Israel Trip 2017 – Day 1

Mifgash 2017   
Day 1
 All ready to go – 4:45 a.m. at Vancouver International Airport

Shalom from Eretz Israel,
 
I admit I would not have minded a few more hours of sleep on Sunday morning in lieu of meeting 52 nervous and excited teenagers at the airport (my favourite moments were the parents who came and asked if they could go before we left to go through security – ah the parent smell of freedom…I truly do understand).  Yet there we were almost 20 hours later celebrating and clapping as we landed in the land of milk and honey (and palm trees, never underestimate the joy of palm trees) – and it almost made that 4 a.m. wake up worth it (if this was my first student trip I would not have used the ‘almost’ qualifier).
 
Those of you who have had other children travel with us know our strategy – exhaust the children thoroughly and have them go to sleep after 30+ hours of frenzy to wake up jet-lag free-ish. We will have to wait for tomorrow to see the results but the exhaustion part is working (at least for me!).
 
So 52 students is just a little over the recommended Air Canada travel allowance for teenagers on a plane but the airline personnel were kind and tolerant and we may have had a few cringe worthy times on both of our flights (though we did have some winning moments). Overall I am going to give them an 8 out of 10 – but then I did not sit near the group on either flight (just because I am grey on top does not mean my brain cells aren’t firing) – we have younger, cooler staff who need every opportunity to earn their grey too!
 
Upon touchdown (and referred to clapping) – we celebrated with all the passengers Joey’s birthday – not a bad way to celebrate for him arriving in Israel!  Then it was quickly off to change into T-shirts and shorts and an easy hop through Israeli Passport Control, bag pick up and bus loading. Now our group is so large we had 2 buses – the large tour bus and a smaller 20 person bus (guess which one I was on, think brain cells still firing). So for the first time in nine trips (and tries) we started at the beach. This was a brainstorm of an idea (do I have to ask you whose idea it was?) – so off to Herzliya’s Hasharon Beach (side note: Herzliya is North of Tel Aviv and is a very nice area and it is where our Mama Bear on this trip, Dorin, grew up). Now it was only around 22 degrees Celsius so the beach was empty (frigid times for the Israelis) but we ran around in our summer best, tossed Frisbees, wet our feet in the stunning blue Mediterranean surf and had a glorious hour treating ourselves to bourekas and rugellach.

Breathing fresh sea air and stretching legs after the long flight!
Isaac B., Yoel, Josh, Noam, Joey, Nicky, Yosef, Cameron, Eitan, 
Keren and Ilana G.
 
By now it was getting to 1 p.m. (we had landed just after 10:30 a.m.) so we headed back to the buses to continue on our journey. We thought it was time to give the kids another taste of Israeli society – taste being the key word – so we stopped at a mall for lunch after driving north for a bit. I was very impressed by the larger number who went and ordered shawarma – it was so crowded I could not get one and many past readers know that I live for shawarma (and Froot Loops, never together, but…).  I was distressed by a much smaller group who chose McDonalds, but I kept my judgment to myself. Still others ate salad (there will be time to discuss Israeli salad during future updates). And others still (yes there are a lot of kids to keep track of) went to the grocery store and stocked up on all things chocolate – candy and milk, and all sorts of other unhealthy food items normally sold in the skull and crossbones section (I hope they share with me).
 
I bet now – around 3:30 p.m. – you are wondering how the kids are managing. I think it is best described by one expressive student who said, "We need to sleep, why won’t you let us go to sleep?"  To which I pointed out that together Esther and I were well over 100 years old (as old as at least 8 or 9 of them) and we deserved our fun (then I added some nonsensical words about this helping them to get over jet-lag faster). So you can imagine what happened as we drove further north on our two hour trek to Rosh Hanikra – the buses were very, very quiet (I so wish we had that switch at our disposal every day!).
 
Entering the grottos at Rosh Hanikra

Traffic was extremely busy and we did not reach the absolutely stunning grottos of Rosh Hanikra until 5:30 p.m. They usually close earlier but Dorin is magic and she made sure that they were going to wait for us – so cable car down to the water we did to explore the beautiful sea as it continued carving out beauty in the rock. It really is a spectacular site (though some of the kids were equally interested in the fact we are on the Lebanon Border – yes sir, we were north!). If you have not been here please put it on your list along with a trip to the North – especially to our sister region, in the Galilee Panhandle.

Ilana W., Jasi, Moselle, Indy, Prielle, Lu, Sophie, Kalev, Ben M., and Yotam
 
After a visit and appreciation of the beauty (stunning water colours) we boarded our buses to get to our wonderful accommodation at Kfar Giladi. Dinner was waiting for us, so we ate and then checked in. Some of the kids had amazing appetites but most, like me, ate just a bit. I truly appreciate how well they have managed through this first day and a half – it is hard travel and the tiredness messes with your system – but they have been troopers – even those that have not felt well have bravely pushed through. After dinner it was all just regular organization items as we checked the students into rooms, arranged for them to go swimming (yes, some of them woke up), informed them of important times (in rooms, lights out, wake-up, breakfast, leaving time, etc.).

Isaac L., Connell, Isabel, Ilana G., Jasi, Ilana W., Kyla, Sophie, Aelan, Isaac B., Vida, Prielle, and Alex
 
Tomorrow is a big day – we will visit Har Vagai School and meet the Grade 8 class and more specifically their host students. I am sure they are a bit anxious – hopefully in that healthy excited way – I am eager to say hi to old friends at the school – it is not everyday you visit a school on many acres where a river literally does run through it (with fish and other river type creatures) – it is a very special place and I cannot wait to get going.
 
Until tomorrow – know your kids are doing well!
Russ 

Yotam, Ben, Benjy, Nicky, Noam, Joey, Cameron, Yosef, Maya, and Josh at the top of Rosh Hanikra

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