December 21, 2014
After a busy week of being divided by our options, we were finally back together again in the IST family.
We started the day at the Blind museum. In small groups of ten, we experienced a world of total darkness as we were guided through the daily life of the visually impaired and the blind. After turning a corner, we were immersed in a complete thick darkness. We stumbled through the rooms, tripped over benches and bumped into bins, trying to grab onto each other to work our way through together. Each room displayed a new environment and as a group we had to try and identify what our surroundings were through the use of our senses: touch, smell and hearing. The different rooms including a bedroom, a boat out at sea, street displays, supermarket, and a music room, confronted us to the pivotal role that the senses play in a life that is visually impaired. We were all lost without vision and struggled, as the voice of our guide was our only sense of direction. However, although surprisingly nerve-wracking, we laughed together with how clumsy we all became. The second part of the tour was in the canteen, still in complete thick darkness. We all fumbled along the counter until we reached the cash register and then ordered varying snacks. While this is such a simple task inherent in all our lives, attempting to identify our money to pay and then finding our way to our seat was a massive challenge without sight. At this stage the hardship of being blind really hit me, the reality of a blind person’s obstacles permeated by body as I was given the tiniest opportunity to tap into their lifestyle. I felt like I really understood their situation to a certain extent, which provided me with a sense of admiration for all blind people. Their positive, determined attitude towards life despite the challenging circumstances was overwhelmingly inspirational. We all finally made it to the table with our snacks. Here we were given the opportunity to sit and speak to our guide, ask questions and gain answers. The guide of my group was born completely blind and then as he grew up he also gradually became deaf in one ear. The one thing that really had an impact on me was when he explained to us how difficult it was to visualise images in his head. He used the example of an elephant; as he was born blind, he has never seen an elephant. He knows facts about it, such as it has four legs, two huge ears, a trunk etc. however, the overall picture in his mind comes down to his imagination. Whenever people talk about what blind people are missing out on it is generally your family and loved one's faces, sunsets or other pretty scenes. The fact that the blind literally create their own mental images for everything really made me appreciate the importance of site, the beauty of my surroundings and be grateful for something, which was once a mundane banal activity to me. As we finished the exhibition, we were exposed to the light again and got to see our guide. It was then I noticed that not seeing him allowed me to openly communicate in a totally different way. I was deeply immersed in the moment rather than thinking irrelevant thoughts or judging our guide based on his appearance. The museum was a moving experience for everyone, instilling within us all an intense feeling of gratification for our site and admiration for those without.
We then went to the Palmach museum, which follows the story of a group of youth that joined the Palmach. The Palmach was an elite unit of the underground movement for the Hagana. Once again we were divided into small groups and were all given an audio device, which told the story of these soldiers. We proceeded with a virtual tour through each room further revealing the difficult situations that the Palmach youth were faced with. The tour allowed us to understand and honour the soldiers who fought for Israel and her dependence. It deepened within our hearts an appreciation for the security of our homeland today. It was inspiring to see the soldiers' courageous dedication towards Israel even as they lost friends fighting beside them. To see the striving hope of previous generations for Israel and to now be living their dream is truly unbelievable. My feeling of gratitude resonated throughout the day, and continued at this moment, where I was overwhelmed with an intense appreciation for my country.
Back onto the bus, we made our way to Yitzchak Rabin Square and the Hall of Independence. The assassination of Yitchak Rabin caused and eruption in the Jewish community as the accusations of who was to blame divided the Jewish people of Israel. Yitzchak Rabin spent his entire life dedicated to Israel; fighting for the state’s rights and freedom of the Jews. The situation, which took place based on one judgement of a person that disagreed with one of Rabin's decisions, had an impact on the whole country. Within our lives, we all have the tendency to formulate judgements rapidly based on a person's appearance, actions or attitude, even though in reality we know that these certain characteristics does not determine who they are. Learning about Yitzchak Rabin's assassination and seeing on a greater scale the impact of judgemental behaviour, inspired me to grow in this specific aspect of my life.
Going from Yitzchak Rabin Square to the Hall of Independence continued the day's theme of Zionism and appreciation for Israel. As we stepped foot in the room where Israel was declared a Jewish state, I did not just see a mere room with a stage, I saw the place where a holy country was declared ours. Miriam shared with us her connection to Israel explaining it as "blood and tears" which I believe perfectly captures the essence of Israel. While there is a sense of fear due to terrorism, at the same time you feel more secure to be a Jew in Israel than any other place in the world. For me, the fact there is always struggles in Israel makes my connection to this land even stronger. There is always the IDF protecting me. And no matter what obstacles may come our way there will always be the passionate united country that comes together through pain, through celebration and through victories.