by Jessie Lehman '19
This week the Class of 2019 faced the long anticipated Yam el Yam hike, a journey from the Mediterranean Sea to the Kineret, the Sea of Galilee. The night before, we watched the sunset on the beach which was a beautiful beginning to our upcoming four day journey. We had a ceremony to truly begin Yam el Yam where we filled up a bottle with the Mediterranean Sea water which we would pour into the Kineret at the end of our hike.
The next day the journey finally started. We biked 10 kilometers to the start of our first trail and then finished the day 15 kilometers later with a lunch stop at a fresh spring. The first day was definitely difficult, but I felt such a sense of accomplishment in finishing the day strong. This mentality continued to the second day which brought even more challenges. I chose to go on the longer hike which wound up being 27 kilometers on a narrow, windy, and uphill trail. We finished our second day by hiking up, and then down, Israel's second tallest mountain. After two full days, I was ready to relax, but the night was far from over! Our Madrichim introduced a game of Assassins among the whole grade. We each got a name and had to say a specific phrase to them when nobody else was around. I ended up getting four people out just that night. It's hard to tell if I felt more accomplished from that or from the 27 kilometer hike.
Day three was cut short due to a heat wave, but that didn't stop us from hiking a 10 more kilometers towards the Kineret. For this hike, we had the option of doing a silent hike which I chose to partake in. While I was a bit nervous to not talk for a whole day, I was ready for a new experience. From this hike I learned about the value of silence and also had time to reflect on the Israel trip as a whole. My parents will be glad to know that I learned complaining doesn't get you anywhere. I realized that voicing complaints about my bag being too heavy or the heat, actually made my shoulders hurt more. Being silent taught me that by keeping in these issues, the thoughts disappeared from my mind rather than manifesting itself further. Another thing I learned was the importance of nonverbal communication. While it sounds cheesy, the value of a smile gets lost with all the talking my friends and I do. When you're only connection to someone is a smile, eye contact, or even helping someone climb up a mountain, you're connection with others can become deeper. This also relates to the trust I gained from the silent walk. Since I couldn't ask my peers or my teacher any questions during the hike, I had to trust that everything was going right.
Our last day of Yam el Yam began at 5 in the morning to beat the sun to the Kineret. We were truly in the final stretch! This hike was one of the most beautiful in my opinion. As I hiked the last kilometers, I thought about the various themes we had throughout Yam el Yam such as awareness of our surroundings and the silver lining of negative experiences. By the end, I really felt connected through nature and was so excited to run into the Kineret. Nine kilometers later, we lined up at the edge of the Kineret. As my classmate Caroline poured the water from the Mediterranean Sea into the Knneret, I felt so proud of myself and my friends for all we had gone through. No body of water had ever felt as refreshing as the Kineret after four days of hiking.
Our last shabbat which was in Jerusalem was a relaxing way to cap off our busy week. With our final visit to the Kotel, the Class of 2019 reflected on how we had grown since our first visit to the Kotel, three months earlier.