Birthright Journal - Day 1

A few weeks ago, I went on Birthright a.k.a. a free 10-day trip to Israel for Jews. I decided to keep a journal because I knew I’d forget half the stuff I did. Surprisingly, I didn’t forget about the journal three days in, and now I have around 30 pages worth of ramblings. So I have made it into an easier-to-read 10-part series I will add to every day until it’s done, breaking it up by day.

A lot of this journal is mostly “we did this” and “look at that”. I figured that it’d be more interesting to read that along with my experiences and thoughts on them. So I try not to name drop or gossip in this.

After reading this over and editing, I noticed how vulnerable and honest with myself I was when writing this. I’ve decided to keep all that candidness in because perhaps someone will get something a little deeper out of it then "I'm glad he appreciated this free trip he didn't have to pay for".

Also, try to guess all the song reference/parodies I put into this!

5/19

“Touch down in the land of the delta Gold…”

The Airport is so quiet. I don't think it's because of Shabbat, though. Half the airport looks like it’s closed for the day, but there are still long lines. I heard a rumor that they give you cake when you land...

No cake… maybe it’s only those who make Aliyah.

I kind of figured they are necessary for our modern lives : ) I'm surprised at how much I've retained at Hebrew words!

Wasted no time getting the one thing I know about Israel that I am so excited for. “Mikupelet”. The best chocolate bar I’ve ever had! Supposedly, it’s top secret how they get that peculiar shape, but isn’t it obvious that they feed it through a Playdough angel hair thingy? People seem to have a hard time describing Israel, so here it is, So far, the (Negev) landscape feels and looks like Arizona mixed with southern California, but it’s more green and less garbage-ey. There are Bedouin houses everywhere alongside the one highway. Apparently, they still live in the 1800’s, but are right next to cars and stuff.

How to DIY a Bedouin house: take some sheet metal, a hood from an old car, and a lid off a dumpster, prop it up against a chain-link fence and put a tarp over it. Viola!

There is no room between car lanes. Status: I feel like everything has regressed back to high school. Everyone seems to know each other because a lot of them are from U of I or the same sororities or something like that. Am I the only one who wanted to know nobody going into this? maybe things will change as we all get to know each other more. ---

Went to a mall in Be'er Sheva. Had my first proper Israeli shawarma. I asked him if it was kosher, and his response was (and forgive me for the rough translation, here), “Pfft! Are you kidding me!?” But he seemed so happy to see Americans or tourists that he gave us some falafel for free!

Some people I've been talking to, including some of the Israelis are kind of nerdy like me, so that's cool. Bioshock, AOT, Star Wars, movies, the whole gambit . Now we’re at a kibbutz called “Misabi’im”. Now that I think back to the summer camp I went to, Mosheva works a lot like a kibbutz… or a cult compound you'd see on tv; but then again, what's wrong with that? Then again, this is the first thing we did to begin our trip: they drove us to the middle of nowhere in the desert and made us close our eyes and open our mouths to put a piece of chocolate in them. It's the cow firecracker chocolate, but I didn’t know it was, so me and one other person sat out, being allergic to peanuts. ---

Hope we find our room :) And this is what I'm working with...

Notice how the sink is in a different room. The room with the shower. So, if you’re doing your thing while someone’s in the shower, and you’re done, you’re literally “shit outta luck”.

---

To usher in Shabbat, everyone went around the room and discussed what their experience with Shabbat was and what they want to get out of their birthright experience. About 70% had the same response: “Shabbat is normally where me and my friends get together for the night/ I go to the Hillel/ It’s the one day we sit down and talks and mom cooks dinner, and I want to learn more about Israel and meet new people.”

Funny; a lot of these “meet new people” people are staying very close to the people they signed up with.

Anyways, it came to me who was trying to keep from nodding off, and I had the one different speech: “I don’t wanna put a damper in all the positivity, but I grew up very religious and my Shabbat experience was very negative. I lived too far to walk to people’s houses, so it was typically the five of us cooped up in a house with no TV. By the end of Shabbat, everyone had cabin fever and just yelled at each other.

Since then, about seven years ago, I’ve been pulling back from the religious stuff so I didn’t hate myself, but I have had a very bitter taste in my mouth about Judaism: the religion, the people, and the community. I decided to go on Birthright, not knowing anybody, to give it all another chance. “A nu start”, if you will.”

---

At a bar. Great… they have loud, noisy bars in Israel, too. How to dance at a bar: pretend you’re seasick on a boat about to capsize. The beating headache you’re feeling is actually the baseline. Pro tip: for those ladies feeling frisky, sway your hips and pretend you’re sensually putting on lotion on your arms. Pinkies out!

I’m also so glad that our shitty music went international, like “Turn Down for What”, “Gold Digger”, and a Spanish- sounding song that sounds like “Desperate Cheetos”.

(Update: the song is called “Despacito” with Justin Bieber in it. Ugh!)

Oh hey, Macklemore. Macklemore’s great! I guess it wasn’t all bad. --- Leaving the bar, a lot of people were very entertained by my “U of I tour guide” impression. If someone finds a video of it somewhere, I accidentally say “UIC” the whole time. Maybe it’s for the best because then I’m not “dissing” their school. Seriously, there are a bunch of people here who exclusively packed their college shirts and fraternity/sorority tank tops. Jesus! You just graduated! No one in Israel cares that you went to school in the middle of nowhere, United States and were in Delta Gamma who-gives-a-crap!

Fair is fair, though. I exclusively packed Star Wars shirts and “Life is Good” shirts. But in my defense, who can’t relate to BB-8 or the phrase “Life is Good”?

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