Tel Aviv-a La Vida

Note: I wrote this article for Kellogg’s student newspaper, The Merger, to document the trip I took to Israel with 40 of my classmates in March. These articles are generally written with lots of inside jokes that only the participants understand, but I thought I’d share it here for everyone to read.

Shalom! Over spring break, 40 2nd-years headed to the middle-eastern desert to visit a country rich in culture and deep in history from ancient civilizations. We sought to witness one of the fastest growing hi-tech economies in the world. We sought to see the sites where ancient civilizations traveled, traded and sometimes battled. Most importantly, we sought to find a voice to communicate with the world – mostly through one of the thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots in gas stations, hotel lobbies and traditional desert villages throughout the country. Led by a generous sponsorship from Under Armour, King David (our tour guide) and his 40 disciples spent eight days touring one of the most talked-about places in the world.

Our travels began in Jerusalem, a holy city to roughly half of the world’s population. In the old city, we got to see how three major religions manage to coexist with their holiest sites literally next to each other. Being an ancient city, Jerusalem has been ruled by many different empires over time, and we had the opportunity to see how the city changed through each epoch. This was beautifully encapsulated in an hour-long light show at the Tower of David on our second night – perhaps one of the most poignant and personally touching moments not just on our trip, but in our entire lives.

As our time in Jerusalem ended, King David and his disciples headed south to the Negev desert, where we floated (and exfoliated) in the Dead Sea, visited the ancient fortress at Masada, and spent the night together in the desert at a traditional Bedouin (nomadic Arab) camp, where we had the chance to reflect on our lives and get to know each other better. The staff taught us about traditional nomadic life. Gadi taught us about ‘snowboats’ over shows of Arak. Chirag taught us that no matter what he says, HE IS THE MAFIA. The night ended with all 40 of us sharing a tent together. As the pristine sun rose over the desert the next morning, we were awoken to the soothing sound of two stray cats fighting to the death in the corner of our tent.

Next we headed north to Caesarea to celebrate Purim at the ruins of the Roman capital of Judea. Purim is a traditional Jewish holiday where people dress up, much like Halloween. For many, this begged the questions: “Really? We went all the way to Israel for another costume party?” From there we visited famous biblical sites like Armageddon, Nazareth and Galilee, and enjoyed the beautiful greenery of the Golan Heights where we were warned that crossing a barbed wire fence might accidentally put you in a cow pasture or a minefield; it’s one of the two.

Our final stops were at the port city of Haifa and then Tel Aviv, Hebrew for “the old and the new.” Whereas Jerusalem represents the country’s historic and culture past, Tel Aviv is a symbol of its exciting future. We enjoyed the older part of the city, Jaffa, the beaches and the tremendous night life in Tel Aviv before ending our remarkable journey through Israel.

I can’t possibly talk about this trip without giving thanks to our three Israeli classmates and guides: Gadi “Snowboats” Ben-Zvi, Jeff “the morning news” Zitomer and Ori “David Blaine” Ben-Moshe. These three forewent spending time with their own families in Israel to spend it with their classmates. Just thinking about those eight days makes me exclaim, “Yallah Balagan!” which, if I remember my Hebrew correctly, translates to “This is a Boingo Hot-Spot.”

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07 2011

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