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UC Hillel Student Trip to Israel Explores Culture, Camel Rides and a Night in the Desert

Tour strengthens Jewish identity and builds connections with peers from around the world.

Date: 5/16/2014 3:30:00 PM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Provided by UC Hillel Jewish Student Center

UC ingot   A group of 12 students representing the University of Cincinnati Hillel Jewish Student Center is about to take off on the trip of a lifetime.
UC student Ethan Kahn (last December)
UC student Ethan Kahn (last December)

They’re departing Cincinnati for Israel May 21 through June 1.

The trip is funded and organized by Taglit-Birthright Israel, an organization dedicated to building a transformation in contemporary Jewish culture and to connecting Israelis and their peers in the Diaspora.

“As soon as we land, our students will be joined by as many as 10 Israelis their own age – people who are serving in the Israeli Defense Forces,” says Paula Harlan, a program and engagement associate for the UC Hillel Jewish Student Center. Harlan is accompanying the students on the trip.

The global experience includes a trip to Jerusalem, a hike in the Zavitan, a visit to Tel Aviv, a tour of the Jewish National Fund’s indoor playground in Sderot – a western city that has endured more than a decade of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip – a chance to float in the Dead Sea and to see the sunrise.

The trip also includes a stop at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial in Mt. Herzl. “This is a very moving experience. It’s an opportunity to hear the testimony of Holocaust survivors,” says Harlan. “As these survivors pass away, we’re seeing some of the last chances for our students to directly hear a personal account of this history.

“I think the Holocaust Memorial will be one of the most important stops on the trip,” says Harlan. “On the night before the visit, we lay out a series of cards describing different emotions and ask students to choose cards that reflect their emotions about World War II and the Holocaust. It begins a discussion about their personal stories and how they ended up in America.”

It will be UC Hillel student Cody Ankerman’s first trip to Israel, after his sister, a student at Miami University, traveled to Israel last year. “I’m looking forward to seeing the country and to seeing the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Jerusalem,” says the UC sophomore and marketing major from Columbus, Ohio. “I’m also excited about getting to ride through the Negev desert on a camel. We’ll get to spend one night in the desert sleeping under the stars!”

Yoga on Masada
Yoga on Masada (last December)

On that trip to the desert, students will also get a lesson in “green” agriculture, as they learn about environmentally friendly and sustainable farming in the Negev desert.

UC Hillel is coordinating the trip with Shorashim, a provider that is dedicated to connecting students to Israelis from all backgrounds – encouraging open dialog while exploring Israel and Judaism.

Harlan also led a similar Shorashim/UC Hillel trip to Israel last December and says that tour just dodged a major snowstorm. “If we had traveled to Israel the previous week, we likely wouldn’t have even been able to enter Jerusalem. On this trip, we’ll get to go to the beach!”

UC Hillel serves as a center to enrich the lives of Jewish college students in Greater Cincinnati by strengthening Jewish identity through social, cultural, religious and personal growth. The center also provides a broad range of programs and services in an atmosphere that is creative, energetic and pluralistic.

Ankerman says he got involved with the Hillel Center as soon as he started his student experience at UC. “It’s like a community there – a nice bunch of people with common interests – plus there’s the Friday Shabbat Service and dinner.”

“Some of these students who are taking the trip really don’t know each other very well, so this will be another great opportunity for them to meet new peers and make new friends,” says Harlan.

UC is home to more than 500 student organizations, with interests ranging from academic, athletic, ethnic/cultural, governance, service, honorary, political, professional and more.

UC Hillel Jewish Student Center

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