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Birthright Israel Travelogue: Final Edition

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Tuesday was the only day we traveled out of Jerusalem to the Tel Aviv- Jaffa area. Our first stop was at Rabin Square. Here, in the center of Tel  Aviv, Prime Minster Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated after giving a pro-two state speech in 1995. A turning point for sure. We then headed to Jaffa and checked out the flea market. Jaffa is the older city of the two, being mostly Arab. Still, the flea market was an experience to bargain. Independence Hall in Tel Aviv was the next stop. We actually sat in the same room where the State of Israel was declared in 1948. Chills ran throughout our bodies. Back to the flea market for one last round of shopping and we then called it a day.
The last day in Israel was the longest so far. We started the day off at a community service project. We went to a center for the elderly, where a barter system is in place. The elderly make artwork of all sorts in exchange for food and busy work. Even though there was a language barrier, the smiles seen on their faces is all we needed to keep going. After the service, we headed to the Israeli National Museum and saw numerous exhibits. What original artwork and recovered artifacts. You must visit if close. A quick stop at a park for a magnificent view of the whole city of Jerusalem turned into an awards ceremony. Funny superlatives to say the least. A big Italian style dinner of traditional shwarma then we headed to the Mega Event. The Mega Event had all trips there, in order to see artists perform and important speakers. Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke eloquently and touched many people’s souls.
I can say for the 6 of us that we will forever cherish this journey of a lifetime. An incredible experience bonding with our homeland gave us a renewed spirit of Judaism. Watch out W&L, us 6 will turn Hillel into a force on campus.
– Washington and Lee Birthright Participants 2011

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Birthright Israel Travelogue Pt. 4: Southern Israel

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Wow! What an amazing couple of days Thursday and Friday were. Let me explain…
Thursday was our departure day from the north, but we were mising one thing. The IDF partners with Birthright to allow soldiers to join the trip. We picked up 8 soldiers and they are a blast! They are 19-21, just like us. After picking them up, we stopped at the water pumping plant. We learned about the water carrier system and their future plans.
A quick 3-hour bus ride and we arrived at a Bedouin tent. This was truly an experience. Right away they had camels and donkeys to ride. I now can say I’ve ridden a camel! We learned about the Bedouin culture, drank some tea and coffee, and had a traditional meal. Of course, we also sat around a fire, sang some songs, and slept in a tent on foam pads.
A 5 AM wake up call on Friday was harsh, but worth it. We drove to Masada and hiked the Roman Ramp (stairs). We watched the sunrise over the Jordan mountains and toured the whole site. It was spectacular. After Masada, a trip to the Dead Sea was in order. One of the neatest things ever is when you float without trying. Finally, we headed to Jerusalem where we celebrated a traditional Shabbat.
-Washington and Lee Hillel Birthright 2011

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Birthright Israel Travelogue Pt. 3: Jerusalem

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Saturday was Shabbat. That means rest was in order. There was a bar mitzvah celebration for some people who never had the opportunity to have one. Then, a havdalah service followed that on the roof top. We had a little down time before heading to Ben Yehuda St. for New Year’s. Wow, what a celebration we all had together!
Sunday was the old city of Jerusalem. The first stop was the Kottel, also known as the Western Wall. It is the center of all religion in the world. It was an emotional morning to say the least. After touring the old city, we headed to the Machne Yehuda Market. Think it is one big supermarket with vendors selling fruits, vegetables, nuts, and clothing. It was awesome to bargain for shekels.
Monday was another emotional day. We visited Yad Vashem, which is the Israeli Holocaust museum. It was very moving to hear the stories, see the pictures, and touch the evidence. Afterwards, we headed to Mount Herzl. Mount Herzl is the Israeli version of the Arlington National Cemetery. Prime ministers and soldiers are all buried together for their service. Needless to say, a somber mood came over all of us and we all remembered the lives lost over the years for our people.
-Washington and Lee Hillel Birthright Israel 2011

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Birthright Israel Travelogue Pt. 2: Golan Heights

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Days 2 and 3 of our trip led to some pretty good adventures for the six W&L students in Israel. It consisted of a lot of scenery, which you will see from some of the forthcoming pictures.
On Tuesday (Day 2) began with an early morning jeep ride through the Golan. For those who don’t know, the Golan is the mountainous north of Israel. The jeep ride was an unique way to gaze at the landscape. An olive press was next. This factory makes extra virgin olive oil, with a twist. They are the leaders of oiled cosmetics, which is an anti-aging product. In the afternoon, we hiked Mount Bental, which overlooks Lebanon and Syria. The views were once again amazing–breathtaking, actually. Finally, we stopped at De Karina chocolates, handmade artisan chocolate that is purely goodness in a bite.
Wednesday (Day 3) there was much less travel. We immediately headed out to Tzfat after breakfast. Tzfat is the spiritual city of the country. It was incredible to visit the oldest Ashkanazi and Sephardic synagogues in the country in one day. It was a reconnecting experience for us. After lunch, we headed to Mount Meron, which had a trail that encircled the peak. The 360 degrees of views were stunning. The Dalton winery was the last stop. This Kosher winery gave a us a tour and a wine tasting. It’s neat to taste an Israeli wine.
-Washington and Lee Hillel Birthright Group 2011

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Hello Israel! Birthright Trip Winter 2011 – A Travelogue

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Shalom!
After a 22-hour trip to Israel, we finally made it! Our first flight was a quick 8-hour flight over the pond, with none of us getting major sleep. A stop in Zurich for two hours instilled a new life in us as we breathed in the frigid mountain air. After a 4-hour flight from Switzerland to Israel, we landed in Tel Aviv. We all agree it was the longest day of our lives, yet that wasn’t the end.
We exchanged our US dollars for shekels (currently 3.78 per US dollar), received our Israel phone to use on our trip, and boarded our bus. Our trip leader told us it would only be a 1 1/2-hour bus ride to Galilee, but we were much later than that due to traffice.
The flip side of this long bus ride was the chance to see the Israeli landscape for the first time. The city of Tel Aviv looks amazing, as if it were a major US city. The rocky hills are unbelievable. Imagine a beautiful mix of natural rock and grass covering a hill. The picture seems like it would be out of the 15th century. Absolutely breathtaking.
When we finally arrived at the Sea of Galilee, it was dark, yet we could still get a glimpse of the sea. The aroma and scenery are spectacular. We were looking forward to going on a jeep ride through the Golan Heights and hike Mount Bental. An exciting outdoor day awaited us.
-Washington and Lee Hillel Birthright Group

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Shout-Out To Washington and Lee Hillel!

On Wednesday, September 21st, Hillel International gave a shout-out to eleven colleges and universities. Washington and Lee was one of them!
The numbers are in…and it shouldn’t be a surprise (based on previous shout-outs) that the highest numbers of deposits came from Binghamton, Cornell, UVA, and Berkeley (in that order). We also want to acknowledge some campuses with smaller Jewish populations whose deposit percentages were at or darn near 100%: Ohio University, Milwaukee, George Mason, Vermont, Purdue, Washington and Lee, and Franklin and Marshall. Terrific work – thank you!
Next week, the Pink Camel has a heavy holiday cooking schedule, so the PCT will hit your inbox again on October 4. We wish you a chag sameach and a 5772 filled with much health and happiness!
 
–Raina, Esther, Hilary, and Danielle
Hillel’s Taglit-Birthright Israel Team

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