It’s the People
Every so often someone will ask me what my favorite part of the Israel Trip is. After many years of leading this trip, I’ve finally arrived at what I’m pretty sure will be my forever answer. It’s the people.
The Mediterranean Sea is an awesome place to spend a few hours swimming, sunbathing, and hanging out on the beach. But it’s the people that make the Mediterranean different from any other beach in the world. The sunbaked lifeguard wearing a huge gold chain around his neck, a scrawny speedo around his waist, and a beard that looks like bleached seaweed on his face. The naked toddlers running to and fro. The men and women with tattoos of Jewish stars and Hebrew letters. The families. How is it that all of these people are able to spend Wednesday morning at the beach????
Rabin Square, in the heart of Tel Aviv, would be no different from any large public gathering space except for the people. Israelis sipping coffee and reading the paper. Men and women running all the small storefronts, proud and busy at work. Young men and women in IDF uniforms enjoying a few minutes of down time over lunch. The young man selling beautiful jewelry from a table in the middle of the nearby mall. Not to mention Yitzchak Rabin, the former Prime Minister of Israel, assassinated by a fellow Jew. In 1995, Rabin was slain in that very spot immediately after speaking at peace rally. This Monday, as the U.S. Embassy was officially relocated to Jerusalem, thousands of Israelis gathered in Rabin Square to celebrate Neta Barzilai and her victory for the State of Israel in the Eurovision song contest.
Florentine, a neighborhood in Southern Tel Aviv that is famous for its Bohemian vibe and street art. A neighborhood, that according to Niro, our graffiti tour guide, will be completely gentrified and rebuilt in the next two years. All the people trying to stay in their community but getting pushed out by the rent. Painting murals on walls that are all scheduled for demolition.
Sarona, the Ponce City Market of Israel. The chef at the sushi restaurant, the women working at the Crepe Stand, the bored looking young man sitting at the olive and pickle counter.
The best part of Israel is the people. And not just the Israelis that guide us, feed us, take care of us, and surround us, but our kids too. Our kids especially.
There’s nothing sweeter or more bittersweet than watching our kids swimming and hanging out on the beach in Tel Aviv. Today they spent the majority of their time play fighting in an elaborate game of “Aqua-Judo.” Their carefree, smiling faces are a reminder that they really love and care about each other. Each year I think about the fact that it may be a long time before they experience a moment as completely carefree and blissful as this morning’s swim time.
Whether swimming, eating, browsing through stores, learning about the different forms and styles of Israeli street art, wandering through Jaffa, experiencing the fine dining at Sarona, or greeting Israeli friends and family and playing cards in the hotel lobby, the genuine interest, engagement, enjoyment, and happiness that our kids demonstrate is what I love most about the 8th grade Israel trip. And though they may not realize it, I think a lot of them will eventually come to realize that their favorite part of the Israel trip is also the people. The people that they meet, the people that they interact with, the people that they've grown up with, the people that they are and are becoming.