Friday provided the first chance to interact with all of our Israeli counterparts since the day we had arrived. Once we finished some morning activities we loaded into a van and headed out for a Shabbaton in the Hanaton Kibbutz. When we arrived we began with a light lunch and the exchange began. Most of the group began having conversations with the Israeli students, beginning to connect on a deeper level than we had on the lab tours and company visits. I started the Shabbaton by learning some Krav Maga with Tal and discussing some of the various athletic activities that we participated in. This was really the first chance to learn about what others on the trip did in their free time. Before this we had the chance to learn about what everyone’s major was, but did not have the chance to discuss our hobbies and interests. Following some light sparring I began a series of conversations on topics such as religion, politics, and life in Israel and America. Getting the Israeli perspective and giving the American side allowed for a flow of ideas that showed me just how similar some aspects of life are in the two countries while other aspects of life are quite different. These discussions lasted into the afternoon when we moved on to a different set of icebreaking activities.
The next set of activities played an important role in making all of the participants feel comfortable around each other. We started with some nose tape jousting, a game that really forces you to step out of your comfort zone. We continued with a game similar to rock-paper-scissor except that it included a physical aspect of chasing the losing team and capturing their members until only one team remained. These activities really allowed for some very close interaction between the American and Israeli participants. My team bonded strongly by unexpectedly picking the same choice for the first five rounds of the game. These activities led into some free time before Shabbat where many continued conversations and some had some much needed rest.
The next activity was a pre-Shabbat session with the Kibbutz Rabbi. He spoke to us about the meaning of Shabbat and really connected on a level where it did not matter how religious you were, what he said had meaning. I personally tried to follow his advice by not worrying so much about time. I embraced the Israeli notion of going with the flow and not worrying too much about planning. This lead into the evening activity where many went to one of two services based on observational preference. I chose the third, nonreligious, option and went on an evening walk around Hanaton. This option provided me with another opportunity to connect with some of the Israelis who also chose not to go to a service. We talked about life in America and Israel and really got to connect on a variety of issues. It was a great opportunity to connect to Judaism without being in a synagogue setting. The walk led us to dinner, which began with a Kiddush and Motzi and continued with one of the only meat meals we had on the trip.
The evening continued into the night with more bonding activities. The Israelis prepared a series of questions which led to a speed dating activity where we each got to talk with all of our counterparts on a variety of issues, some serious and some more fun. This activity led to some interesting exchanges as some crazy stories were told and many laughs were shared. To add intrigue to the evening we also continued a game of assassins we had started earlier where saying a particular word would eliminate you from the competition. This led to some trepidation, as no one knew who was looking to eliminate him or her. When the speed dating ended we enjoyed a Tish which led to even more bonding as Friday passed into early Saturday.
-Evan Tencer ’15