We woke up very early at 4 am and to be honest it was beautiful and painful at the same time. Beautiful because when I realized the tranquility of the bedouin tents in the middle of the desert a sense of overwhelming peace came over me. Painful because as I looked at my watch I was constantly questioning why I was up so early. But there was a good reason to be up so early. We grabbed tea and biscuits and hopped on the bus to drive over to Masada. Getting those 17 minutes of sleep on the drive was important because climbing Masada was hard so early in the morning. I ran up Masada along with a few others because although my body was running on just a few hours or so of sleep, the excitement to see the quick and beautiful sunrise on the top was so close I could taste it. We listened to music and watched the long awaited but slow lasting sunrise. We walked around learning about the history of King Herod on top of Masada while taking occasional O-H-I-O pictures. (Go Bucks). Once we climbed down we went to eat breakfast back at the bedouin tents and soon after made our way to the markets in Tel-Aviv. I closed my eyes before the bus even moved at the Bedouin tents and I opened them to see the skyscrapers of Tel-Aviv. The beautiful artists market in Tel-Aviv along with a delicious lunch at Pasta Basta made for a perfect free time. It was so cool to be able to walk around and talk to the artists about how they made their art. Some of the art was so beautiful and some were simply little tchotchkes that made me chuckle. Once five of us showed up twelve minutes late to our meeting spot (sorry Abby), we made our way over to Independence Hall. We heard from a very animated speaker about the history that took place in the very room we were sitting in. It was cool to hear the audio from that day, look at pictures, and see exactly where the signing of the Declaration of Independence occurred all at the same time to make it more realistic to us. The next thing we did was a really cool graffiti tour of the city. We walked around the city and learned about art, photography, and the meaning behind it all. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it in spite of its last minute entering into our itinerary. This evening we had probably the best dinner we have had the entire trip. It was incredibly delicious. With full bellies we made our way to the Yom Hazikaron ceremony where we listened to songs, watched a livestream from Jerusalem, and sang Hatikvah with a huge crowd. It was a very powerful moment and experience. The content of the ceremony and the strong feeling of community was very emotional for me. We ended the day with our group recap session in a room in the hotel. All in all the day was emotional, delicious, wonderful, funny, and beautiful. It was the best 18th birthday a girl could ever ask for and I couldn’t be more grateful to be in this beautiful country.
-Marissa Witt, Loveland High School