By Ulla Hadar
SHA’AR HANEGEV, Israel–A group of 23 teen led by shlicha Shoshi Bogoch have for the last two weeks travelled in Israel from the north to the south as part of the Community Teen Trip sponsored b y the Jewish Federation of San Diego County.
Open to Jewish teens of all backgrounds in the 10th to 12th grades, the trip
is designed to give youngsters an opportunity to feel the heart of Israel, explore historic places, meet Israeli teens and more, according to Bogoch, an Israeli citizen who now coordinates Israel programs at the Jewish Federation of San Diego.
Through traveling, learning and living the Israeli way of life, the Jewish
Federation Community Teen Trip to Israel creates a meaningful, life-changing experience and an unbreakable bond with Israel, the shlicha (Israeli emissary) said.
The group spent a couple of days in the company of Sha’ar Hanegev youth, enjoying home hospitality with the youngsters of Kibbutz Bror Hayil. A tour of the area included visits to the borderline of Israel and the Gaza strip, to the Sha’ar Hanegev educational campus, and to the San Diego Ibim Student Village where a small ceremony memorializing San Diegan Marla Bennett was held. Marla Bennett, killed in a terrorist action at the cafeteria of Hebrew University in Jerusalem 8 years ago, has a permanent memorial in her honor at the village.
“The community teen trip has existed for the last ten years but in the last two have undergone dramatic changes,” Bogoch said. “The Israel Center (at the Jewish Federation of San Diego) and the former shaliach Eyal Dagan started the new concept that I now execute. The teen group includes students mostly from the public schools, covering all San Diego.
“Students at this age would not have the possibility otherwise to visit Israel, and would not have had the change of knowing one another, as one Jewish person to another,” Bogoch said.
To organize the trip, Bogoch said that she “travelled throughout the entire area of San Diego, visiting the different temples and public schools, in an effort to publish this program. We succeeded in getting 23 teens together as a group.
“It is important to emphasize that the Federation supports this program and sees the importance of sending each teen who desires to Israel. The cost of the trip is $3,500 and the Federation supports the trip with an amount of $1,000 dollars. There are possibilities to receive additional scholarships to further reduce the price.
“Leading up to the trip Five seminars were held, with the main subject being social activism. Furthermore different activities were held in
an effort to strengthen the youth as a group. These youngsters are receiving a gift, the ability to identify themselves as Jews in the future. Enabling them to feel connected and involved has been much stronger than visits to historic places and sites.
“One of the first places we visited in Israel was a factory in Tiberias. The workgroup are grown ups suffering from different mental diseases and other physical difficulties. The San Diegan teen group worked together with these people for a couple of hours, talking to them and experiencing the simple work of putting filters together, that these people do every day hour after hour, day in day out. The teens enjoyed themselves immensely and at the end of the day had a party where they all danced together.
“This experience made them understand that you can give and you can make a difference. My goal is that this group will continue with the contacts made in Israel and in between them and that they will work as ambassadors for Israel in the community of San Diego.”
Carlos and Meegan, two of the teen participants, had these comments:
M: “My awareness to this program came from my grandfather. It has always been very important to him that his family members will travel to Israel.”
C:”I always felt I had a responsibility to go to Israel. Most of the people I know in my community had already been here. I did not realize how great it was until I arrived here. Just the feeling of being surrounded by people just like you and who accept you for who you are. The feeling of community on a larger scale, and the country has affected me in a positive way throughout the entire trip. ”
M: “It feels a bit weird to be part of the majority, I have always been connected to a Jewish community in San Diego but there we are always a minority. When meeting new people in San Diego, you don’t have this understanding of being Jewish, most assume that you are Christian or something else. In Israel you feel connected as Jewish. It is the natural situation and no one has to pretend, to be Jewish is a normal existence, a normal identity.”
C: “The work experience we had with the disabled in the factory was a fantastic time, feeling that we did something for another person, not only for you yourself. It was an act to help others, and it put much more meaning behind it. These workers do the same simple work every day, week and month. Our showing up helped them a lot, put smiles on their faces, it was just great. Another work experience we had was a day of picking tomatoes for the poor that have no money. This concept of helping makes one feel good, and made a very big impact of this trip.”
M: “The big part of doing community work here was understanding how different people live, like apart from the Jewish community we saw how Druse and Bedouin minorities live inside Israel, and it is interesting also to experience the life of the people in a kibbutz.”
Hadar is Sha’ar Hanegev bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World
SAN DIEGO–Our correspondent in Sha’ar Hanegev, Israel, Ulla Hadar, sent along to us video footage of a television newscast devoted to the discovery of American millionaire Fred Monosson’s color movie footage of pre-state and early Israel. The video literally has bounced and forth across the world, as she received it from Michael Rassler, executive director of the United Jewish Federation of Santa Barbara and former chief executive of the UJF in San Diego.
For most people, Israel’searly history is in ‘black and white,’ but Monosson–a wealthy Boston raincoat manufacturer and Zionist–had access to the most sophisticated color film camera of its time, and was welcomed wherever he went.
His film cannisters were about to be thrown out by his family, until someone decided to take a look at what was on the reels. The result, astounding to Israelis, is a look back at the nation’s history — in color.
Here is a link to a short Israeli TV documentary, with English subtitles, on some of the events, scenes and people that Monosson saw: http://www.blip.tv/file/2915188.
By Ulla Hadar
TIMRAT, Israel–Several weeks ago I attended a lecture performed by a man that had gone through several difficulties in his life but nevertheless had decided to participate in an Ironman competition, which involves a 180 kilometer bike ride, 42 kilometer run and 3.8 kilometer swim.
He was sharing his experiences with the audiences and his accomplishments, explaining that you can do anything as long as your mind is set to it. He finished the lecture by throwing the question to the listeners “So what is your Ironman???”
Well I think I found mine, I signed up for the 2nd annual Mountain to Valley, a 200 kilometer relay race. A competitive run that starts at Kalat Nimrod in the North, near Mount Hermon and finishes at the town of Timrat situated in the valley of Jezreel. The relay competition has 24 pieces each of a different length, ranging from 4 to 13 kilometers.
The participants run along dirt roads, cobblestones paths, ascending and descending, far from the lights of the city. Each and every runner passes to a team member at 23 exchange stations along the way a relay bracelet and a chip which records the time.
Gidon Gal and Shmuel Ruchin, the two main organizers of this event, brought the idea to Israel after participating in Vermont, USA, in a similar race known as the “Green Mountain Relay” a 320 kilometer race.
Two hundred sixty groups comprised of 1350 runners signed up for this competition, each group containing 2, 4, 6 or 8 runners. Several ultra runners did 120 kilometers on their own and one Brazilian runner Maoro Chasilev started from Kalat Nimrod and did the entire 200 kilometers on his own.
Based on the time estimation for each runner, the teams were sent off between 8 AM to 4 p.m in an attempt to spread out the crowd and ease the pressure on the 24 stations and enable everyone to arrive at Timrat at the same time more or less.
My stomach was turning upside down in the days leading up to the event. I kept asking myself, Why do I need this? What have I gotten myself into? And surely I will fail to finish this race. Among the four in our group I was the weakest link and I knew that before starting. As a lover of sport I need a new target to train towards, lest weekly running or biking training get boring and not challenging enough.
You want to prove to yourself how much power your body contains, what hurdles you can overcome and what you are able to push yourself through to reach the limits and even stretch them further on, to an unbelievable point.
On a nightly training run two weeks before the event I stumbled and strained my left ankle. I had to convince myself that it was nothing, just continue more or less as usual and it will pass. This was in the midst of the BikeIsrael2010 and one day I rode 60 kilometer with a sprained ankle.
The night before the race, my team arrived at a small hostel at Nimrod close to the starting point. Our team was a four member group two men and two women: Rafi Hadar (my husband), Atara Ron, Dubi Dover and myself, all of us 40+, some of us even 50+!!
Logistically we were very organized thanks to team member Atara Ron. Two cars driven by Dalit Dover (Dubi Dover’s wife) and Eliezer Shamir (Atara Ron’s husband) escorted us along the way, dropping off and collecting the runner from one station and driving the runner to his or her next assigned race leg.
The drivers also supplied runners with food and drink along the route as it is important that the body is nourished throughout the different relays. In the middle of the night you can become disorientated and distracted and can easily forget this important factor.
An hour before our start the air was electric, all runners very excited and everyone eager to start. For my part I had “saved” myself from running for a few days and the adrenalin and the need of endorphins was making my body scream out to start. My number in the chain was four so I still had a couple of hours to wait before it was my turn.
The sign to start went off and Dubi our first runner ran down the steep road going from Kalat Nimrod towards the Baniass. The escort car drove towards station number 3 where I was to wait for Rafi for my first relay shift. As a pilot project this year, 55 teams where provided with a GPS phone in case of an emergency, and we were among the teams receiving one.
We all had 6 runs to finish; mine were of the following lengths: 9 km, 8.9 km, 7.4 km, 5.3 km, 6.4 km and 10.6 km for a total of 47.6 kilometers (approximately 29.5 miles).
At the beginning it was very hot. Descending from Carcum towards Kfar Nachum and the Kinneret I felt all my senses being intoxicated. It was just so beautiful I didn’t feel the heat, noticing the orange groves, the fields and the lake shining with sun beams gently touching the water. Two weeks ago I was at exactly the same spot with the bikers from BikeIsrael2010, but now I was crossing the fields not the roads.
The relays I was most worried about were the night runs. As a woman it is not the nicest experience to run on your own through fields and forests. Although there are other runners, most of the time you are by yourself.
Luckily a good friend of mine Ofra Gafni waited for me at station 12 for the start of my first nightrun (I had three in the dark) and she ran with me as a companion until we reached Timrat.
At one of the night runs we passed through the forest of Ramat Hashofet and again our senses were intoxicated by the smells, the sound of the Shofet stream tingling next to the path we were passing. At the same time, 5 a.m., the birds were starting to sing their morning tunes–sweet melody for the ears.
The last relay leading to Timrat was mine to run. One of my advantages was that each run I started I was sent off by my husband and he awarded me with a kiss on my lips which each time gave me a push to go forward.
The route was not easy; it was the hardest of all my relays. The path started winding up the hillside. Ofra kept feeding me with optimistic words and joy. I had to walk some of the ascent because my body was just starting to say to me that it was tired and had just a bit too much by now. Once we reached the top of the hill and had another 2 kilometers to go towards the finish line suddenly my body filled with energy and I started to run as if it were the beginning of the race. I just raced towards the end, being greeted by people who shouted words of encouragement and compliments. All my teammates waited for me at the last corner and we entered the finish line together everyone hugging and cheering.
It is an event that I will never forget. The togetherness, the friendship. the patience and empathy everyone was showing towards each other. If this could be copied throughout the world it would be a better place to live.
The adrenalin rush is still in my body. The excitement of the event and the feeling of achievement of finishing and conquering the problems on the way are impossible to describe. Perhaps only the people who experienced the event can fully understand what I am talking about.
The teams that shared the same moments, the volunteers that even at four o’clock in the morning had the power to smile to you, to encourage and cheer you filled my heart with joy and pleasure. I am glad that I decided to sign up for this although having been very hesitant before. This is something I will remember anda story to tell my grandchildren about. It was my “Iron man.”
Hadar is the Sha’ar Hanegev, Israel, bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World