Boothright: Israel 2013
By Thomas Sieberat '13 | april, 2013, Issue 1
Booth students gather near the Sea of Galilee with the Mayor of Lower Galilee (center bottom), who hosted the students for one day of their trek.
(Photo courtesy of David Kelley)
On our final day in Tel Aviv we took a boat out on the Mediterranean. The water was choppy and it wasn't long before several of us received a blast of sea water in the face. When asked about the water temperature, one individual responded straight-faced and casually: "It's not bad. It's not as cold as the Sea of Galilee, but not as warm as the Dead Sea." It took a minute for us to realize how outrageous it was to be able to use those two historical locations as a reference point. It's one of those things you might only get to say once in a lifetime.
Over the course of a week, Yoav Mordowicz '13 and Eran Koren '13 led 38 Boothies on a behind-the-scenes tour of Israel. For seven jam-packed days, we hiked, camped, toured, swam, boated and rode our way from the green northern coast of Galilee to the grey southern deserts of Negev. Along the way, we gained a unique perspective on the history, the culture and the nightlife of the country.
We visited more than 15 significant historical sites and several cities. As we wandered down a winding cobblestone street in Jerusalem, church bells from a nearby cathedral loudly competed with the call to prayer from a neighborhood mosque. This was pretty cool. Experiences like this encapsulate what is so unique and appealing about this country.
While we got our fill of history, we also received a good dose of Israeli culture. I shared my first Passover Seder dinner with 40 friends and 200 Israelis. Going into the night, I had expected a reserved, religious dinner. I was very wrong. Throughout "dinner" the group sang traditional songs while Rabbis read prayers and moved through the crowd. One Rabbi became fond of the Booth crew and repeatedly came over to clank wine glasses and encourage us to "celebrate more." So we did...and breaking news: Boothies can go through a lot of wine.
Tourists by day, we were connoisseurs of culture by night. Each evening we overate at massive meals, trying dishes such as Falafel, Baklava, Hummus and Tahini. After dinner, we proceeded to events at bars and clubs. The nightlife scene in Tel Aviv runs the gamut from bumping clubs and lounges that feel like you are in Europe to relaxed bars and pubs that seem plucked from Chicago.
The trip was unique in that we had access to things that many tourists usually do not. The Mayor of Galilee led us on a tour of Nazareth and an Israeli Major led us on a tour of a Special Forces Unit. Further, in Eran and Yoav, we had two Israeli friends who could give us detailed insights into places we visited and help us negotiate when we needed to.
Looking back a few months ago, it seemed funny to me that I had originally been concerned about safety while traveling in Israel. Israel felt like any Western European city, if not more secure.
On the flight home, I thought a lot about the week. In a way, it was similar to the entire Booth experience. Learn a lot, push yourself and have a great time with good people. I don't think there is a much better way to kick off the final quarter at Booth. To any first years considering spring break plans next year, don't pass this up!