Another 7:00 a.m. alarm clock for another full day! Of course, our day cannot begin without another spectacular breakfast buffet! Caffeinated, stuffed, and ready to go! Our morning was split between two options: Yad Vashem or a Seamline Tour of Jerusalem.
For some, it was our first time visiting Yad Vashem, but even for those who have been there before it was a moving experience for all who opted to go. We began our tour visiting the memorial built for the 1.5 million children, a space that hits you so hard it just takes your breath away. We then made our way into the main museum where we were guided through the history of the Holocaust through words, images, and videos. By the end, it was clear that everyone was affected by this visit and that it is something we will always carry with us.
For those who opted to do the Seamline Tour of Jerusalem, we met with Avi Melamed, a well respected Israeli security strategist. The main themes of the two plus hour lesson were politics and security within the state of Israel. For those who are not familiar with Melamed, he is a Fellow of Intelligence and Middle east affairs at the Eisenhower Institute in Washington DC, and studied conflict resolution mediation at George Mason at the Hebrew University. He recently published a book called “Inside the Middle East, Making Sense of the Crazy, Most Abnormal Area.” We started off by going to a view point overlooking the old city of Jerusalem. Melamed explained the changing borders and ceasefire lines of Israel. His detailed maps gave us an idea of the neighborhoods within the Jerusalem district and the West Bank. We then drove over to the major section of the wall surrounding the city of Bethlehem. Our final stop was a viewpoint overlooking the fence around Bethlehem as he explained that the building and securing of the fence was one of the most expensive infrastructure projects to date, costing more than the Ben Gurion airport.
Both groups joined together on our way up north from Jerusalem where we had another filling meal at Gam V’am Yementite Restaurant in Rosh Ha’Ayin.
We were then on our way to Hatzor Glilit where we visited the Jewish Agency for Israel Youth Futures program, which was such a meaningful experience for all of us. We were able to see, first hand, the benefits of our contributions through The Jewish Federation. This program provides community-based mentoring for at-risk pre-teens and adolescents in Israel. The highlight of this part of our day was being able to interact directly with the children of the program, baking with them and making crafts. When you looked around the room, you could see smiles for days.
Our evening ended with a BBQ at Baba Yoni Ranch in Yesod HaMala, Galilee. At the BBQ, we had the opportunity to speak with Lone IDF soldiers and learn more about their life in the Israeli Army. We danced into the night to live music with the other Young Leaders. On our way home, we turned our bus into our own “Carpool Karaoke”, singing along to some of our favorite songs as we drove to Kibbutz Kfar Blum for the night. We wrapped up our night with a few drinks at the hotel bar with our fellow trip participants from across North America.