Thursday, April 25, 2013
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Thursday, April 18, 2013
It is great to be home again in our own beds and showers, but it is also sad to wrap up a momentous trip: March of the Living 2013 Cincinnati Delegation. Everyone said that this was to be a "life-changing" experience and I wondered how exactly would life change? After all, we returned to the same homes, schools (ugggh), families, Chipotle and Wi Fi? What has changed? I suppose we have.
When we were nearly home and heard that our plane couldn't land in Chicago but had to be diverted to Detroit, we were all exhausted and upset. But it kept running through my head, "Remember where we have been!" Imagine our grandparents who traveled day after day in packed cattle cars only to arrive at work camps if they were lucky and gas chambers if not. How can we possibly complain about a few hours delay? Recall the Mt Herzl cemetery where kids just a bit older than our delegates fell serving the Jewish state. And we are complaining about a few hours delay? So for one, I think our PERSPECTIVE has changed.
Another thing that I noticed is an awareness of our own societal sanctioned bigotry and intolerance. During the amazing March at Auschwitz we handed out stickers for Project6million.org asking folks to make statements against hatred bigotry, racism, anti-semitism, and intolerance. Then we got on the bus and listened to raps dripping with lyrics expressing homophobia, sexism and intolerance. I am no censor, but for the first time I heard how the words that may entertain me might seem crushing to the person sitting next to me. My AWARNESS has grown changed.
Finally, this event has created an intimacy and a community such as I've rarely experienced. We left Cincinnati two weeks ago as a mash up of 34 individuals and came out as a family. There were no real cliques or outcasts. People treated each other with dignity and respect. I would tear up each time I witnessed someone reach out and put an arm around another who was struggling to hold it together at a camp or cemetery, or when the most silent/stoic soul would say something insightful at an evening debriefing session. Plus, our delegates were beyond compare! All around us, we witnessed chaperones treating their delegates like children, and they, in turn, acted exactly as they were being treated. Matt Steinberg, Rick Lefton and I had faith and respect in the Cincinnati delegates and they lived up to our expectations! We've changed in that we've become FAMILY. (#OliveGarden)
We departed with T'filat HaDerech, the prayer for a safe journey. Now we ask:
May the One Who blessed our ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah Rebecca. Leah and Rachel,
bless and make blessings of us.
We have traveled to the lands of Poland and Israel, in the footsteps of those who came before us.
We give thanks that we have returned home in peace and well-being.
May the memories of our journey remain strong and inspire our deeds.
May the connections we have forged remain a source of inspiration.
May we work to build and maintain bridges of understanding between all peoples.
May we encourage others to travel in our footsteps.
May we be blessed in the future to return to a peaceful and renewed Israel soon and in our day!
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Monday, April 15, 2013
Home Hospitality in Netanya
This afternoon the 2013 Cincinnati Delegation on the March of the Living met a group of 26 Israeli high school students from Cincinnati's sister city in Israel: Netanya. These Israelis and their families will each be hosting one or two participants in our group all day today and overnight, which gives our Cincinnati teens a once in a lifetime unique experience of Israeli culture spanning over two of the most important days in the Israeli calendar: Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) and Yom Ha'Atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day). No other March of the Living Delegation gets this unique opportunity, which is a testament to Cincinnati's connection to Israel. The day started with the Yom Hazikaron ceremony at a local Netanya high school, and our group is getting a true immersive experience of Israeli culture these last few days in Israel.
During this time of reflection near the end of the trip, we look back on our experience over the past two weeks. The stark contrast between the dark, cold, dreary Poland landscape with the bright, warm, and joyous week in Israel forces everyone to give deeper thought to the entire experience of March of the Living. If you have been following the blog, you have gotten a little bit of insight into our experience through the pictures and posts from our participants. We have seen and felt so much over the past two weeks, and it has been a privilege to share this experience with our fantastic group of Cincinnati teenagers and staff in the 2013 March of the Living Delegation from Cincinnati. As someone who has led the March of the Living previously, I can say that each delegation brings its own spirit, energy, and identity to the experience, and because of this, no two years of March of the Living are ever the same.
This year's group is particularly thoughtful and contemplative. The experience has been a true emotional roller-coaster, and seeing the group navigate such a wide array of feelings, thoughts, and emotions with just the right mix of grace, compassion, empathy, and humor is heart warming. This group truly supports each other, whether it be through providing a shoulder to lean on, engaging in meaningful discussions and reflections, sharing different perspectives, or even cracking a joke to lighten the mood when appropriate, this group knows the importance of community and the value of empathizing with others.
Our theme for Shabbat in Israel has been "slow down." As we near the end of the trip, everyone is focusing on absorbing as much as possible and getting the most out of their experience on the trip together. It will be great to get home and see our families and friends in Cincinnati again after a long time away, but it will certainly be bitter-sweet to say goodbye to our MOTL family we have been living with for these intense weeks. We have built such close ties and bonds with each other, and that is a precious thing. We are all anxious to share as much of our experience as we can with our families, friends, and community when we return, but our group will always have a special bond and connection because of what we have been through together.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Hi, this is Benji and Tessa reporting live from the Holy Land. Today we went to Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and The Yitzak Rabin Israeli History Museum. It was inspirational because we all learned a lot about the state of Israel and the connection to the Holocaust. In addition, today is also known as Yom Hazikaron, the day of remembrance for the fallen soldiers. Although, both Benji and I have been to Israel before, we have never experienced these holidays. It was a memorable sight to see all of Israel pause for a moment of silence and come together in unity. The cultural and spiritual connection we feel for this country was heightened after learning about the foundation and people of Israel. And even though we couldn't understand what the people were saying at Rabin Square, we all got to see the emotion and sadness on other's faces. Tomorrow we are meeting our host families in Netanya, our sister city.
-Benji Kriner and Tessa Rothfeld
Friday, April 12, 2013
SHABBAT SHALOM Y'ALL!
Waking up at four o'clock in the morning is never an easy task, but it was so worth it to wake up before dawn to climb Masada. After a chilly night in the Bedouin tent, I was ready to get going on our hike. We took the route that the Romans made thousands of years ago, when they stormed Masada. With each step of the hike, the view got more and more beautiful. The desert was unlike any other place I've ever been before. It's so mysterious, yet so beautiful and teaming with life. After the hike, Arava took us to the highest point of Masada to watch the sunrise. Slowly, we began to see the sun peak from behind the mountains. Who would have ever thought I would be watching the sunrise with my family, in the most beautiful place I've ever been before. Arava taught us about the tragedy on top of Masada with some funny skits and some meaningful conversations. After exploring Masada, we could either take the cable car down the mountain or take the treacherous snake path. We then had a delicious breakfast at the Masada resort.
One of the things I have been most looking forward to was going to the Dead Sea. A 30 minute drive took us to the Ein Gedi Spa. We jumped out of the bus and started our hike to the beach. My first step into the turquoise water was perfect, not too cold, just right. We floated on our bellies and back in the salty water; I'm still in awe of how awesome the experience was. After a long swim, we decided to put Dead Sea mud on our bodies. It made my skin so soft, even though we looked ridiculous. At the resort we could soak in the sulfur bath or shower, or even take a swim in the pool. The time to leave the resort came too soon and we were off the Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem we went to our first market experience. The city was bustling with it's pre-Shabbat traffic. Everyone making sure that they had what they need for Shabbat. After a quick shopping trip it was time to go to the hotel in Jerusalem.
Today was a day filled with hiking, swimming and shopping. What could be better? I absolutely love it here in Israel; never have I been in a place where I feel like I belong like this. Israel will be forever a second home to me and I can't wait to see what else this beautiful country has in store with me.
P.S. Dear all moms and dads- we are not ignoring you! We don't have wifi in this hotel! Love all of us who are wifi deprived.