It’s week 4 of UJIA Israel Experience Summer Tours and we have nearly 1,000 16 year-olds exploring Israel at the moment. It’s hard to believe that some groups are already back in the UK (sorry, FZY 3, 4, 5 & 6 and JLGB…) but there are still 25 groups here and lots to tell.
First up is Tribe, who I met up with in Jerusalem on their second week.
I spoke to Sam Adler from Edgware who is getting a lot out of the variety on Tour. On visiting Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial museum, he told me, “Being at Yad Vashem with the group made it so much more powerful because we were experiencing it together and I learnt things I never knew before.”
I also joined Sam and co. the next day for their morning of volunteering with food basket charity Pantry Packers, in Jerusalem.
“At the factory we worked at four stations to produce and pack bags of rice or dried peas. We had to pour the rice into the machine and receive it in 500g bags. Then we labelled the bags and it said ‘with love from Tribe’. Then we put them in the food boxes to go to a poor family – we did 729 bags all together.
“The charity helps people who can’t really afford to pay for food. I think it was good because we got to make a difference and not just come to Israel for ourselves, but to help people as well.”
For Shabbat, I headed north to Degania Kibbutz just south of the Kinneret. I met Joss Bogod from Finchley who is on Noam Tour 1:
“It’s been really fun – there have been other tours from England and America that we’ve met with and had Shabbat dinner with. It’s really nice being with other groups as well and also doing Shabbat on Kibbutz, it’s really homely.
“It’s nice to experience Havdallah in Israel; we’ve always done it at Noam so I know all the songs and how everything goes.”
I also chatted to Kitya Mark from Hampstead, also at the Kibbutz on Noam Tour 2. I asked her if the experience was what she was expecting:
“Kibbutz isn’t how I imagined it to be. I imagined it to be more communal, I guess. Everyone eats together in the dining room, which is good but I thought everyone would stay together more, but it’s really nice.”
Her favourite moment of tour so far is the Bedouin experience in the second week:
“Some of my friends and I stayed around the bonfire and we spent the whole night, and watched the sun rise over all the camels and mountains. It was really pretty and calm and tranquil.”
On Monday, I made it over to Sdot Yam, a kibbutz on the coast just south of Caesarea, for Yom Habomin (Habonim Day). It’s the highlight of this movement’s Israel Tour, bringing together about 600 Haboniks from all over the world. I saw Israel tour groups from Holland and America and Gap Year participants from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil!
There was a giant beach party and BBQ (lovely beargers and shish kebear) and a brilliant ceremony where each group introduced their country’s group.
Katie Felstein from Manchester was really inspired by the day and Tour in general:
“Yom Habonim was amazing because you don’t even realise how many different Habos there are around the world and how many different people the same age as you on the same tour.
“I think Habo tour’s the best because you don’t just have the best time of your life, doing so many fun activities, you also learn so much about Israel and about Zionism and Habo’s morals. And it’s really important to go on a tour that you think teaches you things as well as gives you a really good time.”
FZY tours headed to a close on a high this week with their Maccabiah event, which brought together over 300 participants from all 8 tours in the Galil, near Lake Kinneret.
Adam Jackson from Leeds on FZY Tour 5, came close to victory in the volleyball tournament but was ultimately denied victory at the last minute : “We got up to the volleyball final and lost narrowly. I enjoyed it overall because it included the whole tour and made everyone feel closer together.”
He also took part in an educational session, saying, “We learnt about different inventions that the Israelis came up with and developed.”
Reflecting on his overall experience on Israel Tour, he told me:
“Personally I found all the cultural stuff like Yad Vashem really interesting, but I also found the kayaking and the sports activities really enjoyable too. I thought that there was a good balance between cultural and action activities – in total I enjoyed tour very much.”
That’s all for now, but I’ll be back soon for my final diary instalment! Don’t forget, you can keep up with my Israel Tour journey on Instagram and Twitter (@UJIACharity #tedontour) and see all the photos HERE.