And the answer is…

imageBy Varda Nauen

Greetings from 21 members of the Congregational Trip to Israel:

We just are wrapping up Day 3 – another incredible, action-packed adventure. A democratic decision was made to share the blogging fun among all of us. So hi (Shalom!) – this is Varda Nauen – today’s official blogger and reporting live from the Grand Beach Hotel in Tel Aviv, a very short walk to the Mediterranean Sea. I decided to conduct a short poll with almost everyone in our group, about our experiences thus far in Israel, and want to share some results and fun facts and colorful commentary with you:

What about Israel surprised you or was unexpected? This question had many comments about Tel Aviv; including: how completely safe it feels here and no guns are seen anywhere; motorcycles driving on the sidewalk; easy to find sophisticated craft cocktails; how different Tel Aviv is from 10 years ago – in a good way; its vivaciousness, so relaxed and cosmopolitan. Other unexpected surprises included not realizing that Israel has been fighting non–stop; how moving it was to meet a member of the Palmach; not expecting Jaffa to be so hip and trendy; the opposition to support the Reform Movement; lack of mosquitos; and, the terrible airplane flight.

How many times have you been to Israel? It’s the first visit for the overwhelming majority of us – 60%. Others have been here 2, 3, even 5 times, but Rabbi Spilker definitely wins with 10+ visits.
What has been your favorite food so far? Many of us REALLY like the iced coffee, which was the most popular choice. Other deliciousness enjoyed includes treats like baba ganousch, Moroccan chicken, lemon chicken, hummus, roasted eggplant, falafel, Israeli salad, Halvah, fresh fruit and vegetables, chocolate babka, and sambusak.
What has been the highlight of your trip thus far? (Note: Last night we attended Shabbat services at a local Reform congregation, and then we were all invited to Shabbat dinner with families at various homes.) It was a very special, fun, and meaningful experience for every one of us, and almost everyone mentioned this as their top highlight so far of the trip. Others mentioned visiting Jaffa, with its mix of ancient and modern styles and architecture; visiting the Palmach Museum (the elite resistance companies of the Haganah); seeing the beautiful views of the Mediterranean, and one person (who shall remain nameless) most especially enjoyed the handsome male joggers.
Next, do you know the names of everyone in our group? Surprisingly, quite a few of us are still figuring that out, but the majority (71%) know the names of the other 20 in the group.
What about Israel surprised you or was unexpected? This question had many comments about Tel Aviv; including: how completely safe it feels here and no guns are seen anywhere; motorcycles driving on the sidewalk; easy to find sophisticated craft cocktails; how different Tel Aviv is from 10 years ago – in a good way; its vivaciousness, so relaxed and cosmopolitan. Other unexpected surprises included not realizing that Israel has been fighting non–stop; how moving it would be to meet a member of the Palmach; not expecting Jaffa to be so hip and trendy; the opposition to support the Reform Movement; lack of mosquitos; and, the terrible airplane flight.
Finally, inquiring minds wanted to know what we learned about Israeli life from our host families at Shabbat Dinner last night. We had a lot to say on this topic, including: There are ordinary heroes here fighting for progressive Judaism without much glory. It is challenging to be a Reform Jew in Israel. Israel is very family-oriented, people who hosted us are not different from us – it was easy to bond. Residents feel extremely safe. Parenting is similar. It is densely populated and crowded. It is expensive. It was interesting how open the families were in meeting with us. Learned the perspective of moms with their kids coming out of the army (IDF), and how important it was for them in terms of camaraderie, life experience and travel.. Impressed by how well-informed the young people were about politics in both Israel and the US.
Every day we are gathering many new experiences. we enjoyed pausing and reflecting a moment, so early in our trip.

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2 thoughts on “And the answer is…

  1. Thanks for being our Personal Reporter of the group! It was interesting to hear the answers to your questions, and I couldn’t help thinking back when we were there(for Engliyada) what I might have answered. The Israeli breakfast was a highlight under the food category — and spending time
    going thru the open markets and seeing the huge variety of spices, dates, etc. It was also sobering not to see guns unless you went to the bus station, and especially on the afternoon erev Shabbat as the soldiers were going home for the holiday. I was also amazed how important the service in the army was — a real right of passage — which create bonds between young people and everyone else they would ever meet. A magical place, Israel. So glad you’re enjoying it!

  2. Actually, correction. Everyone is blogging and reporting; you’re the one doing the “Interviewing.”
    A nice approach. Thanks!

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