Posts Tagged ‘Hikes’

I’ve returned from my second trip to Israel in a year last Monday. Every time I go it’s different, I end up seeing something new that is old. I end up seeing someone old in a new setting and meeting someone new who will inevitably become an old friend. Those of course, are welcomed changes and experiences, but much like one other time I spent in Israel there was one drastically different thing that could not go unseen. War.

I went as planned, even during the war. This longing to be in Israel no matter what and sentiment within the Jewish community to “not let them win” has been a strong aspect of my life, and as it turns out, of 39 other Americans my age.

The war was hardly in our face, in fact, it seemed to not even be happening- but of course CNN and BBC would have you think that the world is ending.  But enough about the bad, I’ll talk about the good, the VERY good.

Only 2 out of the 40 participants opted out of joining us on this brilliant Birthright trip. There was a total of 47 people on our bus, including 3 staff members and a group of off duty Israeli soldiers there to meet the Americans and create lasting friendships.

On our first day we went to Jerusalem and visited the Kotel, or Western wall, or Wailing wall. We had a beautiful havdallah service, ending Shabbat and welcoming in the new week. This was our first shabbat together, and for most of the participants they had not been very involved in services of this kind before, so it was quiet, but still moving, as we were in the holiest site for Jews.

We then traveled  south and woke up early to n16319176_35310340_8785hike up Masada for watch the sunrise.

This is always a fantastic hike, it’s not too hard, but there is an incredible pay off once you get up there.

One thing that we get to do on the winter trips but not on the summer trips is visit the southern most point of Israel- Eilat. It’s on the Red Sea and borders with Egypt and Jordan.

There was a security issue with one of the hikes that we were set to do- the Army was doing training operations in the area, so we were relocated to another hike, which was as our guide tells us SO MUCH BETTER than our first. As far as I knew and could see, he was right. This was an exhilarating hike filled with fossils and rock wonders and even the stuff the Cleopatra had imported to Egypt use as makeup. hike I like to say that I like hiking, and I’ll be the first to admit that most of the time I’ll complain a little, but I realized last week that it’s not that I don’t like hiking, I actually love it when the hike is right. I LOVED every minute of this hike. No ifs, ands or butts about it. hike1 This was the highlight of my trip for sure.

Now, from there we went to spend a night in a Bedouin tent. I usually find this to be fun and interesting, but because our bus driver was told to wait for us in the wrong place and on top of that had no cell reception, we were delayed quite a bit (after coming up with ways to keep warm and who to eat first). We arrived at the Bedouin tent late- it was fully dark out and we were extra-ordinarily tired. We didn’t get to partake in any of the fun things they had planned for us, like a drum circle or a sit down for traditional tea with the Bedouin leaders.

This was only the beginning of a pretty shitty experience over all. We all were sleeping in one big tent on “mattress pads” with sleeping bags that had gone around the block if you catch my drift.  None of us slept well, including one of the guys who had a nightmare of demon children crawling under and into the tent- which resulted in him screaming in the middle of the night.

The next morning we were to ride camels- it’s a fun experience but not one that needs to be had more than once- I opted out. I can only imagine that the participants were in pain in their normally happy areas, so going back to the Kotel in that state, on no sleep and seriously stinky was not something we all wanted to do.  BUT to top it all off, one of the girls received a lovely present from the Bedouin tent in the form of a rash. I cannot stress enough how awful of an experience it was. This is us eating in our tent.food

From there we went from dry sandy conditions to wet and muddy ones in the Golan (the north)golan

This part of the country is one that most people who haven’t been to the region don’t every expect to see. It looks like Scotland with rolling green hills and moisture in your hair. We saw some museum sites, Syria & Lebanon and old army bunkers. The group went on another hike but due to the rash and a few other impending illness’, I stayed back with a couple of the participants. Once our tour of the north had ended, we headed to Tel Aviv- perhaps one of the more famous cities in the Middle east, known for it’s liberal culture and beautiful coast. When we approached the coastline, almost everybody commented on how it looked like Miami.

beachWE had a lovely shabbat in Tel Aviv. On saturday we all walked around the city looking at it’s striking Bauhaus style architecture and then had a relazing afternoon on the beach.beach-coffee

Then came our night out in Tel Aviv. It was poorly planned, because we went out Motze Shabbat (or after shabbat, on Saturday night) when not many people go out because the work week begins on Sunday. But, since we were almost 30 people, we took over the club anyway. We went to a place called, well shit, I don’t remember but it doesn’t matter anyway. I’m not going to plug a club in Tel Aviv that will mostly likely be called something new in a month.

We had an AMAZING time, although I was not drinking (due to the fact that it’s my job to staff this trip). Everyone got all gussied up and we had a fantastic last night out together.

Here is the entire group on our first day


On a more personal note- one which may be seen as political, but I see it as patriotic. There is now a beautiful cease fire in the middle east between Hamas and Israel. The fact remains that Israel is pulling out her troops, even when rockets were fired into Israel AFTER Hamas agreed on the cease fire. We’re not dealing with an army, we’re dealing with terrorists. While I was in Israel, a cease fire was proposed by Israel and the UN and Hamas decided not to agree with it, which seems to be thier formula- don’t agree to it when Israel proposes it, wait a week, then propose it and show the world that Hamas is the real good guy- In my opinion that is cowardice.

After 8 years of being Hamas’ playgroud for Quassam rockets, Israel retaliated. There is no way any other country in the world would excercise that amount of restraint when a war of terror is being waged on her citizens. Now, world, let’s not cast stones when we all live in a glass house.

* all of the later section of this post which includes politics is the view of Jessi, not Against the Grain, although I believe that ATG stands behind the notion of keeping the citizens of any country safe when a terror group invades.

Peace and Love,

Jessi Amanya (Faith)


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Koop is right, I have left the west so that I can wear warmer clothes and get more colds. Truth be told, I enjoy the colder weather. It can be tough at times, but it makes me appreciate nicer weather better. I had slight depressions during the Los Angeles “winters”, it was always sunny, I didn’t need to drink hot chocolate or cuddle under my big down comforter….I hated that. So, I’ve made a decision that wll make me happier.

Now, I want to make sure you all know that Minneapolis, and the midwest in general DOES have culture. So, this website won’t be a one-sided Koop party. But for now, since I’m in Salt Lake City Utah I”ll talk about it here.

Not only Mormons live here. The mountains are amazing, the streets are clean and the people are nice. This morning, even though it started to snow, Scott, his sister, husband and kids and I, went for a small hike. Below is a picture of me and Scott with his Nephew, Will, at the base of our hike.

For more information about Utah and her natural beauty please visit http://www.utah.gov/

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