Disclaimer: This is a retelling of my week in Israel and does not address or reflect any opinions on the sensitive political situation in the region.
Booth’s student-led trek to Israel, cleverly nicknamed BoothRight after the Jewish youth heritage trip, sent approximately 150 second-year students to the Middle East on our own rite of passage. Despite having been to the region before, I was blown away by the rich and unique culture Israel has to offer.
Our first stop was Jerusalem, the hotly-disputed holy city for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It was surreal exploring the Old City and seeing the Temple Mount and Western Wall, important sites for Muslims and Jews, respectively, all within one vantage point. And just steps away, we toured the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
We spent one night in a Bedouin tent and, soon enough, belly dancers emerged to entertain us, randomly selecting unlucky participants to flaunt their dance moves. After some nargile, or hookah, we woke to see the sunrise from Masada, an ancient fortress. At the Dead Sea, we sloppily covered ourselves in mud and took copious photos. Despite having heard how easy it is to float, I was still shocked to find myself rolling backwards and forwards as I floated on my back. In the north, we ATVed, took in the views from Mount Bental, and toured a kibbutz, an agricultural commune of sorts. Israel has a surprisingly vast topography for a country the size of New Jersey!
During the nights, we enjoyed some fine dining. In the later hours, Boothies cut loose at bars, lounges, pool parties, campfires, and nightclubs, all over shots of arak. And in the mornings, we rejuvenated over bountiful breakfasts. In jest, one tour guide kept describing us Boothies as “doing the unholiest of things, in the holiest of lands.” Similarly, student Liam Kennedy often commented, “this is sordid.”
All things were not unholy, though. En route to Nazareth, we stopped at Caparneum, home to ancient synagogue ruins and the supposed home of Saint Peter. In Nazareth, we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation, where it is said that the angel Gabriel spoke to Virgin Mary. In the West, we read so much about the region, often from the context of politics, so it was interesting to hear different opinions throughout the trip. On the political and historical fronts, we visited an Israeli Airbase, and also heard from the Mayor of Tel Aviv and a journalist panel. Personally, most impactful was the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, where we also had the opportunity to listen to an emotional narration from a Holocaust survivor.
We wrapped the trip up in Tel Aviv, where we explored Old Jaffa, the flea market, and, of course, more of the nightlife. And on Saturday, the sabbath, we had our own day of rest at the beach worthy of a true Spring Break.
A special shout-out to our awesome trip organizers. The transition to chilly Chicago has been difficult, and very lacking in hummus.
Fred once had a hot sauce collection of over 30 bottles.