Taglit-Birthright Israel is an innovative partnership between the people of Israel through the Government of Israel, private philanthropists through the Birthright Israel Foundation and Jewish communities around the world (North American Jewish Federations through the United Jewish Communities (UJC); the Jewish Agency for Israel; and Keren Hayesod).
For more information about Taglit-Birthright Israel, please visit: www.toisraelnow.org/
This trip is a gift from Taglit-Birthright Israel.
Justin Jacobs, Section 3 madrich, Notes from a Birthright Trip:
Right now, twelve chanichim are in the middle of week two of hiking Shvil Yisrael, Israel’s national trail, with madricha Shawna Dolinka. I spent the first week (and will rejoin next week) hiking and leading the chanichim through experiences on the trail that none of us will ever forget.
The first morning was the hardest. Waking up at 5 AM, as the frigid, dry desert air made every layer of clothing seem like not enough, twelve Section 3 chanichim slowly crawled out of their tents into the still-dark morning. We’d already been through a full day of hiking, but that first morning after our first night was tough. By 6:30, we’d eaten our pre-breakfast, packed the tents and all of our clothing, split up that day’s breakfast and lunch food and set out to the trail. We hiked for almost 10 hours that day through the Negev, walking through Makhtesh Ramon (a huge crater-like dent in the earth unique to Israel).
Some Section 3 chanichim volunteered in Arad this semester and some joined Marva, but only the 12 who spent the semester on Kibbutz Ketura are having an experience quite like this. Shvil Yisrael is an extensive network of trails that extend all over Israel. In the last three weeks of first semester, these 12 chanichim will hike three gorgeous sections of it, all ending with a trek down the Eilat Mountains to the Red Sea.
And our first week couldn’t have been more incredible.
It didn’t quite hit everyone until that first morning, when we awoke unbelievably cold a few kilometers away from Ramon’s Tooth, the highest peak in the makhtesh which we’d climbed the day before. Adjusting to life on the trail took some time. Our daily schedule: waking up before dawn each morning, hiking 90 minutes before eating a real breakfast, expecting to see no less than two breathtaking views a day, making it to camp and starting to prepare dinner by 4, eating by 7, and falling asleep by 9.
Three meals a day? Nah-climbing mountains all day, we needed four. And though the hike was filled with incredible moments, it was often those breakfasts and lunches on the trail that were the most fun. All 12 chanichim, our trail guide Yoash, medic Aviram and myself worked together to prepare each meal, cutting vegetables, making tachina and tuna (in a bag, for lack of plates), clearing an area to sit and, eventually, eating together.
By now, midway through their second week, the chanichim are used to days on the trail. That transformation is complete. But after week three comes the hard part — saying goodbye to the trail for now, and hello to Jerusalem.
Take a look at some great pictures here from the week.