We hopped in a cab to meet the rest of the crew at the airport. The cabbie asked if we were leaving Israel and when we explained that we weren't he said "Good. Israel is good for you." Hmmm, out of the mouths of cabbies!
As we ride around Tel Aviv, I see so many stars of David all over the place and it occurs to me that at home in the states, I often feel that I need to tuck away my star necklace in certain surroundings, but I guess I'll never feel that in this country. It's great to see our group. Jenny and I got teary talking about saying goodbye to our kids. Hers is less than a year old. Sigh. Everyone is tired, but we are all excited to finally be here and begin our journey. Once on the bus, we launch into song: Aveinu Shalom Alechim (we brought peace for you). Our tout guide Issy (Yisrael) explains that every day we will have a different taste of Israel. Today's is Red Cow Chocolate. YUM! It's pop rocks in a chocolate bar!! We tour Tel Aviv and stand at the very place where the State of Israel was established. It's unsettling for me, but here it's not uncommon to pass by a young soldier carrying a machine gun. Had to snap a shot of this intersection. Two streets names for two men instrumental in the establishment of Tel Aviv, which is celebrating it's 100th anniversary this year. Herzl, the father of modern zionism and Rothschild, a man who funded the establishment of Tel Aviv. We got a chance to sit in the very room where on 5/14/48 Israel was declared a state by David Ben-Gurion in the middle of a war. The museum's docent told us that "people don't come to Israel for a vacation. They come to Israel to feel." I have a feeling I'll be doing a lot of that on this trip. Once we check into our hotel, we head to the water for a dip in the Mediterranean Sea. So warm and absolutely gorgeous! Some of us just can't believe it, so we keep reminding one another: "We're in Israel!" Tonight we meet with a group called Elem. They provide services to youths in the community who have become a part of a drug/prostitution underworld. We spent some time learning about their program and then had the chance to walk the streets of they called a "slum", to get the full experience. I learned some things that are important to me: in Israel abortion is legal; there is a government assistance program to women who want, but cannot afford an abortion; there is a needle exchange program; there is hope for some of these kids on the streets. This Elem program receives funds from groups where Federation dollars go, and that's what our connection was there.