Monday, April 15, 2013

Day 13: 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.

-Matt Steinberg

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