Our arrival in Israel was fun, exciting and personally interesting, but not really all that noteworthy for others. The first few days were mainly an extended get-to-know-you kind of thing. Which is awesome, don’t get me wrong. I just doubt you want to hear too much about how great the group is, that we got to spend a few hours in Jerusalem at night or that I was quickly reminded that Israel contains an insanely massive population of cats. Seriously, they’re everywhere.
We of course did a bunch of ice breaking games. And a shabbat service. I’ve rarely, if ever, celebrated the Sabbath. So it was a relatively new experience, one that I expect I will partake in quite often this year.
The members of OTZMA 25 (otzma means “power” in Hebrew… I think) are from all over the United States and from very diverse backgrounds. We have a zoologist, political scientists, teachers, a cowboy, and everything in between. Some have been to Israel dozens of times to spend time with family, and for one, this is their first time.
On Saturday, 28 August, when we went to Jerusalem for a few hours, we attended a rally for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. He has been missing since 2006. The only sign that Shalit is alive is a video of him holding a newspaper over a year ago. Yet the people at the rally – in honor of Shalit’s birthday – not only believe him to be alive – they demand that the government put serious resources into his return. When I asked someone in the crowd what they thought of the situation, he told me that in Israel every member of the army is someone’s son or daughter, and like he calls for action on behalf of Shalit, because that family would demand the return of his child. The issue is very controversial, because in return for Shalit, Hamas demands the release of hundreds of prisoners. The gentleman said that it’s not up to him to decide how to bring home Shalit, but that no matter how, it needs to be done.