July 15, 2013 A Day of Highs and Lows

Sunday marked the beginning of the last third of our Y2I Adventure, with the arrival of 24 Israeli teens and our destination the Negev—south to the desert.

Before the Israelis arrived, we heard from Doron Kornbluth, author and lecturer, who presented inspiring thoughts for us to think about regarding being and staying Jewish. The essence of Doron’s talk was about the miracles of the Jewish People and the existence of the State of Israel. Essentially, he touched on three areas:

1. The survival of the Jewish People against all odds. Despite being persecuted and exiled for centuries, and despite being so small in numbers, the Jewish People have survived. We can take great pride in the fact that we are the oldest nation and religion on earth, with a chain of tradition that goes back thousands of years. Doron remarked about Mark Twain’s fascination with this detail, having written and published articles about our survival and contributions. If you want to read mark Twain’s piece, it is called “About the Jews”.

2. Our accomplishments far exceed our numbers. Despite being less than one-quarter of one percent of the world’s population, Jewish people have made, and continue to make remarkable contributions to all fields of human endeavor, which improve the quality of life for all. Testament to this fact is the number of Nobel Prize winners who are Jewish—a bit more than 20%; and the number who are of Jewish ancestry—about 33%. Last year Doron was lecturing in Sweden immediately after the announcement of the Nobel Prize winners. He asked his host if he had ever thought about the number of Jewish winners. The host said they are not allowed to talk about it, but all are well aware. How interesting….

3. Our return to the Land of Israel. Despite being in exile for thousands of years, the Jewish People returned to the Land of Israel, fulfilling the prophecy of being a “Light unto the Nations”. Israel was turned from nothing (swamp land, desert) to a gorgeous and thriving country, a place where roses bloom in the desert, and start-ups are higher than any place else on earth. How incredible for such a small country!

Doron gave teens some great answers to the question “Why Be Jewish?”.

Immediately following Doron’s presentation, we toured the Ayalon ammunitions factory, where we heard the fascinating story about how the early defense force manufactured ammunitions in a secret underground factory. It was quite an unbelievable story of will, determination and ingenuity.

And then finally, the moment everyone waited for…the arrival of 24 Israelis. It was fantastic! Kids instantly introduced themselves, mingled, and began the getting-to-know you process without any prompts from adults. From the moment of their arrival, it’s been terrific, with new friendships forming all the time. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly teens discover what they have in common, and they take it from there. New friendships are forming, ones that will last long past the trip, adding to the richness of the Y2I experience.

Together we all enjoyed an authentic Israeli lunch—pita, salad, and chips (French fries), which was so incredibly yummy! The pictures say it all.

Following lunch, we made our way to the million-star hotel in the desert—the Bedouin tent. It was a beautiful night, complete with camel rides, drumming circle, and roasted marshmallows.

It was early lights out because at 2:30 a.m. we were up and on the road by 3:15 a.m. We made it to Masada before sunrise, and then ascended the mountain, by foot, in time to see the dawning of a new day. Truly inspiring. We toured the fortress, which is another incredible piece of our history, and then we made our way down, on foot, via the Snake Path. We did all this by 8 a.m.!

And here we are, by the shore of the Dead Sea, the LOWEST POINT ON EARTH, for a restful morning of floating in the Sea, swimming in the pool, and another delicious lunch buffet. Perhaps a few adventurous souls will cover themselves with the therapeutic mud of the Sea.

I am indoors, enjoying the view, as I write this update. But I am looking out and seeing how much fun your children are having.

After lunch we will head to Neve Ilan, our final hotel on the trip. Neve Ilan, a beautiful resort hotel, is on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and it boasts beautiful grounds, breathtaking sunsets, and of course, memorable buffets.

Tonight teens are in for a real special program. Haddasah and Tzlila Bau, daughters of Joseph  and Cyla Bau, will talk about their parents’ remarkable story of survival (Holocaust). Their parents’ marriage was featured in the movie Shindler’s List. Joseph went on to become Israel’s first illustrator and he worked for the Mossad (Israel’s Secret Service). Part history lesson, part storytelling, and part entertainment, tonight’s program will help prepare teens for our visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum and Memorial.

It’s crazy to think how much we have done in one short week. With a few days left to go, I already hear words of sadness coming from teens that they wish it wasn’t going by so fast. I feel the same…

Y2I 2013 is proving to be a special and memorable group. Your kids are great and we are all enjoying this wonderful adventure together.

On behalf of Y2I 2013, with love from the shores of the Dead Sea, Israel,

Debbie Coltin

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