Jerusalem: The Land of Milk and Honey

Trip Start Jan 12, 2008
Trip End Oct 01, 2008

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

We arrive in Tel Aviv, pick up our bags, exchange money (I wind up having to bargain with the guy after he tries to rip me off and get the guy to reduce his  bid/ask spread from 3% to 1%), and get on the road to Jerusalem.  45 minutes later we're at the hotel in Jerusalem!  I hop off the bus to a huge surprise: Katie Levine is waiting as I get off the bus. 

Her group is also at the hotel, which is teaming with kids who are on their Birthright trips as well.  Despite the level of insanity around us, I can clearly tell that everything is organized down to the smallest of details.  After a mediocre dinner, our group does an orientation meeting with the director, who calls himself Momo, frequently in the third person.  He's a bit crazy and wants to breed an army of young Jews through his program but is quite funny and seems to be genuinely interested in making sure everyone has an amazing FREE trip!  The Giants game isn't on so I head to bed before a big day in Jerusalem.  Struggle to get more than a few hours of sleep as my bed covers no more than 83% of my body while the bed itself reaches mid-way down my calf at best.

Jerusalem!  Today we did a walking tour of the old city.  While we didn't quite cover as much ground as we did when I was here with my family, our guide, Yael, is amazingly knowledgeable.  We walk along the city wall, toured the Tower of David next to the Jaffa Gate, saw the Wailing Wall (left a note saying thank you for all the opportunities I've been given) and enjoyed some traditional falafel, yummy!  I wound up speaking with Yael for a while and think she is really interesting.  She wants to continue her studies and work as a hydro therapist for autistic kids, talk about amazing things!  It's awesome having my sister around too, so glad I delayed my trip so she could come with.

We hop back on the bus and head towards Haifa, in the north.  We stop at a Druze village for dinner, which is most amazingly delicious!  Druze is a weird religion where they believe that everyone is a reincarnation of another Druze soul and that each soul has 73 lives before being judged.  We hear one guy's story of recognition in which he told us how he discovered who he was in a former life and found out that he was born in the same hour his previous body had passed away... I smell holes all over the story, but who am I to doubt his belief?  I talk to him for a bit after dinner and he turns out to be a regular guy, 25 years old, just married, studying to be a mechanical engineer, but has weird "memories".  Wouldn't that be cool?  I'm convinced I've been many different animals in my prior lives, but I'm definitely not  Druze as they believe souls only pass between fellow male or females, respectively.

We get to our hotel in Haifa and enjoy the spa for a while before bonding over a few drinking games in the hotel lobby.  The kids on the trip are all interesting and I get a chance to talk to my cousin Laura, who randomly wound up on the same trip as Julia and I.  She's been working on a commune in Virginia, so I quiz her about that lifestyle as I clearly have taken a different path.  Doubt that's for me, but she seems to be enjoying her life quite a bit and has grown up to be a very confident girl.  I have trouble sleeping again as the bed reaches the bottom of my calves and my blanket covers about half my body.  Hope that's not a theme this year!
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