Joel Rabinowitz, Class of 2019
This spring break, I traveled to Israel on Boothright with 160 fellow Boothies. Eight of our fellow classmates from Israel served as intrepid leaders and successfully guided us throughout the week. From the beginning, it was an incredible experience.
We started the trip touring the Old City of Jerusalem, visiting holy sites and seeing the numerous intersections among Jewish, Christian, and Muslim history in the same physical space. In a winding tour, we visited the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Via Dolorosa, and the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Quarters. As a Jew, visiting the Western Wall, the last remaining structure from the ancient Jewish Temple, was almost surreal, a moving connection with our collective past.
The next day we visited Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum, to gain a deeper understanding of the Holocaust and how that collective memory pervades the Israeli ethos. The museum’s design is particularly powerful, composed of many narrow, winding passageways structured to make visitors physically uncomfortable. We heard testimony from a Holocaust survivor and her experience hiding as a young child on a French farm, assuming the identity of a Christian girl. There were few dry eyes in the room.
From there, we traveled to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth with a salinity that makes all bathers float. As a non-floater, I was in ecstasy, pointing out that I was floating to anyone I could find. The Dead Sea mud left our skin feeling smooth, and, before we left, a rainbow appeared in the sky to cap off a meaningful day.
The following morning, we drove to Masada, the ruins of an ancient Jewish fortress overlooking the desert and Dead Sea. Given the arid climate, much of the original fortress was preserved, and we could even see the remains of the ancient Roman siege ramp. We then visited an Israeli Air Force base to learn about the role of army service in Israeli society and to better understand their experiences. We then traveled to the northeast, riding ATVs in the Galilee, particularly fun given the muddy conditions. We also visited a mountain overlooking Lebanon and Syria, giving us a firsthand view of the complexity of the region.
After all this activity, we spent the rest of the trip in Tel Aviv, exploring old Jaffa and relaxing. Tel Aviv is an incredibly modern city with excellent markets and a gorgeous beach. Some of our classmates then went to Bethlehem to see the Church of Nativity where Jesus was born.
The food on the trip was delicious, and we ate enough falafel, hummus, shawarma, and shakshuka for months. The intersection of diverse culture in Israel creates a tremendous cuisine. We were almost too full on the trip!
By the end, we were exhausted but satisfied. Over the course of just one week, we had seen most of the country! I want to thank our trip leaders Daniel Gottesmann, Dor Goldman, Roi Kessler, Ido Goren, Yonatan Ohana, Inbar Goodman, Lior Schahaf, and Gal Amran for creating such a meaningful trip. I look forward to visiting Israel again!