Author: Jennifer Levin (T â15)
The day after I graduated from Duke University, I went to Israel for the first time. The trip was sponsored by Birthright and organized by Hillel, for Duke students. Our group consisted of 40 Dukies, 2 chaperones from the Duke Freeman Center for Jewish Life, 1 Israeli security guard/medic, and 1 Israeli tour guide. Although I initially didn't know anyone, I was excited to meet new people while learning about Jewish culture and history.
The flight from Newark to Tel Aviv took about 10 hours, but luckily went by pretty quickly. After we landed and went through customs at Ben-Gurion airport, we boarded our bus and headed north for two hours to our first destination. For the first three nights we stayed in Degania, the first kibbutz in Israel (before statehood) established in 1909. A kibbutz is a small agricultural community that shares everything, including their income. Since we arrived in the evening, we ate dinner at the cafeteria, had an orientation session with the group, and then went to bed.
Despite the short day, I'd already started to get a sense of what Israel is and what it's like there. The two-hour bus ride gave us a nice overview of the country. The terrain appears to be desert-like and arid and a lot of the buildings are very rectangular, as if they're comprised of blocks. We even saw a wall delineating part of the Palestinian territory. It's not the most beautiful country I've been to but I'm enjoying going to the Middle East for the first time and seeing a new place and way of life.