From Gal with Love

Hello friends

Because my English is not so good I find it easier to express things in writing, so there are some things I want to say.

First of all, I must say that I enjoyed all those 10 days with you. I learned so much from you and together we created so many experiences and it’s just the greatest gift I could have received from you.

My job as a security guard trips, I usually go at the end of the group and accompany the group until the end of the trip, and often I feel like air. Not really part of the team and I do not have too much interaction with people in the group.

I must say that you really gave me to feel a part of the team.

You gave me feel part of the family, and really enjoyed meet each of you. A huge thank you for it.

I think you’re smart, good people, I’m sure you will do great things in your life and really happy to meet you.

I want to say a huge thank you for helping me economically to finance my flight ticket to you.

I’m really excited about my arrival in the United States and looking forward to it very much.

I love you very much and already miss.

See you soon!

Gal Bar


Reflection on Kibbutz Side Eliyahu

By Dylan Hoffman & Shirah Krauss

We went to a religious Kibbutz in the North of Israel, Sde Eliyahu. We met 93-year-old Mario, a pioneer in organic agriculture and founder of the kibbutz, who stopped by and then drove away in his golf cart. Then Ari, who grew up on the kibbutz, spoke to us about its history and life on this socialist collective. People have their own houses, clothes, and kitchens and share wealth and a dining hall. Everyone is paid the same, no matter their job. Children attend a regional school shared by many local kibbutzim. The whole kibbutz is home.

We then toured around the organic farm and learned about the community’s owl houses and bug growing program, organic solutions to pests and pollination that are implemented around the world.

One of the focuses of this kibbutz was agricultural innovation.  A main critique of socialism is that when people earn equal salaries, there is no motivation to innovate. This kibbutz was able to create great innovations that have been adopted around the world because individuals were motivated by something other than individual profit. While Israel itself is not a socialist country, these communities have created a space for socialism in Israel.

This visit was particularly meaningful to some of us and we wanted to share some of our reactions:

Shirah (Bryn Mawr 2018): Visiting the kibbutz was bittersweet for me. On the one hand, the place is extensive and illustrates socialism in action in a positive and beautiful way. On the other hand, approximately 80% of the children who grow up on the kibbutz leave. I wonder if the kibbutz movement will survive and if there is something I can do to help maintain it. I hope in the future some of us might be able to spend some time living on a kibbutz together and enjoying the socialist lifestyle.

Dylan (Bryn Mawr 2019): A meaningful moment on the kibbutz for me was when Ari talked about the history of Sde Eliyahu after the Holocaust. After the end of WWII, Germany gave money to the victims of the Holocaust. Because of this, many members of kibbutzim across Israel decided to take this money and leave their socialist communities. However, at this kibbutz, the members decided to put all of their money together to build a synagogue on their land instead. I was struck by the selfless decisions of these Jews in the 1940s. Instead of taking the money for themselves, they decided to use their money to build and protect something that the German Nazis so wanted to destroy (Jewish religion and Jewish people). Hearing this story made me think about the resilience of the Jewish people which never ceases to amaze and inspire me


Dead Sea!!!

Our very last activity was one of the coolest and staples of any trip to Israel – we took a plunge into the Dead Sea! We were quite shocked coming from the freezing desert in the morning to a warm-in-the-sun-cool-in-the-shade midday at Masada to beach weather at the Dead Sea, which fun-fact is the lowest point on earth. We all were pleasantly surprised to dip our feet in to find that the water was quite warm, but it was a little underwhelming – it just felt like any old sea. But, as more and more of us began to ease our way in, we began to go deeper and deeper until the water was up to our waists. At this point, many people did the cliché: lay-on-our-backs-and-float-move, but we soon found that even if you stood completely vertical, you would still float without treading water. It took a while for us to get used to not needing to make any effort while swimming in deep water. We then began to cover ourselves in Dead Sea mud, which has really cool exfoliating properties, making our skin feel super smooth. We were all having an awesome time, but when a bit of water splashed into some people's eyes they decided to start swimming in. Others also agreed the salt was starting to sting cuts, or they were feeling a general sting all over. Inevitably we decided to all swim back. This was a great experience, but it probably didn't need to be any longer. The Dead Sea was definitely one of the most unique experiences of the trip and were an awesome last event.

We are now on our way to the final hotel in Jerusalem where we will have our big closing dinner. I think I speak for everyone when I say that I wish this wasn't our last day, nobody wants it to end!

– Drew Evans





Camels, Massada, and the Dead Sea

Morning came earlier than I wanted; 6:33 to be exact. I woke up to the soothing sounds of Moki's good morning greetings. Breakfast was nothing short of a pile of unadultered terribleness. JK. It sufficed my caloric needs to say the least.

After filling my gut with carton eggs and hummus we made our ways to the majestic camel. A big beast that is in serious need of an orthodontist. I don't know how much Mayanot paid for us to make a short loop of less than 400 meters outside the camp site, but it was worth as much as saying “I got to ride a camel in the dessert”.

We then departed on a two hour bus ride to climb mount Massada. The bus ride was filled with the pleasantries of silence as everyone took this precious time to catch up on sleep, which we desperately lacked due to late night talks, bond building, and other “recreational” activities.

Approaching the orange sun reflecting cliffs was something to behold. Refreshed from the nap, I was filled with wonderment and zeal. I felt ready to beat anyone to the top of this mountain. Off to the races!

Only the elite took on the challenge of jogging up the steep switchbacks and inumerous stairs. Moki assured me I would never make it to the top within 20 minutes. Oh, like that strawberry short cake knew what a Haverford lax bro was capable of!

We started at a nice pace and separated ourselves from the pack as Moki and I took the lead out infront. He told me he had climbed this route over 100 times! Wow…… Ametuer. His calf definition definitely suggested otherwise. But that's neither here nor there.

It was a battle. I was struggling while Moki marched on with a machine like determination. I thought that under his cute exterior there might have been a metal Terminator skeleton. He was sent back in time to teach us the beauties of Israel.

Zdfs\I was dieing. I wanted to puke. I wanted to give up. I looked up at the summit which seemed so close yet so far. I was succumbing to jelly leg syndrome. I looked at my watch and I had just 2 minutes to prove Moki wrong. With the last bit of chutzpah left in tank I trudged on. By the last steps I was on all fours like a dog. There was Moki, sitting at the top of the steps smiling. Glad that I had surpassed his expectation. I collapsed on the cool ancient stones queried centuries before my existence. Looking over my conquest I felt a great sense of accomplishment. We stood there and cheered along the rest of our compatriots.

The ruins of Massada are steeped in the courageous narrative of Jews holding off a great Roman legion for over 3 years before falling on their own swords instead of being enslaved by the ruthless Romans. This narrative is championed around Israel as an inspirational true event. However, there are many inaccuracies and neglected details with this heroic tale that are overlooked to push forward the notion of the brave Jewish last stand.

Now we are headed to the Dead Sea. I'm sure it will be underwhelming as it is only just an extra salty body of water with no life or excitement exept for the fact that we can float a bit more easily.


Day 9. Our last together. I don't want the adventure and learning to end, but I think our mothers need us back in their homes soon or else they'll start force feeding the neighbors.

Best wishes and until we meet again my friends,

-Charlie Russ


Forlorn in the Desert

Yesterday was rugged. We moved from the cozy dells of a youth hostel in Tel Aviv, replete with homespun culinary comforts and beaming staff, to the foreboding depths of Israel's southern desert, sheltered from the frigidity and agoraphobic vastness of the desert by nothing more then the thin drapes of our Bedouin tent and a blasting heat cannon inside. As the sun sunk out of the sky like a dying lifeline to our more comfortable and cosmopolitan but bygone existence in Tel Aviv, I clung tightly to my dusty, pillowless matress, fear trying to race out of my mind past our camp and up the dirt road back to the freeway. Comfort, secured only by a stretched strip of tranlucent fabric. Nights like these made you think.

-Max Weinstein

Visiting an IDF Base

Julia Smith & Ruth Elias


This afternoon, we visited an IDF base near Tel Aviv. The soldiers at this base were the HFC and NBC units (standing for Home Front Command and Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical weapons units). Most of the soldiers at this base were among our age group (18-22). They greeted us warmly with tea and coffee (and slightly less warmly with snacks and other drinks).


When we were first driving through the base, we were struck by the quantities of barbed wire and what appeared at first glance to be useless piles of rubble and demolished buildings. We later learned that these were carefully constructed obstacle courses for practicing different search & rescue techniques. We watched a group of soldiers (all female) break through a series of barriers to “rescue” another soldier, and we cheered as they carried her out on a stretcher. Afterwards, we were given a presentation by one of the instructors in the Search & Rescue division, in which she highlighted the strong efforts of the Israeli soldiers to help other nations in need, such as Nepal during the earthquake of 2015. She also spoke about the different duties of the HFC, such as making sure the Israeli citizens know exactly what to do when an alarm goes off, such as finding the nearest bomb shelter.


Following this, there was a panel of the soldiers in these units (mostly women with one man, made up of those who could speak English well). Many of these soldiers had made Aliyah, several of them just after high school. Most of these were from the US, with one woman from France. We were absolutely fascinaterd by their stories of moving to Israel and joining the IDF, and the reactions of their friends and families. Although their stories were all very different, they had one striking similarity: they all had absolutely no regrets. They all felt that their experience in the IDF had shaped their lives and personalities and helped them become the women who spoke to us today. It was quite an eye-opening experience, and afterwards they gave us comfy sweatshirts (with the S&R logo) to take with us on our journey to the desert and the Bedouin tents tonight.



Friday Afternoon in the Shuk

Ruth Elias & Julia Smith


This past Friday at midday, we went to the Shuk, or market, in the middle of Jerusalem. There is nothing quite like being there right before Shabbat: crowds of people were surging through the marketplace with the smell of shawarma and falafel drifting overhead, piles of fresh produce and exotic spices could be seen at every corner, restaurants advertised Iraqi food and Lebanese cuisine (among many others), and did we mention the crowds?


We all went our own separate ways, with two missions: buying lunch and snacks, and buying presents for “secret Moses” (aka secret Santa), as we were exchanging gifts that evening. This proved to be a difficult mission, as one had to navigate through throngs of shoppers and push one's way to the front of every line. There is definitely no better way to fully experience the frazzled Jewish shopper preparing for Shabbat dinner.


After the Shuk, exhausted and overwhelmed, we returned to our hotel to shower, swim, or just nap in preparation for our Friday night at the Western Wall.