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  • Writer's pictureEmily Breeden

Israel ’20 & Our Tag-LIT Mishpacha

It has officially been one month since leaving for Israel.  What in the what?  

My head is spinning, thinking about all that has happened in the last couple months.  From learning about, interviewing, and accepting an offer to my ‘dream company’ which would completely change my career/life, to saying “Hang on, let’s push my start date out so I can go to Israel on the most epic trip of my life first,” to getting back from Israel March 12th, just as COVID-19 was ramping up globally… to having to take a step back, seriously evaluate how things were escalating in the world and weigh pros/cons of other challenges that started popping up, and make the last-second decision to humbly ask my current boss if I could rescind my resignation and stay only a couple days before I was supposed to move to Colorado… Thankfully, my boss said, “Yes,” and I still am employed right now…

So then, I had to figure out cancelling my moving truck, my new lease in Colorado, unpack my boxes, find a couch again since I had already sold mine… and mentally try to come to terms with, and find peace, and acceptance with ALL that just happened, while bracing myself for the unknowns and what might be coming next.

Whew.  Overall, I am extremely grateful for the crazy timing (dare I say, “divine timing”) of everything, particularly the timing of that Israel trip.  I left Boise for that trip February 29th with the world, and MY world, going in one direction… and came back March 12th to the world, and my world, changing courses BIG TIME.

It is absolutely surreal how fast everything happened.  But I do believe that trip, and everyone on it, came into my life for a reason.

So while memories are still mostly fresh,  I feel it is my duty (you know, having a blog and all) to document this shit!!  Since the entire trip was jam-packed without any downtime, I didn’t end up blogging from there, but I tried my best to take notes when I could.

Warning:  This is going to be long.  WE DID A LOT!  And most of these notes will include “inside jokes,” and names (/#hashtags) that only my group will understand.  If you don’t connect with it, sorry, I am writing this more for my mishpacha (fam) and to preserve my own memories, than for the general public… however, it still may entertain you even if you weren’t there. 😛  ENJOY!

Feb 29th – Los Angeles, CA 

My real journey actually started in LA!  I flew in a day before the Israel flight, and got to reconnect with my college friend Dana, frolic around Santa Monica and see an amazing sunset on the beach, get our nails did (#PalaceNails!), and meet the host of my favorite podcast, “Broken Brain,” the one and only Dhru Purohit!  Seeing Broken Brain’s set and learning more about the “behind the scenes” of a podcast that has impacted my life in many positive ways was so. freaking. cool.

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March 1-2 – Travel from LA to Tel Aviv, Israel

This was the day I got to meet a group of crazy strangers that would quickly become best friends, or what we call mishpacha (“family” in Hebrew.) 🙂 (As I write that, all I can think about is the intro to “The Real World” on MTV back in the day… I feel like our trip could have been made into a very entertaining reality TV show… minus any bad vibes, because our whole trip was GOOD vibes only — despite a lot of crazy things that happened!)

Some memorable moments that kicked off “The Real World: Israel!”:

  1. Meeting everyone by the sandwich shop in LAX, and having to attempt to remember a million (well, about 36) new names

  2. Getting grilled by multiple different people from El Al TSA, and almost bursting into tears because I didn’t think they were going to let me go to Israel.  Apparently, I looked super suspicious in my Idaho sweater and neck pillow.

  3. Nerves about COVID-19 and seeing lots of masks.  The airport, in general, was actually kind of empty, which felt a little eerie.  A lady from a store I bought some water shoes at went all conspiracy on me when I asked how she was doing, saying “I know a bunch of stories, and people getting infected that the media isn’t talking about… THEY’RE NOT TELLING US ENOUGH!!!”  …At the time, I thought she had a screw loose and was exaggerating, but now that I’ve seen how it has shut down the entire world, she may have been right…

  4. Nader and Jake getting detained in LA, before flying to Israel… For Nader, we speculate, it was because he was born in Egypt, is a music producer with a song called “All Roads Lead to Egypt,” ohh and had an Arabian prince costume in his luggage for Purim… #SickoMode #YouMustDoSquats

  5. Soooo much laughter on the 15 hour plane ride with my row buddies, Alex and Steven.  58K-H Represent!!!  Some funny memories were figuring out how to send messages to other seats right at the end… doing “Legs up the Wall” yoga pose… making Steven get us “non-vegan” snacks since he was the aisle seat (and him being worried they’d think he was a fraud)… witnessing a wine-spillage incident and all of us running away… Alex and his endless supply of snacks.  I may have had the middle seat, but the fun flight definitely made up for it!

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  1. Nader getting detained AGAIN once we got to Israel.  He needs to stop doing so many squats, the TSA just can’t seem to get their hands off him!  #FreeNaderThen, 11 people finding out their luggage did NOT make it to Israel, and Lauren making the observation that it felt like we were all in the middle of Performance Art.  Steven lost it after everyone was told “You will need to fill out between 1-11 forms.”

  2. Had to stop at a random strip mall to buy things… Learned that queueing in Israel means throwin’ BOWS!

  3. Got to meet our bus driver, Foad, who we would all come to love… and also not-love sometimes, like during the 18-point turns, and his chosen speed down windy roads… and, we got to meet our dedicated Israeli soldier, Roieee, who was there to keep us all safe (especially a lovely certain someone whose name rhymes with Bicole, hehehe) 😉

  4. Eating our first delicious meal at our VERY glamorous hotel called “La Perla” and meeting our amazing tour guide for the next 10 days… Josh!

  5. Officially naming ourselves the Geriatric Birthright Group (26-32), obviously wayyy cooler than the Baby Birthright group that was on a parallel trip. #OldPeopleRule #OurBacksHurt

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March 3 – The North

  1. Woke up in Tiberias, by the Sea of Galilee, a.k.a. the “bellybutton” of Israel (as Josh called it).  Didn’t sleep because of jet-lag, and also my bed kept collapsing in half… which was better than having a room full of ants! 😀

  2. Saw the sunrise happening and deciding instead of laying there not-sleeping, to go for a run with Val.  Ran the wrong direction, and almost jumped over some barbed wire fencing, but then realized it could be Syria and turned around.

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  1. Hiked some ancient ruins to see Israel’s largest waterfall – Banias.  Saw some wild hogs, which was the only pork product I’d get to see on that trip.  Got to meet our whole group and learn where everyone was from, what they did (basically A/S/L/pic.)  Learned who was in a serious relationship, who loved long walks on beaches, and who was going to be our group’s professional medical team (Carly, Adam, and Gina, a.k.a. the heroes of this trip ❤ ) 

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  1. Visited Golan Heights Winery, a.k.a. wine country, where we all fell in love with a man named Shalom, tried some amazing wine, and learned about the politics/controversy of Golan Heights (#itscomplicated).

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  1. Went off-roading in some badass jeeps along Golan Heights, saw the Syrian border (and some cool looking tanks!), visited an old military base… discussed geopolitics of the Middle East… #itsVERYcomplicated.  Deep convos with Eve about how to stay hopeful, in such a hopeless situation ❤  Got stopped/questioned by some guards on the way out (which Nader was real stoked about) but, we made it out. 😀

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  1. Saw a beeeeaaaauuuutiful, albeit cold, sunset from a lookout point in Golan Heights!

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  1. Ventured to the local hot springs pool in Tiberias… took over the outdoor pool with our big group.  Got splashed and hit on by local Tiberians (that’s a word, right?) who love coffee dates, and Abby… specifically, when she is wearing Eric’s used under garments.

March 4 – Still The North

  1. After #DumpsterFitness with Max, Rachel, and Shayna, we traveled to Tzfat otherwise known as the center/birthplace of Jewish mysticism, the Kabbalah.  The views were lovely and the cobblestone streets, old synagogues, and underground tunnels were super fun to explore.  Thanks to #silverfox Joel for finding a random underground tunnel adventure (with an amazing tour guide who knew a LOT about super heroes and villains from the movies.)  Thanks to #alsosilverfox Spencer for taking shots of whiskey and going “Tree of Life” necklace shopping with me.

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  1. Hung out with a local Kabbalah artist, Avraham Loewenthal, who shared with us his story and why he moved to Israel, his inspirational art, and the history of spirituality within Judaism.  And this whole time, I thought I had to be Buddhist to meditate 🙂 #YayJewishSpirituality!

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  1. Shared a beautiful moment with #superbadassyogainstructor Rachel, who saw powerful connections between what Avraham was telling us about the Kabbalah, and the chakra system/yogic teachings.  Lots of happy tears that day! :’) On that note, if you are curious about Jewish meditations, he introduced us to an amazing book called… Jewish Meditations.  So far, I am loving it.

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  1. Lunch in Hurfeish, a Druze community.  Had some delicious food, and Arabic coffee in tiny coffee cups, while getting to learn about the Druze community/religion.  It’s basically a secret religion that people HAVE to stay/marry in or else their entire community shuns them.  We were all very concerned about how they will actually stay in existence, but the guy did not seem concerned… it was fascinating.  They also believe in reincarnation (he told us an interesting story about a Druze boy who, when he started talking, spoke with a British accent… a few years after a British Druze guy had died… obvi, it was the guy reincarnated as the kid.)

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  1. Dinner at the place Michael was SOOO excited about…. Ohhhh wait, it was closed. 🙂 Had to squish/sneak 1 extra into our cab, and felt like badasses. #NotSubtle

  2. Went to Deck’s instead, thought we were walking to a prison because there so much barbed wire along the way… Ate the best steak, St. Peter’s fish, sweet potato (and pad Thai because there were multiple restaurants running through the same place?) of our lives.  Then found a lovely wine bar because, YOVTO! (You only visit Tiberias once!  This is an inside joke I just made up with myself, for myself. #QuaratineSaturdays

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  1. Found a party bus to take back to the hotel after struggling to find any taxis, and being worried that Mom & Dad (Shayna and Michael) would be upset with us.  Because, you know, Geriatrics like to party too… I think we made them proud!

March 5 – Traveling through Haifa, to Jerusalem

  1. Woke up, #DumpsterFitnessed my final morning in Tiberias with Max, Rachel, Nader, and some actual wild horses.

  2. Went to Haifa to explore the Shrine of the Báb, and the beautiful Bahái gardens and Galilee Hills… very, very purty.  Tried creating a human pyramid and it collapsed, just as someone was coming to yell at us (I blame Nader’s slippery jacket… and gravity… and being geriatric)

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  1. Stopped in the cutest town, Zikhron Ya’akov and had THE BEST FALAFEL OF OUR LIVES

  2. Got to meet with an Ex-Gaza-Mayor-Turned-Cement-Company-Dude to travel to the “narrow waist” section of Israel, which is the strip between Gaza and West Bank.  We then visited an Israeli settlement in the West Bank area to chat about geopolitics, like WTF is happening in Gaza… #itsVERYVERYcomplicated.

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  1. Drove up to the fence/border to circle the roundabout and see the security required for people that need to go in and out of the West Bank, which was intense!

  2. Went to a Palestinian nursery to chat about some complications, as well as some benefits of being RIGHT on the border of the West Bank.  Their nursery/farm was literally split with a fence down the middle of it.  The Arabic coffee was delicious!!  We all left feeling like “WTF are they going to do?” after talking more about the Middle East conflict.  It is almost mind-numbing how complicated things are, and how far back the history of complications goes..

  3. From there, we headed into Jerusalem – this song will forever remind me of when Josh blasted that song as we were rolling up and seeing all the lights.  We were all soooo excited to be getting there!

  4. Got to our hotel, met my new fabulous and bad-ass Israeli roommate Chen, and got ready (after shoo-ing away the Nigerian guys that were assigned the same room as us), and went out for a night on the town.  Danced to Shakira/JLo on my phone the whole way to Machane Yehuda… bonded with Chen and Roieeee over house music!

  5. Our huge group then proceeded to take over an entire alleyway in the famous market… Chen ordered some shots, and started the DANCE PARTAYYY (which lasted the entire rest of the night!) 

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My favorite part was the “DJ”(s) with the short aux chord alternating between “Candy Shop” by 50 Cent, and “The Macarena”… using YouTube, and never waiting for the song to finish.  My second favorite part was our Hasidic friend who kept appearing, disappearing, and reappearing, that loooved Aly.  😀 Oooh and another favorite memory was buying a bunch of baklava with Zack and Aly, and inhaling it all.  #mmm

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  1. Met up with everyone, attempted a to split a Hebrew check a million ways, and went back to the hotel…. Then, to everyone’s horror, we got stuck in the elevator.  We all laughed, except for Joel… Joel was NOT amused.  Luckily, no one appeared to have Coronavirus.  We DEFINITELY would have all gotten it in that tiny elevator.

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March 6 – Jerusalem 

  1. Started the day learning about a bone marrow donor program called the Gift of Life (#JewsHelpingJews) and laughed my @$$ off at Max’s sound effects whilst cheek swabbing.

  2. Went to Israel’s national military cemetery called Mount Herzl where Josh told us a story about one of the fallen American-Israeli soldiers, Michael Levin

When he started telling the story right by Michael’s grave, some dark clouds came in, and it started raining.  As his story escalated, the rain started coming down harder… By the climax of the story, it was aggressively raining, hailing and thundering, and all of us had taken cover in random spots. 

Josh continued yelling the story over the hail.  I don’t even remember all the details of the story, but I will never forget the goosebumps, and pure awe we all felt as the storm literally matched the mood and intensity of the story.  There were lots of tears.  By the end of the story, the clouds slowly moved out and the rain slowed enough for us to walk to the bus.  It was honestly kind of surreal, the way it all went down, and I don’t think any of us will ever forget that experience.

  1. Then we headed to the ancient alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City to meander in the pouring rain, with our awesome new ponchos and umbrellas… we may have looked and felt like Teletubbies but it was okay, because we were all Teletubbies together.

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  1. The Western Wall – The remains of the Second Temple.  I still get chills/goosebumps/all the feels thinking about that experience and want to remember all the details, even if they seem “mundane.” 

It was Friday just before sundown (Shabbat), which is THE TIME to go.  We all sang (okay I just hummed and soaked in the experience; I didn’t know any Hebrew songs… or any Hebrew for that matter, at the time) before walking in. 

We each got a piece of paper to write a prayer/wish on.  Some wrote longer messages, some were short.  Mine was just a few sentences long.  It was cold, and lightly raining… I gave the lovely Ms. Livin’ Her Best Israeli Life Nicole my white fuzzy poncho from Sedona, and was so excited to be able to help her, even if just a tiny bit.  We walked in, through the (surprisingly, not that thorough) security, and Chen came and found me.  She asked if she could read me a prayer, at the Wall, called

Tehilim.  I felt SO grateful for her, that she found me for this beautiful gift of a moment.  We walked up to the Wall, placed our rolled-up prayers into different crevices where we found space, and backed up so others could do the same.  Chen explained the prayer she was going to read was about personal power/strength, and started reading in Hebrew. 

As I listened to her, and looked around me at the people praying, singing, and crying at the wall, I became completely overwhelmed with this feeling of gratitude.  I felt SO grateful, and lucky to be on that trip; for Chen reading the Hebrew prayer; for everyone on that trip that was becoming like family; for Josh’s story in the rain; for the beauty I was witnessing all around me; the birds circling above the wall in almost a divine way (which someone I met at the airport told me to look for)… and the tears just started flowing.  Okay, I was a GD crying mess.  We walked over to this tiny synagogue and walked in.  It was packed (#coronagogue?) and silent as everyone was deeply praying.  I just closed my eyes and went back to feeling that intense feeling of gratitude and love, and the tears started flowing again.  Umm I had no idea I was going to cry so much on this trip. 🙂 

  1. After waiting for everyone to come back to our meeting spot, we had some wine (for religious reasons, not just for #GeriatricPartying, I swear!) and headed back to the hotel.

  2. Prepared for Shabbat, had a nice meal, and had a great group session where we talked about how the trip was going so far.  While sharing our favorite parts of the trip, my mind was swirling with all of the the AMAZING, more touristy things we had done (Western Wall, Tzfat, Golan Heights etc..), but the moment I decided to share was a little different… I talked about one of my favorite moments being an impromptu yoga class a bunch of us did that day, during a short break we had gotten, thanks to our amazing yoga instructor, Rachel! 

We had all been so tired, drinking from a firehose of information and being bussed around to see new things nonstop, stressed from all the various things happening on our trip and in the world (and, in general, just from being thrown on a trip with 36 strangers, and not much personal space) …and yet, a big group of us came together to slow down, do some yoga, and just breathe together… it was simply beautifulSometimes it’s the little, seemingly insignificant moments that can create the best memories. ❤ 

March 7 – Jerusalem 

  1. This day was a little more chill.  Started with a “Political Seminar” with an expert named Iftah Burman, to discuss the complex geopolitical situation in Israel.  Something that stuck out to me were his “dove-ish” vs. “hawk-ish” descriptions of leaders.  We all were grateful for our very own Vanna White, a.k.a. Spencer, who did a great job with the timeshare presentation!

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  1. Walked to the Israel Museum to check out the National Museum and see a city made for ants (“No Climbing!!”) and the Dead Sea scrolls

  2. Learned the phrase “gam zu l’tovah” from Shayna ❤ when I got some not-so-fun news from back home and was having a tough time.  It means “This too, is good.”  I will forever be grateful for Shayna and Nicole, and their comfort they provided me that day (also Michael since he walked the whole way after seeing I was upset.)  Talk about your mishpacha having your back, for real.  “Gam zu l’tovah” fit well with “No Coincidences” and some of the other positive themes of our trip. 🙂

It felt like no matter how crazy the world was getting, the fact that all of us were in Israel and on that trip together, and in each other’s lives now, meant that everything was going to be okay. Okay, this blog post is entering “cheesy” territory and I don’t even care. 😉 

  1. Got back to the hotel, had a havdalah ceremony, talked about the Holocaust and who knew stories from their family history, and read some stories of Jews that survived (or didn’t survive) that we’d be potentially seeing information on the next day in Yad Vashem… Then, went into town for dinner.

  2. Found a place called Etrog Man, which Eve, Irena and I thoroughly enjoyed… We LOVED the people who were working there.  They were blasting Purim music, and having the best time ever, dancing around the store and giving out free samples of their fresh fruit juice, which obviously drew us in.  Plus, their acai bowl and fresh smoothies were amazing.  I am now drooling whilst writing this. UGH pleeease open one of those in Boise.

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  1. Ate dinner at an Italian place and got to bond with even more people in my group. Found out Amy has a family member in Wisconsin who taught a friend of mine.  I absolutely love small world connections like that!!

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  1. Explored the market again with Val and Yotom and went back to the hotel.  On the way back, it was so interesting to observe the traditional/religious clothes everyone was wearing.  It almost looked like kids/young adults had dressed up, gone to Temple, and then gone out to party with their friends after? #JewsKnowHowtoParty

March 8 – The Negev 

  1. Woke up and ran around Jerusalem (literally) with Alex.  I ran more on this trip than I have since my half marathon in October!!

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  1. Went to the Yad Vashem Museum and walked around with our guide, Sofia.  Yad Vashem is the Holocaust remembrance museum.  It was super emotional.  Some things that stuck out to me…

  2. How it all really began, and snowballed over time.  And how seemingly “small” ideas progressed, turning into to one of the worst things to ever happen to humans in history.  It basically all started with propaganda that Jews were “not human”… I’ll never forget the poster of a huge parasite crawling over Earth.  It is downright scary that people actually thought (and still think) that way…

  3. The most emotional part for me was the Children’s Memorial.  It was simple, calming, yet so dark, and so full of sorrow.  It’s basically a big path/room you walk in a circle around, that is pitch black besides 5 candles being reflected by a bunch of mirrors in the middle… with speakers listing off kids’ names, their country of origin, and their ages.  I get goosebumps/tears even just writing this.  The listing of their ages is really what got to me.  Anytime I heard the voice say a name, and then “3 years old” or “6 years old” or “10 years old” all I could think of was my nieces and nephew, and their pure innocence.  And how innocent all the children who perished in the Holocaust were.  I lost it and could not stop the tears.  And now, I’m losing it again.  So. Much. Crying. 

  4. The beautiful part about how that museum is designed, is at the end, you literally are walking out towards the light at the end of the tunnel, to an amazing view of Jerusalem.  It symbolizes the “return to life” and is designed that way to make you feel hopeful at the end.

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  1. Afterwards, I just kept thinking about this quote I had seen recently… “Think of all the things that had to happen for you to exist.” (or something like that.)  As in, think of what your parents survived, what their parents survived, and so on… Now, add being Jewish during the Holocaust into that mix.  The fact that we were all on that trip together, felt like a miracle to me.

  2. After that, we went to Mach Nehuda Market to buy gifts (basically we all pulled names at random, and had to buy someone on our trip a small and meaningful gift.)  Tried lots of DELICIOUS halvah and got this Yemenite pita meal that was tasty AF.  Ugh, now my mouth is watering again.  Frolicked around with Eve looking at gifts, until we realized we were late and slightly lost!!  Thank gawwwd for GoogleMaps 🙂

  3. Drove down a windy-ass road (luckily no one puked that time) into the Negev Desert, to Kfar Hanokdim …where we would get to have a delicious hafla dinner together, hang out in Bedoin tents and listen to this amazing Bedouin woman who has a documentary somewhere called “Against All Odds.”  She had been married to a man who had 4 wives, and when she decided she wanted to go to school, her husband completely cut her off from all support and basically threw her out to survive on her own.  She was a Bedouin BADASS.

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  1. After her talk we went to Fyre Festival 2020 and watched camels pee for 5 minutes each, all at the same time, standing in weird positions.  It was adorable.

  2. I was especially lucky to be Shayna’s roommate that night (I liked to joke that I was her body guard because it made me feel strong) since we got to sleep in a nice cabin instead of on the ground.  Apparently everyone who slept in the tent got to hear Russians playing music all night…

March 9 – Masada, Dead Sea

  1. Got up REAL early, and drove to ascend Masada via the Roman Ramp (Built nearly 2,000 years ago!) – to see the sunrise over the Dead Sea.

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We walked around the fortress ruins, took fancy sunrise pics, did burpees, yelled random things into the canyon, saw some inappropriate birds doing inappropriate things, celebrated Nader’s Belated Bar Mitzvah, danced around in circles, and then walked back down.

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  1. Went back to the Bedouin tent area to learn about camels!  We also got to feed them, some people rode them, and some people got to watch one of them get groomed.  Camels are kind of gross but, in a sweet way.

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  1. Headed over to float in the Dead Sea, a.k.a. the lowest place on Earth, and the saltiest body of water (almost 10x saltier than the ocean).  One of the coolest freaking experiences EVER!!  Some observations/memories:

  2. You really do just FLOAT!  It’s crazy.  I just felt like a bouy the whole time.  I tried floating on my stomach and balancing was hard.  You just naturally flip over to your back.

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  1. Your skin feels so insanely smooth while you’re in the water and when you get out.  I loved the smooth feeling on my skin so, so much!  I bought some “Dead Sea Bath Salts” and it just isn’t the same…

  2. It BURNS like none other when you get it in your nose/eyes.  Luckily they had wash stations to dump water on yourself.  But man, getting it in your eyes hurt like a b*tch.

  3. We had some fun photoshoots.  This was a day I am so happy I had my nice camera. 🙂  Spencer, Jake, and Max should probably be fitness (or “tiger pose”) models.

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  1. Had a fun lunch by the sea listening to their “TagLIT” DJ.  That dude knew how to get down.

Got un-salty (also, #RIPDanielsShoes) and went to Sde Boker  – this amazing Kibbutz/community in the Negev Desert that was the first Prime Minister, Ben Gurion’s dream desert home after he retired, and eventually became his resting place.

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  1. Got our rooms.  Saw the beautiful view of the moon lighting up the desert.  So. Many. Cats!!!  Ate dinner.  Exchanged presents (I received a HUGE bar of dark chocolate from Ian, which if you know me, know that is 100% the way to my heart… and I gave Eric a stone that said “Breathe” in Hebrew and reminded him that when our bus was taking 18-point turns, and he was trying not to puke, to just breathe…)

March 10 – Sde Boker & Tel Aviv (PURIM!)

  1. Got up and watched the sunrise over the desert with my camera, which was quite lovely.

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Went on a beautiful hike through Ein Avdat – through a canyon, up some narrow steps and by a beautiful waterfall.  It was stunning!  Got some great pics. 

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The pull-up pics were the best.  My mishpacha certainly came prepared for this trip with their GUNS (get it?… but also, there were guns around all the time, because… it’s Israel)

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  1. Paid respects at Ben Gurion’s grave.  Heard some amazing karaoke-ing happening.  Listened to Michael talk about his journey after his first Birthright trip.  Got lost by myself looking for a bathroom and basically walked in on some confused office workers.  Luckily, I knew how to say “ShayrooTEEM!” so they let me use their bathroom.

  2. Drove to Tel Aviv for our last night in Israel.  I should mention, we were quite exhausted (#Geriatrics) at this point – as you can see, we had done SO MUCH on this trip.  It was quite incredible and surreal, and none of us could believe how fast it had gone… We were already on our last night!!

  3. As soon as we got to our hotel in Tel Aviv, we found out that our flight the next day was bumped up by 8 hours due to all the COVID stuff starting to happen.  There had already been tons of flights cancelled and layoffs at El Al.  That meant that we needed to have our closing ceremony that night, instead of the next day.  And because it was Purim, we were going to have do the closing ceremony in our costumes.  What better way to spend our last night in Israel, than to get dressed up in funny costumes and talk about our favorite experiences together?

  4. After our ceremony (more tears… seriously, love these people so much) we all went out to celebrate Purim in Tel Aviv.  I am SO, so happy we happened to be there during this holiday.  Clearly, COVID-19 hadn’t quite taken over the world just yet… There were people EVERYWHERE!  The streets were filled with people in costumes, live music, impromptu parades, people dancing, eating, drinking.  We found a place for dinner, danced around the city, ended up at the place we started which had some bumpin’ reggaeton, and had SO MUCH FUN.

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  1. After finally getting a bus (our first one ditched us; Foad saved us!) we ended up having to stay on the bus, outside our hotel for a while due to a mysterious package… ’twas interesting, but ended up being nothing.  They take “mysterious packages” seriously there, as they should 🙂

March 11 – Tel Aviv & Departure

  1. A couple hours later (I think we only slept 3-4 hours that night) we had THE MOST DELICIOUS BREAKFAST yet, and jumped on the bus to go check out Tel Aviv’s market for one last “half-day” in the city.

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  1. Walked by the beach (and Banana Beach, tehehe), went through the market (which Josh observed was very, very empty compared to usual…#Corona), made Spencer pretend to be my sugar daddy and buy all my souvenirs because I ran out of shekels, bought some chocolate babka (oh my god… here comes the drool again), went to the synagogue with Blake and Spencer and passed by some funny carrot-juice joints. 

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Ran around trying to find a bathroom (story of my life) before getting back to the bus.  Took one last group selfie and said our goodbyes to the people who extended their trip and were not going to to the airport.

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  1. Sang Happy Birthday to “Sababa” Shovon and watched a hilariously punny performance by Michael that used all of our names.  Then we had a NSFW stand-up performance by Val that had us laughing our asses off.  Val, I cannot wait to see your standup specials start to come out on Netflix and be like “I saw her perform on a bus, NBD.” 

  2. Got to the airport and it was creepishly empty.  We were running a teeeeenie bit late, due to all the selfies and hugs in Tel Aviv; plus, they had combined a bunch of the flights in weird ways due to #CoronavirusCutbacks… so some of us were told, “Sorry, you don’t get a seat and will have to fly out later.”  Luckily, the CoronaGods were watching down on us and somehow all of us ended up getting on the flight.  I also have to add, that for this airport experience, Nader wore his “Birthright Israel” shirt, his Israel bracelet, and a kippah, and we strategically placed him in the middle of the group (you know, like when traffic is all going 10+ over, you want to make sure you’re in the middle of the pack so you don’t get pulled over!) – this time, there were no issues for him!

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  1. Was so excited to see that again, I was in a row with 2 mishpacha homegirls… this time, the Alessi sisters!!  AND, that Tiny Bladder Breeden got an aisle seat for once!

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  1. Memorable moments of the flight were… everyone coming back to sing “Happy Birthday” to Shovon (we were seriously so confused at first, and thought everyone on our trip just had to go to the bathroom at the same time!)… THE BUTT CRACK GUY (Aly, Shovon, and Shanna will never forget this guy)

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Aly’s face is obviously the best part.


  1. … Watching Frozen 2 and messaging the plane via the plane-messaging system about it, only to meet a rando girl from Duluth, MN who also loved Frozen 2.  She and her church group had only been in Israel for a couple days, and had to turn around and fly home because of coronavirus… Hearing stories like that made us realize just how insanely lucky we were that our trip happened when it did.  

  2. Got to LA, had to stay overnight since our flight was moved up so much (thank you Aly’s dad!!!) and finally, the next day, made my way back to Boise to face reality and figure out WTF was going to happen with my life.

So, that was it, folks.  

It’s been pretty wild to think how much has happened, and changed in all of our lives since getting back a few weeks ago.  We have a WhatsApp group and have all been keeping in touch… and everyone’s lives have been affected and/or have DRASTICALLY changed since our trip, because of the pandemic.

I really believe this trip happened for a reason.  We have talked about what a mindf*ck it’s been having to isolate ourselves, after almost two weeks of living in the opposite of isolation.  The timing of it, right as the pandemic was beginning, is something that all of us will remember forever.

To my mishpacha, thank you for the memories.  Cannot wait for a reunion once the world goes back to “normal,” or at least figures out a new normal.  You’ll always have a couch to crash on, and a friend to make fitness music videos with. ❤  אני אוהב את כולכם

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And if you’d like to see ALL the pics (they are jumbled… and there are a LOT of them)… Here they are. 🙂

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