lives and backgrounds. Once we finally reached Har Bental  (a rocky hike that took 15 minutes), we broke into smaller groups and did an activity to learn about the lives of the others (every member of my group had a different combination of siblings and we all prefer pancakes to waffles).  

After, we shared our findings and talked about the idea of different narratives from different groups. The topic came up when one of the students asked why Israeli history focuses so much on what happened a few thousand years ago and then very little until the 20th century. Tsach, our Israeli leader, told us about how archaeologists wanted a certain story told and only focused on their interests, greatly shaping what we know. Tsach reminded us to always question what we are told in order to understand the full story.
We hiked back to the bus (which was MUCH harder than the hike down) and went to a local mall to grab lunch. Holy cow, the falafel was unbelievable. A little convenience store sold candy, chips (including pizza-flavored Doritos), and bagged chocolate milk which was delicious. 

Once lunch was over, we travelled to the Golan Heights, a peak that looks over the Israeli-Syrian border. Unfortunately, it was too foggy to see, so we went inside the coffee shop located there and discussed the role of Israel and the INF in the conflict in Syria and with Syrian refugees. Both Israelis and Americans expressed their opinions, giving a wide range of viewpoints and opinions. 

Finally, we went to Mizpe Gadot, a site across the Jordan Valley that had a memorial for fallen soldiers. We talked about the history of the area, then sat as a group and talked about how to make sure that our group was respectful of every student and their background. We played one more group-bonding game then came back to the Kibbutz to shower and play soccer before dinner.  Just like last night, I know that I'm going to fall to sleep as soon as I get back to the room for the night. The trip has been incredible so far, but these long days are proving to be more tiring than I had expected!

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