Isabella Levin reports for JLife on her experiences on tour.
This summer, over 1,600 16-year-olds from across the United Kingdom toured around Israel. I was lucky enough to be a participant of FZY Tour 6.
Having attended FZY camps in past summers, I had a strong understanding of the importance of tour and eagerly anticipated spending three weeks with close friends. After brief introductions and our tiring flight we officially began touring the north, with activities such as abseiling, kayaking and co-existence seminars with Arabs, which allowed our group to initially bond – a key element in helping us become one of the closest tours. By sticking together we were able to tackle challenges including the blistering heat, homesickness and early mornings, allowing us to make the most of our experiences.
This positioned us positively for our visit to the vibrant and prosperous city of Tel Aviv, where chilling on Banana Beach and shopping in Carmel Market were a highlight for many as we soaked up the sun and relaxed. After visiting museums for a few days our visit to Tel Aviv was contrasted with the visit to the holy city of Jerusalem, where we prayed together at the Kotel and remembered those we’d lost at Yad Vashem and Herzl’s grave. These were pinnacle moments on tour where we reflected on the importance of Israel’s existence as well as experiencing the versatility of the country.
Throughout tour, we’d spent many evenings preparing for the infamous FZY Maccabia Games, a way in which FZY differs from other movements. Here, all 10 FZY tours came together in order to compete in a range of sports, quizzes and games. This opportunity allowed us to engage with other tours, which, having already made strong links with our parallel tour, Tour 5, was an exciting prospect. Plastered in white paint, our Tour 6 colour, our voices strained as we competed throughout the day, danced in the night and slept under the stars. The event continued the next morning, where we kayaked and banana boated, allowing us to enjoy the sunshine and the Galilee before departing in pursuit of the south.
Having stayed a few days in Mitzpe Ramon’s desert land we arrived in Arad for our third and final Shabbat on tour. FZY is a pluralist movement, catering for all waves of Judaism throughout the holy day, alongside allowing us the opportunity to spend time together during some free time.
Staying in Arad placed us perfectly for the most gripping day, starting with a 4am wake-up greeting, as we welcomed the beautiful sunrise at Masada. After photos and sightseeing we struggled down the path and travelled for some relaxation at the Dead Sea, where we floated at the lowest point on earth and slathered ourselves in mud.
After hummus and pitta on the beach, we were reunited with other FZY tours during the Bedouin Experience, my favourite part of tour. On arrival to the campsite, we embarked on a tour through the desert; however, this differed from others, considering it was spent travelling by camel, which was a frightening but thrilling ride!
We proceeded by interacting with Bedouins through learning about their culture and lifestyle, specifically their adaptations to the modern age. Having drunk some traditional coffee we were fed a feast of schwarma (a meat dish), rice and stone baked pittas – a pleasant alternative to the nourishing schnitzel we were served almost every night!
The next night was spent sunbathing and snorkelling in Eilat alongside a free evening out, before returning to Jerusalem for our final days. We prioritised our final goodbyes, predominantly based around a hippy-themed final party, receiving awards and writing messages in notebooks. Yet, there was one last adventure. Tour 6, unlike most tours, visited the night-lit Kotel in the early hours of the morning for one final adventure. This was certainly another unforgettable highlight.
Despite the amazing activities and sights we visited it was small things such as laughs on the coach, inside jokes and the people themselves that allowed tour to be so special. Adapting to normal life afterwards was challenging. We missed the constant presence of each other but soon understood that tour does not necessarily end after departing Ben Gurion Airport and that as our friendships continue to flourish, so does our journey.