Wednesday, January 8, 2014

An Aspergers' Eye View of Israel Part 2

The second part of our trip included the usual sites of Yad V'shem, the Holocaust memorial, the archeological excevations at the Kotel, walking on Ben Yehudah
View from Yad V'Shem at the end of the tour

Street and buying souvenirs, visiting Tzfat and the ancient synagogues, a jeep ride in the Golan Heights.

Goat Farmers
Some unusual sites that other trips do not typically visit included a Goat farm outside of Jerusalem that makes fresh cheese, uses a wind mill for all of their energy and has a well for their water.  They put new meaning into living "off" the grid.

We also visited an IDF base which sends first responders to crisis areas in Israel and throughout the world.  They have been to Haiti and more recently to the Philippines.  They showed us the machines they take with them when they go to help people in need.

IDF 1st Responder Base 

Artist David Friedman in Tzfat
We also visited the Israeli Children's Museum which has a special exhibit where you experience everything with sound blocking headphones on and you are required to communicate with no words.  Our participants for the most part do not find it easy to read facial expressions or communicate especially without words.  It was a fascinating experience and our participants tried doubly hard to work at communicating.  We then continued up north and stayed 2 nights at Kibbutz Gonen.  We visited Tzfat and our participants enjoyed Kabalistic artist David Friedman.  They readily were able to see patterns and relate to numbers and concepts presented by the artist.  

Our last day we spent a long day touring in Jerusalem and our last stop was Har Herzl, the national cemetery. Our solider/participants once again donned their uniforms as they had at Yad V'shem.  Visiting an army cemetery with soldiers and seeing the graves of Golda Meir, Yitzhak and Leah Rabin made  a lasting impression on all of us.

Our Soldiers and Guide at Har Herzl

I think though my favorite part of the trip was on the last evening before heading to the airport.  We had a closing program where we reflected together about our trip.  Everyone went around the circle and told one another what the trip had meant. I know that I am a cryer and I was crying about 2 people into the circle.  Many participants stated that they felt part of a community for the first time.  They expressed how close they felt to one another and I can tell you that I was not the only one crying by the end of the circle.  Some participants reflected that they could have seen Israel with a "regular" Birthright but had elected to go on this trip because they knew they would feel more comfortable, enjoy themselves and be a real part of the group.

I loved every minute of the trip, ok, not the 12 hour layover when we got back to JFK airpot but I applaud all of the participants for coming on this trip.  They were forced to move out of their comfort zones at every turn and they experienced Israel for 10 days.  They became a group of friends who like any other Taglit/Birthright saw Israel with their peers and learned the lessons of Jewish history.  In the case of Shorashim Taglit Birthright Bus #287 they also had the experience of traveling, learning and touring with friends, real friends.