Taking a break in the shade…
Sunday, June 15, 2008
his was largely a day focused on the artifacts of Rome’s occupation of this land and the effect on both the past and the future of Israel.
We started the day early; everyone woke up at 6:30 A.M. and ate breakfast, which consisted of an enormous selection of Israeli breakfast favorites (fruits, smoked fish, breads, grilled vegetables, salads and freshly squeezed orange juice). We then boarded the bus at 8:30 A.M. and were on our way to Caesarea.
While we traveled, our guide, Zvi, used the time to go over a map of the country, showing how small Israel is compared to the U.S. (smaller than the size of New Jersey), Syria and France. At the same time, he taught us some key phrases in Hebrew, as well as some slang that we could use over the next days.
As we left Tel Aviv, we noticed buildings bearing logos with familiar names such as Sony, Microsoft, Network Solutions and Nike. These were signposts of how the Israeli economy has been transformed over the past 20 years, from one of agriculture to now one of the most important technology centers in the world. In fact, this was the contrast we saw, as Tel Aviv stands for OLD and NEW.
Because we were going to spend the day looking at Israel’s history, we discussed this land’s timeline — from the Romans, the Babylonians, the Crusaders, the Ottomans, all the way up to the British mandate after WWII and the Balfour Declaration calling for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. We remembered that ultimately, Israel was declared a state on November 29, 1947. To illustrate this visually, we built a physical timeline from a set of poster boards held up by the adults, while the kids filled in the details. But, we all came to realize that our visit is really not about the timeline but about the major issues, questions and connections to our history as a people.
In Caesarea, Josh DeLott and G.G. Merkel stood on the stage at the ancient Roman amphitheater and played out a dialogue between Romans and Jews at that time. Their words demonstrated the conflict between Jews who had assimilated with the Greeks and those who wished to remain true to their language and heritage.
We then visited the Hippodrome, remnants of which amazingly still stand at the beach at Caesarea. The kids took advantage of the beach to run a short relay race. We then saw a film, documenting the 2,000-yearlong history of Caesarea in about 10 minutes, walking us through the 12-year construction of the city by the Romans and King Herod, all the way through today. We took a quick break for lunch in the town of Zichron Yaakov and then went to one of the most important and interesting parts of the day.
At Park Alona, we ventured into a section of the 23-kilometer-long aqueduct constructed by the Romans. Most of the aqueduct was still covered in mud, but there was a 400-meter-long section that we could walk through. Amazingly, there is still water flowing through the aqueduct, feeding Caesarea, just like it did 2,000 years ago. We all had to wear water shoes, and the younger kids had to wear bathing suits, because the cool water reached up to our thighs as we waded through the aqueduct. We then left the aqueduct to begin a two-hour bus ride to the kibbutz.
On the way, we all talked about the relationship and tension between Jews and Arabs. The issues focused around whether Arabs should observe the anniversary of Israel’s independence and sing the Israeli National Anthem, “HaTikvah.” Our guide reminded us that this struggle relates back to the timelines we had reviewed earlier in the day. For example, the Crusaders came to Israel because they viewed it as a “holy land,” while Jews view Israel as their homeland.
After two hours (which was the longest ride of the trip), we arrived at Kibbutz Kfar Blum. After a quick dip in the pool, we sat down to a family style dinner, which was very good because all the food seems to be very fresh here in Israel. After dinner, we attended a fun session of “paper-bag dramatics.” We each had brought an item to the meeting that we deposited in one of five bags. We then split into five groups and randomly picked a bag. Using every member of our group and every item in our bag, we had 10 minutes to compose a skit about something that had happened on the trip. It was a frenetic and hilarious time. After the session, we went back to our rooms and climbed into bed.
Overall, Day Three of Temple Emanu-El’s adventure here in Eretz Yisrael has been filled with fun memories, good food, getting wet and just having a good time. Most of all, what we’ve learned today will change forever our view of Israel’s history and future.
— Morgan J. Wolf
Back to Israel Journal (2008)
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