November 29, 2013
Today we left the beautiful city of Jerusalem, and begun our journey across Israel to the city of Atilit. After morning prayers and a delicious breakfast; we boarded the bus and began our voyage. During our two-hour bus ride across the country; Miriam spoke to us about our plans for the day, Rabbi Benji taught us the Amidah in more depth, and we all stared longingly at the breathtaking scenery through our windows.
When the bus finally arrived, we began our tour through the Atilit detention camp; where Jews were imprisoned and treated like criminals after the trauma they had experienced during the Holocaust. Our tour guide - Tim - spoke about the life and living conditions in these detention camps and about the people living there. Most of the Jews who were sent to these camps were Holocaust survivors who had lost their homes, possessions and loved ones, and had nothing to come back to. Many of them were liberated from concentration camps such as Auschwitz, just to be labeled as ‘illegal,’ and shipped off to detention camps, which although didn’t come close to the horrific labour camps, still resembled them in many ways. In these detention camps the basic needs of the Jews were met, but the living conditions were still poor and they were mistreated and dehumanized. Tim took us to the shower rooms of the camp and told us about how upon arrival, the Jews were subjected to a disinfecting-shower. When they were asked to undress and shower, this only triggered fear, as so many of them had just escaped concentration camps, where a ‘disinfecting- shower’ meant death. Forcing groups of Holocaust survivors into a showering chamber, when their mental scars were still so fresh, was disgraceful and insensitive to their trauma.
During our tour, we explored other features of the detention camps which were similar to the concentration camps, for example; the armed guards, barbed wires and barracks, which all could’ve easily acted as mental triggers to Holocaust survivors. This tour was really interesting, as most of us had never thought of how the survivors carried on after the Holocaust, and how they rebuilt their lives after such a world-shattering tragedy. When Tim finished showing us around the camp; we were taken into a simulation room, where we experienced the journey and hardships of the Jews who were imprisoned in the Alitit detention camp. The simulation room was in a boat, and when we went in and sat down, it began to sway as if we were traveling across the ocean, just like the survivors did when they were searching for refuge in Israel. We watched an interactive short film, and moved around the different levels of the ship as we put the story together and developed a better understanding of Jewish life after the Holocaust.
After the morning program, we boarded the bus and headed to the north of Israel. We passed the time listening to Israeli music, binge eating Crembo and relaxing. Crembo is the most magical thing I have ever tasted, it’s a chocolate covered marshmallow melted onto a cookie, and its been the highlight of my entire existence. When the bus finally stopped at our next destination, we were buzzing with excitement everyone flooded out of the bus and through the gates of Kfar Kedem. We were greeted by a man named Menachem who spoke to us about the life of the Jewish people in Eretz Israel both in ancient times and the modern day. Afterwards, all of us dressed up in biblical headdresses and cloaks, and feasted on traditional Israeli food. The food was incredible!
When we were all finished eating - cradling our bellies and groaning in satisfaction - Menachem continued to tell us about Jewish life in the olden-days, and how ancient bread was made. He showed us a demonstration of how to ride donkeys, and after we finished Mincha we all got into groups; and headed for the stables. I was first to ride in my group, and after a few failed attempts to mount my donkey, I had finally maneuvered my way into the seat on Mr. Benedict’s back. Yes, we named our donkey Mr. Benedict. We all started riding down the trail and through trees; still wearing our biblical outfits, we galloped through the wilderness like an ancient tribe of Israelites. Riding donkeys was one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done, and saying goodbye to my beloved Mr. Benedict was heartbreaking. Afterwards, we all sat around drinking tea and eating dates as the sun set, before parting with Menachem and piling onto the bus.
Our next destination was a cruise on the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). The boat set sail, and we were all in awe at the beautiful scenery around us; the glimmering black waters of the Kinneret felt endless, the distant city lights were clustered along the water’s horizon and the dark skies were drenched in stars. A few moments after the boat left its dock, the music started blasting, and the party had begun. Everyone was dancing, singing, and literally rocking the boat with our simcha. Once the partying had subsided, we all formed a drum circle and began singing in unison. Rabbi Benji gave us one of his classic inspirational speeches and we continued singing and dancing until our boat party came to an end. We left the boat and made our way through the vibrant marketplace; exploring during our free time before Ma’ariv. We looked around the little shops and stalls, eating jelly donuts and drinking Israeli lemonade before meeting up at a nearby Shule for prayers. After prayers, we boarded our final bus and headed to our hotel. Dinner was delicious, and afterwards we lit candles for the first night of Hannukah and ate soofganiot (jelly donuts). It’s been a really fun and tiring day on IST, and we all fell asleep reflecting on the incredible time we’d had. We learnt a lot today; about Jewish life after the holocaust, Jewish life in both ancient and modern times, how to properly mount a donkey, and how to eat an insane amount of Crembo and jelly donuts. Overall, its been a great day!