Rak B'Yisrael - Only In Israel
By Adam Kieffer
My trip to Israel has too many amazing memories to pick just one.
I would say my most meaningful memory was approaching the Kotel. I had been religious only up to a point. Mostly that point was what my parents made me do (begrudgingly at the time...now I'm glad that I went through it all)...Talmud Torah, Sunday School, Bar Mitzvah preparation...et cetera.
To see the Kotel, to actually see it, in all it's ragged splendor with its various cracks & bushes growing out of it, it doesn't look like much. It might just look like an old ancient wall to someone who didn't know better. I was ok as I approached it, but as I touched it...actually experienced the roughness, the cracks, I felt as if in mere seconds the history and the amazing events that wall has seen throughout time seem to rush into my head.
I felt a very deep and sudden sadness and yet at the same time a very deep and profound happiness. This is all we have left to us. This wall. It is our holiest site. Outside of Israel we pray toward Jerusalem. Outside Jerusalem we pray toward Jerusalem but in Jerusalem we pray at that wall. I broke down. I had no control over it. I simply started crying. Was it tears of sadness or joy? To this day I still can't say.
Another very meaningful memory would be my early-morning hike up Masada. I remember the day before we were at a small rest area while on a very long bus ride for bathroom breaks and some glidah (ice cream). I knew we were going to be hiking up Masada the very next morning and needed some film.
The souvenir/ice cream stand had some film that looked a bit suspicious but the price was right so I took it. It was Kodak film but the box said "Not for resale outside of India". I should have known better but I thought "what could go wrong?"
The next morning we got up around maybe 3AM and got to Masada and hiked up the side, getting up there just a bit before sunrise. It was spectacular. It was a long and sometimes seemingly grueling hike but it was worth it. I took a lot of photos. A lot.
I was in awe of the whole thing. It was almost as amazing as touching the Kotel. So amazing that only one photo survived. Thanks, India. You can keep your film. All of the rest of my photos of Masada were black...even the ones I used the flash to take.
Another interesting memory I have that sticks out is eating shawarma at night with a stray Jerusalem cat. One night we were allowed to leave our base (Beit Nativ in the Emek Refa'im area) and go out into Jerusalem. My favorite food there was shawarma and whenever I saw a stand, I got hungry.
I pulled out some shkalim and ate good. Better than some of the food we ate as a group. Anyway, a cat was following me around and I came to one of my favorite shawarma stands. I sat down at a bench nearby to eat and the cat looked at me and kept meowing. It probably wasn't the healthiest food for a cat but I fed it a few pieces of meat and some chips (cheeps) placed on the ground on the shawarma wrapper.
The cat seemed very thankful as I don't think it had eaten much for a while.
Rak b'Yisrael - Only in Israel.
My final memory is being able to spend a week in Gadna (G'dudei No'ar - Youth Brigades). I learned a lot about the history of the country, unfortunately since most of the history of the country is pockmarked with bloody conflicts. I learned how to clean out a clogged septic system for the latrines (never again), how to hold, load, assemble and disassemble an M16 assault rifle...then throw all that away by firing it and having my grip hand nearly covering the shell ejector and burning my hand with hot shells.
Here is a photo of me ready to protect Israel. My face was cropped by my buddy as I think he thought my uniform was hilarious since they didn't have anything in my size. If I was the best thing Israel had for defending itself...it had more problems than it knew.
My very attractive mifakedet (commander) helped tend to my wounds. Not bad considering I was paying more attention to her than how I should be holding the gun in the first place. I still have a scar from where one shell actually tore into my palm.
My first and hopefully only "war wound".
Oh yeah and schnitzel! Lots of schnitzel!