One year on Sukkot we did an Israeli-themed meal and over all that food asked students to share a favorite memory of Israel. Being it was on the holiday, we had to remember as much as we could after the holiday to type it up and post it online.
We did that again this year (2016) in the Sukkah, and once again, people shared wonderful memories, a richly fascinating montage of imagery, flavors and experiences. This time we didn’t as carefully mentally capture who said what, but we’d like to post here some of the memories students (and alumni) shared:
Walking in the midnight darkness in Yerucham near the desert, with the moon as the only source of light, seeing your shadow from the light of the moon, the layers of darkness in the night…
I especially loved the cacophony of sounds and smells of the Machane Yehudah Shuk on a Friday afternoon just before Shabbat.
The Kotel on a Friday night with the soldiers dancing…
Seeing the Kotel for the first time. It’s just unforgettable.
Tzfat is a city of echoes. The negatives are that you can more easily hear other people’s conversations, the positives is how you can hear a concert from across a mountain and feel that you are present there – even from quite a distance!
Volunteering on an army base was a big thing for me. I was just cleaning vehicles, but felt part of something very special.
Part of my rigorous training in the IDF was getting over a very tall wall. And that wall was the first part of a multi-part test. As it happened the intimidating commander was standing just below the wall when I had to get over it. Getting the thumbs-up from that demanding commander was a huge feeling that helped me get through the rest of the test.
I loved the hikes in Israel. Maybe it’s because I like nature and the outdoors in general, but it also had something to do with the history and meaning of every part of that land.
We rented an apartment near Jerusalem’s train station whose rooftop had a beautiful view of the old city. It was also not far from an Arab area down the hill. Often the Arab kids would come up and walk or run past my apartment. I went down once and lined them up the stone wall and taught them a bunch of songs that use finger puppets and hand-motions. They liked it so much, they invited me down to their homes, and I went.
Floating in the Dead-Sea had to be my most memorable moment.
I remember going with my mom to the Dead Sea. The funny part was trying to get her up out of it. My mom has since passed away, so this was a very special and happy memory.
Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, meant a lot to me. Although we have a lot of Holocaust education and memorials here in the US, and I’ve been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, there was something different about seeing that in Israel, a different context.
Usually we host our visiting Israeli family in America, so being hosted by them and having them show me around was a special treat.
My first time in Israel with my wife and we were up in Tzfat and I really wanted to dunk in the Arizal Mikvah (which is at the edge of the historic Tzfat cemetery). It’s a small town, and hard to get lost, but Israelis are notorious for vague directions, so we must have walked about 5 miles in circles, in the hottest heat, getting lost finding the Arizal’s Mikvah.
I studied in Ben Gurion University in the Negev, actually in the town where Ben Gurion is buried. I was once honored to light a candle as part of a Israel Independence Day ceremony, as a newcomer to Israel.
I am a runner. We were staying at a hotel in Netanya, and I got up very early one morning before sunrise and went for a run on the beach, on the shores of the Mediterranean. That had to be one of the most beautiful runs I’ve even done in my life.
I haven’t been (yet) to Israel but have memories of Israel advocacy activities throughout my teens. And I like reading WSJ on Israel, because that paper has some very good writing about Israel.
I’m from New York and strangers aren’t (or don’t seem) the most helpful all the time, but in Israel, it feels differently. You just go over to people and they’re glad to help you out.
Visiting family there, and getting to know my Israeli cousins was a special highlight.
When that plane touched down at Ben Gurion Tel-Aviv airport… Wow, the anticipation, the excitement! When we got out it was raining. That would be a nuisance here, but in Israel it is a positive omen and was a very special welcome.
The food. It had to be the food. I loved the street vendors, the little shops, the freshness of it all.
There’s this place in Jerusalem that serves a heartattack for lunch – fried and stuffed malawach, with all kinds of goodies inside, heavy, filling and so delicious!
I haven’t been to Israel yet, but hearing everyone’s comments and descriptions makes me feel like I’d like to get there soon.
I am from Israel, visiting here in your Sukkah, seeing this wonderful campus community. Here’s what’s most beautiful to me: How thousands of miles away, and in a very different place, it is still all the same: Jews sitting together and singing in a Sukkah!
We will add to this, as we remember more, or are reminded of more things shared that special night in the Sukkah this year, over pita, felafel and shwarma-chicken, Israeli salad, humus, tehina, sharp pickles, and even sunflower seeds!