The Tour of a Lifetime
In a normal working week I balance my time between being a Catalyst Team Member and a Psychology student at the University of Sussex. However, this summer I will be having a drastically different experience. I will be taking 40 sixteen-year-olds on a tour of Israel. For the last nine years I have been involved in summer camps for a Jewish youth movement. Usually these take place in remote corners of Wales. However, this this time, its 40 hormonal adolescents on a Middle Eastern summer break, a five-hour flight away from Mum and Dad! What is it? ‘Israel Tour’ is seen as a major opportunity for young Jews to engage with their religion and the country so central to it. But we (the leaders) are heavily outnumbered: 40 hormonal adolescents vs 5 adults, only two of which can speak English as their first language. And we have been given the task of providing them with ‘the experience of a lifetime’… Some of the ‘hotspots’ of the country include: The Western Wall - The remaining wall of the holiest Jewish temple destroyed in 70 CE Masada - A great fort with historical relevance that people hike up. You have to wake up at 4am and it takes ages and a lot of sweat, but you can see the amazing sunrise for miles and miles. The Dead Sea - A very salty lake that you can float in effortlessly. However it tastes quite bad if you happen to accidentally drink it (I am definitely NOT speaking from experience).
And, of course, the Bedouin Experience. When I went on tour as a young man, this included staying in Bedouin tents in the desert, drinking lots of sugary tea, looking up at the stars as I shared my teenage woes with forty new friends, and riding camels. Camels that are friendly enough whilst you leave them alone, but as soon as you get too close, decide to use you as a spitting target.
A photo of the sunrise seen from the top of Masada
That sounds interesting – will you enjoy it? I have been on camps, been on tour, led camps and run a camp. However, this will be a whole new experience. When I applied for leading tour, I don’t think I remembered what the trip was really like day-to-day – A lot of young people thinking they are being rebellious – me and my friends actually just went into each other’s rooms when we weren’t allowed. Absolute rascals. Now the tables have turned, and I am apparently taking… sixteen year olds to a differentcontinent, and bringing them back in one piece…. I plan to be organising a lot of the logistics of the trip and running all of the programs. But in reality, this will be juggled with the fact that teenagers need to constant attention and entertainment (are they just giant toddlers? Maybe). Still, Tour is so much more than that. It is an opportunity for Jewish teenagers to explore their own identity, make a load of new friends and have an amazing community bonding experience. I had the best time when I went and can’t wait to help create an amazing experience for them. I just hope that they all pack some sun cream.