We began the summer up north, with all of the other seminar participants. There, we got to meet all new people from the different Ramahs. After a few days, all of the Asiyah participants headed down to Jerusalem where we completed our 60 hour MDA (Magen David Adom) training course. Before we knew it, we had graduated and were beginning our first day of volunteering on the ambulance. All of us, in pairs, were placed at 5 different stations; Beer Sheva, Netivot, Yerucham, Dimona, and Ofakim. Our days were filled with all sorts of calls from fainting and back pain to missing limbs and heart attacks.
As well, it would not be the full Ramah experience had we not gotten to spend each Shabbat in a special way along side our seminar peers. We have spent Shabbat back on the chava, with our host families, on a kibbutz, and more.
These six weeks have flown by very fast, and we will truly miss all of our new friends. We are all excited to put our newly gained knowledge to everyday use. We have each gained new life experiences and been given a great opportunity to immerse ourselves in Israeli culture. There truly is no opportunity compared to this one.
We can’t wait to tell all of our friends and family about our amazing experiences!
Before the five buses split up to go to the south, I began to feel the subtle nudge of reality that seminar was ending, but it really hit me on one of our last days in the south, while on a night hike in the desert. As I lay on the ground looking up at the stars with all of my friends, it washed over me just how much I was going to miss everyone and how thankful I am to have had this summer in Israel.
I have been looking back at my summer and trying to wrap my head around where I started and how I got to where I am now, six and a half weeks later. I started my seminar experience in Poland, where I began to truly understand the Holocaust for the first time. It was an intensely bonding experience, and once we arrived in Israel, I remember standing at Hodayot, where we stayed for the first week, with my newly-made friends from the Poland trip, watching as bus after bus brought strangers into our midst. That first day of Seminar was incredibly intimidating for many of us. New faces passed by me in a blur and names went in one ear and out the other. I went to bed that night feeling suddenly anxious for the summer ahead of me. Little did I know that by the end of the week, I would not only know the names of everyone on my bus, but I would have made friendships that would last for the rest of the summer.
For many of us on seminar, making new camp friends is something that we have not had to do for years, and we had to relearn how to just walk up to someone and try to make a connection. Throughout our first week in the North and at Hodayot, we all learned how to step out of our comfort zones and meet new people as we explored some of the most beautiful places in the world. We watched the sunrise over Mt. Arbel, we swam in the Kinneret, we kayaked on the Jordan River, and we explored the mystical cities of Tiberias and Tzfat. By the time we left the north to head to Jerusalem, seminar 2019 was already a kehila (community), ready to continue making memories in the Holy Land.
We started off our time in Jerusalem with a series of day trips, such as visiting archaeological digs, Tel Aviv, Mt. Herzl, the shuk, Gush Etzion, and the City of David. Exploring all these places that I had read about and heard about was surreal, and it was incredibly meaningful to explore all these places with my best friends in the world from Berkshires and my amazing new friends, who I started to love more and more every day. We formed friendships while walking through the Old City of Jerusalem, climbing mountains, and touring holy places all around the country.
After our first week together in Jerusalem, we all separated to go on our individual Etgar tracks. We split up to survive in the desert, hike from sea to sea, learn Hebrew in Jerusalem, and join the Israeli army for four days. We had amazing experiences challenging ourselves, but when we were reunited in Jerusalem it was pure euphoria. We were all just so happy to be together again as all of Seminar! It’s crazy that I genuinely missed people who I had only met three weeks ago, but the laws of time are different on Seminar. Every day feels like a week, and every week feels like a month, so the friendships we make over the course of a few weeks have the strength of friendships made over the course of a few months.
We had a few days and a Shabbat back together in Jerusalem before the buses split up to go to the South, and that brings me back to my under-the-stars gratitude moment in the desert. I am different, and better, from my time in Israel. Seminar has taught me how to be a more thoughtful person, a more committed Jew, a more responsible young adult, a better friend, and how to make the most of every moment. When I look back on this summer, I won’t even remember how anxious I was that first week or how hard it was to get comfortable at first. I’m going to remember making the most amazing memories with the most amazing people. I am so lucky to have had this once-in-a-lifetime summer, and I know I will never forget my experiences and my friendships from Ramah Israel Seminar.
Shalom from the Negev of Israel!
On Sunday, we spent our last day at Kibbutz Ketura participating in various activities. We went on a beautiful sunrise bike ride where we learned about how the kibbutz economy functions. As we continued on the bike ride, we stopped at a lookout on a sand dune and saw the border between Israel and Jordan. Afterwards, we drove to Mitzpe Ramon, a crater with breathtaking views of Israel’s desert. We learned about Ilan Ramon z”l and why the crater was dedicated to him and his son, Asaf Ramon, z”l.
On Monday we started our morning with tefilah at Hab’sor. Then we made our way down to the Salad Trail where we learned about how Israeli agriculture has adapted to its climate in order to grow fruit and vegetables. Everyone got to taste the fresh food, and some brave campers even tried some very spicy peppers! At the very end of our tour of the Salad Trail, we released carrier pigeons into the air as a sign of peace. That night, we had a night hike through the desert, and we stargazed with our kvutzot. The view blew everyone away. The sky was so clear we were able to see the Milky Way! It was the perfect way to conclude the day.
On Tuesday all buses began the day hearing from Amar, a Bedouin woman who has helped her culture shift into a more modern world. She explained to us that her struggles have allowed women to now participate in society much more. After the lecture we took a tour of the Bedouin city and made delicious pita with chocolate spread in order to taste the Bedouin culture. Later in the day we took a tour of Sodastream and got to see the inclusive work environment they have created.
On Wednesday we started our day by visiting Ben Gurion’s grave and learning about him as a leader. Then we went on a beautiful hike at Ein Avdat. Afterwards we took a tour of Ben Gurion’s house and discussed role models in our lives beyond political figures. Then we went went to the Bedouin tents and heard from another Bedouin woman who has helped change Bedouin culture. Then we went camel riding followed by a delicious traditional Bedouin dinner.
Early Thursday morning we hiked up Masada and prayed while the sun was rising. We then drove down to the Dead Sea and had fun floating around and relaxing!
This summer has been like a shooting star for me.On the last night of Desert Survival we left our camp site, walked into the wilderness and meditated in silence. Looking at the sky l saw a shooting star and it occurred to me that these stars are so beautiful and majestic—one of my favorite things but they go by so fast. I really want to appreciate every second with a shooting star, and the same goes for this summer.