Friday, January 3, 2014

An Aspergers' Eye View of Israel Part 1

Neve Ilan
The statistics are the easy part: 24 Participants, 3 Israeli soldiers, 6 Madrichim, 1 Israeli tour guide, 1 Israeli Ethiopian Bus Driver and 1 Israeli medic, 10 days touring in Israel, two 11+ hour El Al airplane flights and one  wonderful and amazing experience for all of us.  On our birthright trip we visited all of the important Israel touch stones with just a few changes from other Birthright trips.  We stay  at only two different Kibbutzim first at the lovely Neve Ilan  and 2 nights up in the Galilee at Kibbutz Gonen.

Kibbutz Gonen
I think that on many birthright trips the participants become friends and bond in a significant way as they visit important historical sites in Israel.  This trip is designed to pull at your heart strings and to rejuvenate an interest not only in Israel but in Judaism.  Our participants worked very hard to learn one another's names, bond together as a group and keep up with the very busy schedule.  This trip is sponsored by Shorashim and United Synagogue and we began each day with T'fillot, services.  On our first day besides getting over our jet lag we visited Independence Hall where the state of Israel was declared by David Ben Gurion, Rabin's Square and then to a volunteer project where we picked sweet potatoes for Leket, Israel's national food bank.  That evening like other evenings we had a fun program and rested at the end of the day.
Picking sweet potatoes at Leket

Camels before the ride
Tuesday we visited the Jewish quarter of the Old City and certainly a highlight was visiting the Kotel, the western wall.  That afternoon we visited Shekel, which provides community services for people with disabilities.  Our participants appreciated not just visiting the center but meeting Israelis with Aspergers as well.  My group in particular had a very intense conversation about the struggles they have all faced having Aspergers especially interacting with peers at school or in the workplace.

Wednesday we had a wonderful day in the Darom, or South.  After the long ride We began with a visit with the Bedouins lunch and camel rides.  The food was tasty and the camel rides were fun.  We forged on to Masada and climbed to the top by the way of the Roman ramp, which is easier to climb than the snake path which is on the other side.  It was a beautiful day and we all made it up to the top and came back down by way of the cable car.

As I start preparing for Shabbat I can't believe that just yesterday I was in Jerusalem and last week celebrating Shabbat on Neve Ilan with group of extraordinary Taglit Birthright Shorashim Bus #287 participants.  After Shabbat more on our trip and the wonderful end to our trip.  Shabbat Shalom.