Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Final Day of IWS!

Cohort 5 Israel Winter Seminar
Thursday, January 1st
By Naomi Silverstein

Our first day of 2015 began with a loud rendition of Happy Birthday for a very special Emma Starr and a whole lot of yawning. At 5 a.m. all of the remaining cohorts (many had left to go home the day before) met outside their dorms at Sde Boker Kibbutz for a light breakfast. Some groups were leaving for the airport, but not us. We, along with the Baltimore cohort, made the almost 2 hour bus ride to Masada. When we arrived at 7:30 we had an interesting make-your-own-breakfast experience that included canned tuna and a whole cucumber per person. After serenading Emma for at least the fourth time that day, we began our climb. 

All of the cohorts made the climb together. We took the path that the Romans had built in the early 70’s CE. The trek took only 15 minutes but it doesn’t take long to travel back in time. As we walked under the arch at the end of the path it was like we were walking through history. Our guide led us in a discussion over the morality of the Jewish zealots’ actions. On the one hand, it was a noble action to choose to die by their own hands rather than the hands of the Romans. Looking from another perspective, the group of Jews living on Masada was known as the Sicarii, an extremist band. Perhaps the mass suicide was just another way to get attention. Whatever the reasoning, walking the pathways and looking over the view from the top of Masada inspired incredible and overwhelming feelings. 

Due to time constraints, people had the option to swim at Ein Gedi oasis or in the Dead Sea. I was among those who opted for the Dead Sea experience. While some people thought the water was cold, us New Englanders loved it. Floating was so much fun! We were so buoyant that we couldn’t get ourselves vertical to stand back up! Accidentally getting a drop of the water in my mouth made my lips pucker and one of the Baltimore boys managed to get water in both of his eyes! Once everyone had endured enough of the stinging we swam out to wash off and head over to the mud baths. There were four huge basins filled to the brim with mud and each of us was smothered with thick layers from head to toe. The cool mud soothed the stinging sensations from the extreme saltiness. After taking the customary mud-covered pictures, we went to rinse off under the sulfur showers. Once we returned to the locker rooms we had to hurry to shower and get dressed before it was time to go. After I bought some Dead Sea lotion and a “Life is Sababa” t-shirt, we boarded the buses for Jerusalem! 

Easing our way back into American culture, the Boston cohort went to a burger restaurant for dinner! Sharing one long table, we enjoyed our final sit-down together and once again serenaded Emma with Happy Birthday. Dinner ended and we were headed to Ben Gurion airport. Instead of waiting at the gate, I went around and bought as much Israeli chocolate as I could afford! The 13-hour flight to Philly and then the two hours back to Boston ended our Israel Seminar. In our programming we discussed what being a family meant. To me, it is a place where I can take refuge and relax with people whom I love and love me in return. Going into the trip we were a close-knit group of teen leaders and friends. Now, we are a family.

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