They say the best pictures follow the Rule of 3. Between the top, middle, and bottom thirds of a photo, each
section contains its own unique identity from which the section derives its beauty. However, when taken in holistically, the photo takes on a new quality that can't be seen until you take that step back. Yesterday was that perfect combination that exemplifies the Rule of 3.
We started our day leaving the Kibbutz Deganya Bet at the lovely hour of 8:15, which of course involves waking up early enough to allow three exhausted guys to drag themselves out of their beds which feel like little pieces of heaven after seven 18+ hour days, showering, and schlepping over to breakfast. We made our way to the southwestern banks of the Sea of Galilee to the beautiful Kineret cemetery. Israel seems to have a lot of these. The cemetery was bursting with life amidst the death it so beautifully commemorates. There was one set of gravestones set into a pile of rocks of the same color. I stared at those graves for a couple minutes lost in thought; these people died while living the dream they worked tirelessly to accomplish, and now they are buried in the fruits of their labor. During this time, one of the Israelis on our trip, Chen, told the story of her grandfather while we stood in front of his grave. It was a great way to help us put a face to the people, and by doing so, internalize the importance of what these people lived to accomplish.
One reason I mentioned the Rule of 3 at the beginning of this is because of the incredible beauty of this location. I attached a photo so you can see the beauty and maybe experience what I did by proxy. Standing in the greenery of the cemetery, I could look out and see the mesmerizing, shimmering blue of the Sea of Galilee, and just behind that stood the stark rock face of mountains. As our tour guide enjoys pointing out, I feel incredibly in touch with the land of Israel, and no place exemplifies this sentiment more than this site. How one people could take sand as the foundation and from it build what Israel is now astounds me. In my opinion, even in mourning death, no one should ever be sad to come to this awe-inspiring place to celebrate the sanctity of life.
Following our trip to the Kineret cemetery, we travelled to Mount Bental, one of the highest points in Israel. As we drove up, we noted the gleaming patches of snow that speckled the mountain side. On a perfect day, you could see out to Syria; however, the weather was far from perfect. Fog blanketed the mountain top, and visibility didn't extend for more than 20 meters. I don't know how the experience would have been different had we been able to see, but it was interesting to feel at the end of the world with an endless grey in front of us.
Despite the lackluster visibility, it was very interesting to listen to our tour guide talk about the second largest tank battle in the history of the world that occurred in a valley directly under the mountain during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The Israeli tanks were outnumbered 10:1, as the Syrians had over 1,000 tanks. Despite the severe numerical disadvantage, the Israelis were able to prevail. I really like the fact that the motif of Israel as an underdog has not been very prevalent during this trip, so when we do hear it, as in this case, it really resonates.
Our last excursion was to the Golan Heights Winery. We were going to go near the Lebanese border to visit a kibbutz and a nature reserve, but due to a slight escalation in activity along the border, our itinerary was changed. I don't think the kids were upset with the spontaneous trip to a winery. After a bus ride home where more people fell asleep than I've seen on this trip, we returned to the Kibbutz. We did an activity that we did on the first night in the hotel of Ashkelon. We answered questions on a spectrum of varying levels of agreeing. It was interesting to see how people's responses changed if at all to any questions. The only question where I changed my answer drastically was to the question about whether "every Jew should go to Israel." On our first night when this was asked, I disagreed. I didn't feel that it is necessary for every Jew to come to Israel because it's a luxury that would be nice but definitely not necessary.
However, this trip has made me realize how vital visiting Israel is for a Jew. I am not very religious, so I didn't think I would be able to connect with Israel the way that some other people on the trip may have. However, I now know that there are many different ways to connect to Israel. For example, with me, I connect a lot with the land and the natural beauty and the people as well, I would never have guessed this would occur before the trip. So now, I do think that every Jew should visit Israel, because one way or another, you will find a way to connect that you may have never expected, and it's an incredible thing.
Danny Niez '18
The Brody Jewish Center, Hillel at the University of Virginia, is the focal point in a renaissance of Jewish life for the 1,800 Jewish students on Grounds.