Friday, September 11, 2015

Birthright Trip to Israel: Day 4 (The Sabbath, Thank God)

Because it was the Sabbath, we got to sleep in! I couldn't believe it, but I actually slept until 9AM! Then I rushed to breakfast because it ended at 10AM, and I knew I'd be grouchy if I didn't get breakfast. I enjoyed mostly pastries and fruit, and then headed to our group's yoga session (I was so glad we just happened to have a yoga instructor in our group!). I had never done yoga outside before, and I really enjoyed feeling the lush grass and practicing under the shade of a tree (but we were on a slope, which was not ideal). I was very relaxed afterward, especially since we had never had the time to stretch before or after our hikes/long walks during the previous days. I was also quite pleased when others complimented me on my yoga skills (I do practice it once or twice a week!).

Then we all met up, and the group was divided into many smaller groups. Each of our groups discussed the daily Torah portion (Yes, that's a thing. I didn't know that!). My group talked about how your attitude or perspective can affect the outcome of your life. We talked about being an optimist versus a pessimist (we found that the Israelis have a more negative outlook on things), and also discussed living in the moment and enjoying the company of those around you (I was actually one of the few people on the trip who didn't bring a cell phone with me.). Then it was already time for lunch, and we got to enjoy some of the same desserts from the night before (cakes, pies, tortes, oh my!).

Next we had more discussions. We talked about "Jewish Identity" and what that means (This again was a small group activity, but I think it should have been something we did individually, since identity is as much an individuality thing as it is a group mentality.). Of course you can think of "Jewish Identity" as a whole (i.e. for all Jews), but that can differ from what it means on a personal level. For me, my Jewish identity is solidified in my family and the celebration of holidays like Passover and Hanukkah. But for others it means keeping a kosher home, observing the Sabbath, marrying another Jewish person, etc. Our second discussion was to prepare us for our visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. We did a shoe exercise where everyone took off one shoe and then others in the group had to describe the person who would wear that shoe (male, female, stylish, rich, etc.); this was to represent the fact that some of the only things left of the people who died in the Holocaust were items like their shoes. We also looked at images from the Holocaust, like the tattoos that survivors have on their arms or the emaciated bodies of the victims. The entire time we were talking, I kept thinking about the book Rena's Promise and how much I learned about the Holocaust through her story as a survivor.

Afterward we had some time to relax. Of course I like my "relaxing" time to be productive, but it wasn't. I couldn't fall asleep for a nap, and when I tried to read outside, one of the guys in my group insisted on having an awkward discussion about feminism (For example, he claims that birth rates amongst educated women are down because they claim they want to marry smart men but really they don't. Um, what?).

For dinner we got to go out on Ben-Yehuda Street in Jerusalem and could choose where we wanted to eat. Many of us went to an Italian place called Focaccia. The food was amazing: goat cheese pizza, sweet potato ravioli and lasagna, and of course focaccia bread. Since we were in smaller groups, the dinner allowed us to get to know one another better, which was really nice. Then we had time to go shopping (many of the stores gave discounts for people visiting on Birthright trips). I found a beautiful menorah as well as gifts for family members. Then it was time to head back to our luxurious hotel for the night.

What a relaxing day! It was awesome!

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