Tag Archives: ben-gurion

Young Ambassadors Update: Days 1 and 2

14 Jun

I arrived in Israel; everything was beautiful, although the first day is a blur due to sleep deprivation after being awake for around 30 consecutive hours. I do remember big picture things and later in the day more detailed things, a big picture thing being touring the ancient city of Jaffa and going to an interactive museum, the Palmach museum, where we learned how the IDF was formed. We also had a guest speaker named Simon later in the day teach the group about Israeli internal and external politics including the Israeli-Arab conflict. It was fascinating learning about the Israeli government; one specific interest of mine was the fact that their are numerous political groups, some are religious while others pertain to different aspects of Israeli political movements. To explain how a prime minister gets voted in I must say was a surprise. Similar to, but not exactly like the United States, Israeli citizens vote in their most favored group. From there the head of that group will usually become the Prime Minister. What I found interesting was that although a group gets voted in, they are not the entire government. There are 120 seats in the government, while there may only be 20 people in one group. The Prime Minister will then make deals with the other groups to grow his government. According to our speaker Simon this is why not many things can get done. Simply the government doesn’t agree with each other, but unlike the U.S., there are many more prominent political groups than just Republicans and Democrats.

Enough about Israeli politics, although I could probably, and would enjoyably ramble about them for hours.

On the second day we started off by visiting the Israeli Hall of Independence, where we learned about how Israel became established as a country. We were taught about a few important people, one being David Ben-Gurion who became the first Prime Minister of Israel.

We then traveled south to the Negev desert. This portion of the country is interesting because it makes up over 50% of the country, but less than 10% of the population lives in it. This is because of the desert climate. The group did a small hike and then visited David Ben-Gurion’s grave site. Ben-Gurion was a huge advocate of populating the Negev. The other Young Ambassadors and I placed stones on his tomb stone, a Jewish custom similar to how Americans bring flowers to a tomb stone. We then visited a small כפר (kfar) which is a hebrew word I have proudly picked up. It means village. The כפר, called Ashalim, was in the Negev. It was the first of about a dozen start-up communities. These people are trying to fulfill Ben-Gurion’s dream by starting a larger living inhabitance in the Negev. They say Israel was established in 1948, but it is still being established to this day if you truly think about it. Personally I loved both the כפר and the Negev. I would voluntarily live there.

The group afterwards returned to the kibbutz that we are living in for the next two days where we ran our own Shabbat service. We did traditional Shabbat prayers as well as some original stuff to personalize the service. We added a song titled Sunshine by a Jewish artist named Matisyahu. We also played a game called “Oys and Joys” where we each said our least favorite and most favorite thing that happened to use in the past week. Personally my favorite thing has been visiting the Negev. It was absolutely beautiful and I can’t wait to see it again.

The group started to wind down afterwards and went to our rooms. The first thing I said to Sam and Adam was, “I’m probably gonna play some gameboy.” Instantly I said never mind; remembering it’s the Sabbath and I am trying to refrain from using electronic devices as much as possible. Although I was a little irritated, I smiled because in my head I thought, this is home.

Jared D. is a participant on the 2014 Bob Malkin Young Ambassadors Teen Leadership Program.

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March of the Living Update: A New View of Israel

5 May

Ever since I had the privilege of taking a trip to Israel last summer as a Young Ambassador, I was convinced that I had been a true witness of history, a part of a culture, and a member of a populous family. I made connections with the land while in the desert, which is when I finally caught a glimpse of spirituality. Since then, I’ve experienced dreams of passed family members, I gained an identity as a real Zionist, and my family and I occasionally practiced Shabbat together at home on Friday nights. This time around, however, Israel treated me a bit differently. I wasn’t googly-eyed and so awestruck like I was on my summer trip. Regardless of it being my first time, the feelings were all different. The first time, I was nervous, I was scared, and I was curious. This time, on my March of the Living trip, once I got over my goosebumps at Ben Gurion airport, I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t feel like a stranger. I didn’t take the land for granted; I did feel like I was at home.

madison 1

On Shabbat, there was a hustle and bustle through the streets up until 6:44 PM; when all of the stores closed, people went home and the streets were practically empty. It wasn’t like in America, in my own house, where we decide when sundown is — and it usually doesn’t occur until we’re all ready (and we all aren’t always there for it, either). In Israel, for Shabbat, obviously with a ridiculous contrast to Poland, Friday nights are reserved for families, prayer, and a visit to the Kotel. While in the states, Shabbat happened when I was ready, and in Israel, the sun unfortunately does not set according to your schedule. It was amazing again to see how barren the streets were all in observance of Shabbas. At the Kotel there were peoples of all kinds who paused their schedules to observe this holiday that, in the States, is sometimes seen as a little inconvenient. Not being able to wear shorts, shower, cook, or use technology? What’s the point? But then one realizes there’s more to the strict observances of Shabbat than rabbinical practices. There’s a history.

While Shabbas observance began thousands of years ago, my appreciation and understanding of its importance doesn’t begin until we consider 1941. Jews didn’t convert and they didn’t stop practicing their beliefs on holidays and at the end of the week. I learned that so many Jews died with their last wishes being to hear a shofar on Yom Kippur; so many Jews wanted a rabbi’s blessing; so many Jews just wanted to be wrapped in tzitzit, to wear tefillin, to read a prayer.  So, where does a simple American girl fall into all of this? Well, once you visit the sites of hell and destruction, you can feel where, you can see where, you can smell where. If these Jews died for their religion and beliefs, then I know I was put here to keep defending it. When I would go to temple, I would stare at the clock, I would never pray, and I most certainly would never think to have a “conversation” with god. Well, my friends and family, I have news for you. After witnessing the proof of destruction and imagining all of you being a part of the horror, I decided that it’s time for me to take this seriously.  I have had the privilege to come across the world to firsthand see the evidence of the Shoah, and it is now my time to take my learning and become the teacher to the rest of my generation and future generations.

Even though I felt like my first trip to Israel gave me the connection I needed to be a true Zionist, my feelings now are stronger than ever.

madison desert

Madison B.  is a participant of The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee’s 2014 March of the Living delegation.

March of the Living is presented in partnership with the Shapiro Teen Engagement Program (STEP) of The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee. 

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