Friday, July 12, 2013

Connecting with Israel

Part of the Maccabiah experience for Maccabi Team USA is the Israel Connect program, which is the educational and cultural component of our time in Israel. Our itinerary includes time in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as well as a journey to Masada, the Dead Sea, and Bedouin hospitality. We pack a lot into just a few days; it's a great opportunity for first-timers in Israel to get a snapshot of the land and for those returning to reconnect with the key places in the State of Israel.

We began with a day In the greater Tel Aviv area. The City of Tel Aviv is a great epicenter of so many historical and revolutionary moments in Israel. It is the place where the declaration for Israel was made by David Ben Gurion, home to the first skyscraper in Israel, and the place where you can find some of the greatest a beaches in the world.

We began where the first families who came into Tel Aviv established the city and charted the path where the leaders of the fledgling country took those noble actions. We also stopped by Nachalat Binyamin, where the artists were out selling their wares (happens on Tuesday and Friday only), and Carmel Market, which was bustling with people shopping for Shabbat, or just looking to grab fresh, delicious food.

Our last major stop was to Rabin Square, where we learned about the final moments of Yitzchak Rabin's life before he was shot at point-blank range after a speech about peace. I still remember where I was when that happened in November 1995. For me, it's akin to remembering where you were when Kennedy was assassinated.

The day ended with a little R&R at Bell Beach in Herzilya. Before that, we drove along the Yarkon River and by Yarkon Park (think of it as the Central Park of Tel Aviv). The Yarkon River has been cleaned up over the past number years by JNF, after it was the site of a tragedy during the 1997 Maccabiah. Among the Australian athletes who perished in that tragedy were two bowlers, Yetty Bennett (z"l) and Greg Small (z"l). Their memories continue to be a blessing to our Maccabi Bowling family.

We began our day early with practice at Herzilya Bowling at Kenyon Sheva Cochavim (Seven Stars Mall). I had gotten used to practicing in Ramat Gan (just as I had gotten used to spending pre-camp at Kfar Maccabiah) so it was a new experience for all. The staff was very nice and accommodating though I'm not really sure when they last conditioned the lanes. Still, though, we had a good practice that included some open bowling and head-to-head friendly competition.

Basically, everyone was bowling against the field, even though we spread over two different pairs. After each game, the top scorer earned 30 bonus pins, 20 bonus pins for the next scorer, 10 bonus pins for 3rd place, and no bonus to the lowest score. Scores we close across the board, but after Day 1, Marc has a small lead over me, followed by Uri and Jared. Well pick up the "competition" on Sunday and then close it up on at our last practice on Monday.

One more thing about this bowling center: the have lanes 6, 11, and 13, but also lane 17 with no 18. That's just how they roll, literally.

Time to go unplug and get ready for Shabbat. Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom from Kibbutz Shefayim in Eretz Yisrael.

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