Peachhead™ Approved Vacations: Vacation in Israel, October 2014
I just returned from Israel, where I had the most wonderful experiences. I was lucky enough to be invited to join 47 other Jewish moms from the Los Angeles area (and 150 other moms from all over the United States and Israel) on a trip to Israel that included lectures, hotel room, food, and activities. This trip was sponsored and hosted by The Jewish Women’s Initiative (JWI) of Aish LA and the JWRP (Jewish Women's Renaissance Project).
While traveling through Israel, we visited Tiberias, Tsfat, Jerusalem, Masada, and Tel Aviv. While in Tsfat, an artists' colony in the mountains in northern Israel, we visited two ancient synagogues and a Mikva, where Jewish women visit every month to "regain their ritual purity."
Our first night arriving in Jerusalem, a few of us walked to the Western (or Wailing) Wall, also known as the Kotel. It was very late, so the area was not crowded, and the lighting brought a certain calmness. It was such a powerful feeling to be at this site. We were also treated to a fabulous Tunnel Tour underneath the wall. On Shabbat, we danced and sang at the Kotel with young female soldiers.
We also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. This was quite an emotional day. Upon leaving the museum, we visited the Children’s Memorial, a tribute to Jewish children killed during the Holocaust. It was very somber as we walked through and saw many candles lit as names, ages, and countries of many children could be heard in the background.
A fun excursion we took was when we took a cable car up to the top of Masada (you can also choose to hike up Masada, but we had limited time so were not able to do this). After leaving Masada, we went for a swim in the salt waters of the Dead Sea. After covering ourselves in mud, we floated away in the mineral waters. Instead of grabbing sand at the bottom, you can grab handfuls of salt to rub on your body. From there, we went for a camel ride. It was so funny being on a camel! When you are on top of the camel and he rises to his feet or sits back down, you feel as if you are on a roller coaster ride as you are thrown forward and backward. I even received a camel driver’s license after my ride.
Once our tour was over, a couple of friends and I visited Tel Aviv for a few days. We stayed at the Sheraton Tel Aviv, which is located across the street from the beach and within walking distance to many great areas. We took a walking tour of the Neve Tedek neighborhood with a Tel Aviv Greeter (a free service) , and then continued our walk along Rothschild Blvd., where we stopped at a café for lunch and then went to Dizengoff Street, which offers a lot of great shopping and restaurants. The Sheraton hotel offers complimentary bicycles (although they are not in the greatest shape and they didn’t have any locks). You can easily rent bikes on the beach (use your credit card at Tel-O-Fun to "check out" bikes) and drop them off at different locations . When you rent a bike you pay an access fee: the first 30 minutes are free, and then it costs additional shekels, depending on how long you keep the bike. Every Tuesday and Friday is the Nachalat Binyamin Market, where local artists display and sell their jewelry and artwork. This is where I bought most of my jewelry in Israel. They are all beautiful pieces.
While visiting Tel Aviv, I discovered the most amazing museum. The Israeli Children’s Musuem has a number of different exhibits that you can experience. I participated in The Invitation to Silence, which shows you how one communicates in the deaf world. Throughout the exhibit, I did not use my voice or ears to communicate. Instead, you are led through by a deaf (or hearing-impaired) person, and given a set of headphones which instantly drowned out all “noise.” We were then led through different rooms, where we learned to converse in a variety of ways using hand movements, body language, and facial expressions.
The other exhibit I was very excited to experience at the Israeli Children’s Museum was Dialogue in the Dark. This truly was a remarkable experience; you are led through this exhibit by a blind (or vision-impaired) guide. Before entering the room, we were given a walking cane and then guided into several pitch-black rooms. We used the walking stick, our hands, and the voice of the guide to discover this world we could not see. It was such an amazing experience to use only your other senses (sound, smell, touch) to figure out where you are. I got so excited when I discovered what I was touching (a tree, a motorcycle, a park bench). They used sounds, smell, wind, water, and other effects to really make us feel we were in a certain location. In another room, we lay down on the ground to not only listen to different types of music, but to feel it as well, with the vibrations and pounding of the music. Our final stop was the café, where we were able to purchase drinks or snacks and sit in the dark and taste the food without seeing it. We also were able to talk to our guide there, and ask him questions about how he accomplishes his daily tasks. It was so interesting. When the tour was complete, we stepped into the light and only then were able to see our guide for the first time. It was truly a memorable experience.
After visiting the museum, later that evening I went to Nalaga’at Center to see the show “Not by Bread Alone,” a truly unique and amazing production. Eleven deaf/blind actors create a unique show where they describe their lives, their hopes, and their dreams. It is told in Hebrew with English subtitles. There were interpreters signing and many “assistants” guiding the actors in indiscreet ways. Before the show began, the actors were all on the stage kneading dough. At the start of the show, the dough was put into the oven to cook. We could smell the bread cooking throughout the production, and when the show was over, the audience was invited to go on the stage and eat warm bread fresh out of the ovens and talk to the actors (with the assistance of an interpreter). This was such a unique theater experience.
On my return flight home I was able to use my Global Entry card when I got to LAX. While most of the people had to wait in the line to show their passport, I was able to walk up to a machine, slide my passport in it, and then take the receipt and walk right out without having to wait. Also, once I got my luggage, I was able to exit a special line for crew members, as opposed to the crowds trying to exit the other lines. The card cost $100 and is good for 5 years. If your airline has a TSA recheck line, you can also use the card to go in that line. It is well worth the money.
I want to thank the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project and Aish LA for sponsoring my trip. They offer a scholarship for Jewish moms with kids under 18 living at home. This included my hotel room, as well as the tour and lectures. I paid my airfare and a few miscellaneous costs. My journey continues, as I am able to maintain my friendships with other women from the tour during monthly growth groups and various future activities and events hosted by JWI. For more information or to find out how you can apply for an opportunity go to JWRP.