This is the second post from Mike Godbe, who is on a Birthright tour of Israel (the first is here). Mike is a 2009 graduate of Vassar College, who has been working with Peace Action West in Oakland, CA. He has a thoughtful take on the way that young Jews like himself are introduced to the history and issues of Israel / Palestine on these tours, that are provided free to any first time Jewish visitors to Israel who are aged between 18 and 26. [Originally posted under Dave Belden’s name, now under Mike’s so all his posts can be accessed together.]
Thursday March 11th, 2010.
We began the day with a wonderful hike down the cliffy mountainside of the Arbel. We explored a stunning centuries-old castle built into the hillside and avoided some cows as we made our way down to the bus with the Sea of Galilee barely visible in the distance through the haze.
Next we visited a Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, a large and unique kibbutz that was founded in 1939. While many of Israel’s kibbutz’s have strayed from their hard-line socialist and agricultural ideals over the years, Sde Eliyahu remains completely cooperative with every member getting equal pay, and completely agricultural . . . and organic too. They have a whole host of organic solutions to common problems faced by large agricultural productions ranging from owls to donkeys to rotational planting. I almost ate too many of their delicious dates before a new friend reminded me of the undesirable effect that eating too many dates can have.
What is it like to go on a Birthright tour of Israel? These are free tours provided to first time Jewish visitors to Israel between the ages of 18 and 26. Tikkun reader Mike Godbe, who is on one of the tours right now, is sending us his impressions. We will be running them over the next few days, along with his photos. [Originally posted under Dave Belden's name, now under Mike's so all his posts can be accessed together, by clicking on his byline above. We are happy to welcome Mike as the latest blogger on our team].
Tuesday, March 9th 2010
After an eleven hour flight from Newark, we landed in Israel. We arrived at midnight east coast time / 7am Israel time, and we started the first of many full days.
With achy shoulders and sore necks, the forty of us poured out of the airport and onto decorative slabs of the huge yellow limestone that cover this county. “We are not trying to indoctrinate or convince you of anything,” was the very first thing we were told as a group. If we were secular–great, religious–great, feel like moving to Israel and joining the army–great, don’t feel moved to do anything Jewish ever again–that’s okay too. Among other things, we were told that we would be sent home if we got drunk but that consensual sex was fine; I believe our programmer’s smile-complemented words were, “no means no . . . but yes, we’re fine with yes.”
Bustling around as a huge group, a bunch of young people trying to feel each other out, I was floating in a cloud from jetlag / lack of sleep and that feeling of landing in a new place with thicker wetter air. I was brought back to earth when I got my first touch of guns in Israel, meeting our group’s private security guard. Having finished his tour in the IDF 8 months ago, Davir was still younger than me, 22. Young, thin, and always carrying a rifle.