Sunday, July 12, 2015

Reunited and it feels so good

Well, we are finally all back together again!  After a wonderful weekend spending it with our host families, we reconvened in the city of Caesarea where we had the chance to tour a bit around the old Roman ruins, snorkel around an archeological site and then learn a bit of Israeli martial arts on the beach.  What a fantastic day back together and tomorrow is another busy day with the Ba'hai Gardens in Haifa, meeting a Schindler's List Survivor and kite making in an artist colony.  Check out the blog posts from students below on their experience during their Electives Week.

Blog post by Alana Horwitz

When the bus pulled into the Gadna base camp, I turned to my friend and asked her whether or not she thought it would be too late for me to switch electives. Naturally, she laughed, but I was not joking. I was completely terrified to spend four days as a "member " of the IDF. As soon as I stepped off the bus, I was told to run to the basketball court. Our commanders immediately gave us uniforms and water bottles. From there, we brought our belongings to our very cramped rooms and once we got situated, we were given a tour of the base. Right before dinner, we met the person in charge of our commanders, who was a frail looking female who was also one of the most intimidating individuals I have ever met. On the second day, each team took classes on guns, because they were preparing us to shoot them on the final day. It was hard to stay awake because everyone was so exhausted, but it was crucial for us to understand everything they were teaching us, so we took a plethora of ice cream and energy drink breaks in between classes to ensure that we would stay awake. We woke up the next morning and had a field day. We were taught how to camouflage ourselves. We poured our water into the dirt to make mud, and we smothered it all over our faces. From there, we found random plants to put all over our uniforms. Our commander told us to hide, and so many of us did such a great job camouflaging that she could not even find us! Later that day, each team was given a mission to create a shelter where at least three people could hide, and they would have to escape it within 4 seconds in case a grenade was thrown at it. My team found a tree, sent three girls in, and then moved a dead tree in front of the entrance. The commanders analyzed our "project", along with the other two team. Later, the winners were announced, and my team won!' That night, we went on a masa, which can be translated to an excursion/journey. I was chosen, along with three other participants, to carry the gurney. We ran 3 km, with only 3 breaks in between. During one of the breaks, we were given an order to army crawl in between two places with around a 50 foot span. This was the most powerful event of my entire Gadna experience. Every time someone reached their destination, they would get up and cheer all of the other participants on. Without the help of the IST community, it would have been very difficult for many people to complete the mission. On the last day, we were finally brought to the shooting range. Every single one of the participants shot an M-16, which is a very large and powerful gun. In my opinion, it was terrifying. I am glad I was given the opportunity to shoot it though, because it really helped me imagine what it would be like if I were in the shoes of an actual IDF soldier. Throughout the 4 days in Gadna, each and every single participant became closer and formed powerful bonds. Everyone shared their positive attitude to help motivate their peers to continue working their hardest during the experience. I can now say that I am extremely happy that I signed up for Gadna, and I would not want to have missed out on one minute of it.


Israeli Martial Arts on the Beach

Around Caesarea

Blog post by Eric Simon

WOW!!! I can't believe I have been here for 26 days. I have done so many incredible things that have truly changed my life but at the same time I feel nothing has been done. These past four days embarked on a truly extraordinary trip. I was lucky enough to hike 4 days from one side of Israel to the other. The trip was roughly 30 miles in the boiling sun and I couldn't have asked for a better 4 days. This hike taught me the meaning of perseverance, friendship, encouragement, and optimism. Through this hike I learned that achieving a goal that seemed nearly impossible is the most accomplishing feeling anyone can feel. I am so honored and proud to be able to say that at 17 years old I was able to hike across a country. The friends that I made on this trip weren't just new friends, they were friends I have known for years but yet this trip strengthened our bond and I truly feel like I met them all over again. During this hike one common conversation that was constantly being overheard was about ourselves. Nothing specific just us. Something that we feel is important to us. Something that no one else can say. These conversations, I discovered, got me through the hike and helped me push to the end. They showed me that people are different and not just different, they are nothing alike but yet so similar. NOt one person didn't have something to say about themselves. Whether it be family, life, career goals, ideology, sexuality, bowel movements, etc. it was something important to them and that was the best part of sea to sea for me.

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