Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dear Israel, I Have Never Loved You More

Written one week ago...

I have never had more of a genuinely Israeli experience than I did this prior weekend.
I spent this past Thursday – Sunday up North in the Golan Heights and Galilee regions as a participant on a program called Puzzle. The weekend was a pilot run to test the vision of this Puzzle initiative that’s in the early phases of still being developed. I can’t imagine the weekend having had been more successful than it was. I had fun, I deepened my connection with Israel, I made tons of new friends and became a part of a new community, and I was so tremendously motivated to continue working on my own projects.

The weekend started on Thursday with an afternoon of horseback riding up in the Golan Heights. It was so much fun to do this with Rachel too because horseback riding is one of her biggest passions, it’s a huge part of her life, and after 7 months of hearing her talk about it, it was just so much fun to see her in her element J After riding we went to a dairy farm where we spent the rest of the afternoon in the rain doing outdoor training activities (ropes course/team-building type stuff), eating absolutely delicious gourmet food made by our fabulous staff, and then whipping out the guitars and drums for a late night sing-a-long under a big Bedouin-like tent. To wrap up the night I tucked myself to sleep in a log cabin with the windows open during a thunderstorm. Needless to say it was a pretty perfect day.

Friday morning I kicked off the day with an hour of yoga at 6 AM. I haven’t felt that good in so long! I miss my practice (especially in Nashville) and look so forward to getting back to it on a regular basis. We had a quick breakfast then went for a tour of where we were staying (Avnei Eitan), saw a robotic cow milker (cool machine ever), fed cows, made cheeses, and then hit the road for a tour of the rest of the Golan and Galilee. We spent that afternoon hiking out in the Golan where we saw the biggest waterfall in Israel and the ancient ruins of Gamla. I got to see the place where Jesus is said to have walked on water and I viewed the scene from a distance where there were vultures flying overhead – what an energetic and spiritual experience that was! We then wrapped up the day by setting up our campsite and working together to cook a giant gourmet meal that was undoubtedly the best one I have ever had. I helped make focaccia bread and the final product was absolutely unbelievable. If I had to pick one food to live off of the rest of my life it might be that bread… No joke. We all ate outside together and enjoyed drinks and dessert around the campfire where the Israeli staff shared stories of their experiences in the army and we later took turns just telling funny and crazy stories from our own travels in Israel and elsewhere.

I woke up early Saturday morning and went for a nice long walk before breakfast with two other friends from the trip then came back to join the group and pack up the campsite. The rest of the day was spent on an off-roading Jeep trip around the Golan, eating a lot, laughing even more, and finally sitting together at the end of the day to wrap up the weekend and say good-bye. It was such a powerful closure and even though it had only been about 2 days with these people I found myself fighting to hold back tears when we had to say goodbye :)

This trip not only affirmed for me how much I love this country but it also highlighted for me the career path that I really feeling a calling to pave for myself. I want to create initiatives where other young adults can be a part of communities like this one that I was so fortunate to be a part of. While participating on the program this year has certainly had it's ups and downs I can confidently say that my experiences with LIFE and the opportunities it's created for me has really helped me realize this career path.

Dear Israel,

I have never loved you more than I do right now. In my trip to the North you showed me your resilience and your vulnerability - I am forever grateful for the chance to get this glimpse into who you really are. Thanks for always keeping your door open to me and I promise to use these next 2 months to get to know you better.

All my love,

Jeep trip

Boppin around the Syrian border with the group. We came across an old tank there and when the Israeli border patrol came to kick us off we asked them to join us for a picture... so they did :)

This is where the ancient city of Gamla was. In the distance you can also see the Sea of Galilee.

Oh man... world's best tentmate

Feeding the cows at Avnei Eitan

Hiking in the Golan Heights

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