Amazing how a hot shower and good night's sleep can change one's attitude.
This trip came about when I was invited to join the San Francisco Jewish Community Center’s Israel Staff Seminar (read our travel blog). Each year, the excursion takes 15 lucky JCC employees to enjoy two colorful weeks learning about Israeli life and culture. Never having been to the Middle East, every day was an adventure that revealed wondrous views of this fascinating country.
We hiked through the Negev Desert. Rode camels led by our Bedouin guide who warned, "do not pet the camels!" Trust me, I won't. We hiked a very steep Masada that revealed just how out of shape I am. Floated in the Dead Sea, slept in a Kibbutz, and pulled beets on a farm run by Leket, an organization that feeds local needy families. We visited an army base where we took part in simulated target practice with M4s, machine guns and bazookas, and I hit an impressive 7 out of 30 targets. And on my first attempt, mind you. It was loud, fun, and entertaining, until I remembered the true intent behind any such weapons and suddenly I felt a bit uneasy about having such a good time.
And to answer the one question everyone has posed about visiting a country that constantly faces political strife and turmoil: I have never felt safer. I feel more threatened during my daily 60-minute commute, battling idiots behind the wheel who think rules of the road only apply to other drivers. In Israel, everywhere we went, we were welcomed, fed, embraced and educated. This was, indeed, the trip of a lifetime
But when asked if there's one experience that stands out the most, I don't hesitate to respond. It's something that is burned in my brain and will stay with me for the rest of my life, until I'm on my deathbed and reliving certain priceless moments. It's the kind of memory that truly makes travel something that can't be described in books or purchased through material goods.