Year Course Begins…Let’s Hike!

Thanks for tuning in, loyal readers. As I wrote, work has been crazy. The little monsters (not so little really, no monsters thusfar) arrived from the States and the UK a week and a half ago, ready for fun. Only two lines in and I have to digress already. So Young Judaea has a sister movement in the UK called the Federation of Zionist Youth, or FZY. Most members of YJ can get away with being completely ignorant of everything related to FZY because the world as we all know revolves around America. During staff orientation, my friend Michael led a session on the British Jewish community to the Year Course staff. Afterwards, I walked up and said, “Ok, don’t make fun of me, but I’m representing every single American citizen on the planet. None of us have any clue of what the difference is between England, Britain, the UK, etc etc etc. Anyone who says differently is lying.” Ten minutes later, I had a napkin full of notes. Without looking, can anyone define these three terms? NO CHEATING! I know most of you don’t know so don’t lie. I’m talking thorough explanations and a visual map, not “England is one country, Britain is many.” Just like a few years ago when I bet some friends visiting Atlanta that our waitress at Cafe Tu Tu Tango in Buckhead would have NO IDEA who the Prime Minister of Canada was, despite our sharing a border. Do any of you know? Yeah, me neither. WHAT IS WRONG WITH US???

ANYWAY…the program began with taking all the participants up north for an opening hike, and gibush (bonding). The 160 or so kids and staff in my department slept in Peki’in, a Druze village where Jews, Arabs, Druze, and Christians co-exist (is anyone really satisfied with just “co-existing”? It literally means not killing each other. Let’s raise our standards. They should co-hug.) Apparently, ours was the first group to stay in this youth hostel since the war so the staff were very appreciative. Over the next 2 days, we camped out in Nachal Amud, did a couple of hikes, and had some tours of the northern borders of Lebanon and Syria. We visited Kiryat Shmona, a town in the Golan Heights. In the previous 30 years, I believe the tour guide said it was hit with 3,000 missiles (no small number). In the recent month of war, one thousand. While driving through the town, someone stopped our bus and invited us inside his apartment. We saw the damage done to his house and heard his stories of how he had to race to his bomb shelter to stay alive.

Those of you who have given money to your Jewish Federation’s Israel Emergency Fund, perhaps some of it is going to this man.

In terms of the borders, nothing much looked different from the last time I saw them. It’s on a big mountain. Pretty, actually. No sense that anything had been any different a few weeks ago.

Benji enjoying a hike sporting his Longhorns cap
(while they were still undefeated).

Benji realizing that he needs to buy new hiking shoes. That’s my foot on the right, the one whose sole is completely unattached from and in front of the shoe.

In case you hadn’t paid attention, the world has changed a bit since we were teens. Signs that we’re old? Overheard on a hike when I was on Year Course: “Hey guys, let’s play 20 questions!” Overheard on a hike last week: “I have ‘Old School’ on my iPod!” I did a double-take and fell off a mountain.

I definitely need to do more tiyulim here. It’s cliche to say but there’s really every kind of geology (mountains, deserts, etc.) in this little country and people are often spending their weekends jumping in the car and driving off somewhere to camp out.

Funny Israeli-isms of the week:
1) My co-worker Hilla told me she was going to buy me an “inflammable doll” for my birthday. Not much more to say about that.
2) Last night leaving a bar. My co-worker Reuven waxed poetic about the American phenomenon of grinding. “Eet is crayzee! You jahst touch dem…hey, you want to drink shoko?” And on that note, does it look weird for a grown man to walk around sucking on a small plastic bag of chocolate milk? Is there an age limit? I think I’m past it.

There are probably many more that I don’t remember. Ok, more later.

(Deutschie, to answer your question, the breakdown is as follows: 320ish (?) North Americans and 120ish (?) Brits. That includes about 20 Canadians, the biggest number ever. A vast majority of the N. Americans were never active in YJ before which makes it a little shocking for all the kids who have gone to camp for a jillion years.)

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