Nobody likes to be left out of an inside joke and I’ll admit it, the quote “good news camel lovers” is an inside joke to my Taglit/Birthright 10 day trip to Israel. But that quote more or less sums up the essence of my trip. Our experience was somewhat similar to an adult jewish camp experience in a foreign country. We were 40 jewish 22-26 year olds randomly placed together all signing up for the same promised once in a lifetime experience, resulting in inside jokes and new friendships.
That quote was said by our Israeli tour guide, Eyal who woke us up on the bus that became more like a moving home to us, saying “Good news camel lovers!” as we pulled into the Bedouin hospitality in the Negev Desert we were staying in that night (which was amazing by the way). Our camel ride was supposed to be that next morning after we had stayed the night in a Bedouin tent with 44 mats fit together side by side like a real tetris game.
Our trip consisted of 40 Jewish Americans from all over the country, 2 American group leaders that had lived in Israel, 1 Israeli tour guide, 1 Israeli medic/armed guard, and our beloved Bedouin bus driver, Jimmy. If you didn’t catch that, we had an armed guard who was also a medic that was with us 24/7, which has always been a standard for all Birthright trips. In cliche American terms, right off the bat, our trip was at a yellow “terror” alert. I learned so much in that short amount of time about what it is like for an Israeli citizen to live their life from day to day in terms of danger. There is so much history of conflict in the Middle East that it is almost impossible to look at who is right and who is wrong. I also learned quickly that having that perspective of right and wrong, hero and villain is a very westernized way of looking at conflict. Israelis are constantly living with imminent danger but we heard over and over again that their philosophy is that you have to keep on living in spite of that. To bring it full circle, our trip had our fair share of schedule changes like the camel ride, including completely eliminating our night out in Tel Aviv and our day trip to Tel Aviv our last day in Israel. Our trip tour guide and leaders always made the best of these changes to ensure we felt safe and that our trip was an experience of a lifetime in the best possible way. Eyal waking us up in a genuinely enthusiastically way to tell us about our camel ride schedule change, at least to me, was a small way of demonstrating that philosophy of ‘you have to keep living’. While it was unsettling at times to be in Israel during the beginning of the current escalation in the Middle East, I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about the trip.
Some of my favorite photos taken on my iPhone and edited with VSCO: