The Year In Israel
By Max Fruchter
A shining sun and cloudless sky provided a hint of the unbeatable weather I was looking forward to basking in while in Eilat for our yeshiva’s trip. Much to my surprise, the temperature in Eilat in February did not live up to its flawless reputation for providing ideal weather even during the dead of winter. Rather, in accord with that of Jerusalem, the climate in Eilat was cold enough to warrant a jacket. On an even more unexpected note, an unforeseeable downpour of rain late Sunday afternoon left us with no choice but to disregard our scheduled hike and travel further to a site where hiking would not be affected by rain. Despite a slight improvisation in activity, our hike proved to be no less breathtaking or enjoyable.
As one could imagine, traveling for hours at a time (in our case just shy of five hours) can build up quite an appetite. To the pleasure of all, the dinner made available by the hotel surpassed all expectations. A plentiful buffet of meat, salad, chicken, fish, and desserts put a smile on all our faces (and opened a few notches on each belt buckle). Then I, along with the other 90 or so boys on the trip, boarded the bus once again to a nearby bowling alley. Everyone had a great time bowling, playing pool, or challenging friends to a game of air hockey. When the rabbi announced our two hours had passed and it was past our scheduled departure back to the hotel, I chose to engage in one more game of pool. As the hour grew late, we knew it was time to go, and I walked back with a group, enjoying the cool nighttime weather in Eilat. We walked alongside strips of hotels, theaters, and entertainment centers. I immediately noticed a plethora of bright lights and signs, bringing to mind the nightlife that made famous the “city that never sleeps.”
Despite the long and tiring day, the night had just begun. At only 11:30, we still had three hours until kickoff for the big Super Bowl game. Until the highly anticipated moment of the coin toss, rebbeim held different shiurim ranging from insights on the parashah to halachot pertaining to the month of Adar and the repercussions it has on davening. Setup for the game began and nearly 50 boys could be seen carrying loads of snacks, drinks, and comfortable chairs into the room containing a large projector on which the game was to be displayed. Laughing at original commercials and shouting in futility at the refs on screen, everyone felt at home as we enjoyed a traditional game together usually spent at a friend’s place or with family.
The following day, groggy and lethargic as we could be, the 50 or so of us who had pulled all-nighters to watch the game remarked how shocking the game had been. Aside from the clearly exuberant few from Seattle who in no way attempted to hide their enthusiasm in seeing their hometown achieve its first Super Bowl victory, the majority of us seemed rather disappointed in having been robbed of a close game.
Leaving behind our heated discussions of whether this call was fair or that play was flawed, we all descended from the bus and made our way toward an impressive boat set to sail out in the Red Sea. Once far enough out, the boat remained stationary and we spent hours swimming, banana boating, and parasailing, all while music blasted over booming loudspeakers.
We then all had the exclusive opportunity to skate in a massive indoor ice rink inside the beautiful, newly constructed mall overlooking the beach. This mall, renowned for its size and stature, presented an enjoyable evening filled with Cinnabon (a taste of home for many), souvenirs from various shops, and interesting foot treatments made from fish, which outwardly seemed to smooth the human skin.
That evening, after another dinner to remember, we got in some undisturbed sleep, ready for a climactic final day in Eilat.
On Tuesday, our last day, everyone was given an option to either hike the legendary Har Shlomo–a physically challenging climb up and down rocks and cliffs–or spend that time admiring the biological life at the Eilat aquarium. Determined to make this daring hike, which undoubtedly had proven too daunting for many, I decided to face the challenge and climb Har Shlomo. After three hours of scaling, climbing, jumping, and ultimately reaching the apex of a mountain overlooking awe-inspiring sights, I took a memorable picture with all of my friends who felt the same sense of tremendous accomplishment that I did.
On the bus ride back to Jerusalem, conversation flowed amongst all as everyone animatedly recounted the arduous and intimidating Har Shlomo as well as the eye-opening and moving presence of marine biology displayed in the Eilat aquarium. I noted how relaxed and at ease we all were, considerably more revitalized and reenergized than when we had left. As I peered out the window reflecting on an outstanding trip, I was imbued with a new excitement at the prospect of resuming my learning regimen in yeshiva and entering with a fresh, new mindset. v
Max Fruchter, a recent graduate of DRS Yeshiva High School in the Five Towns, is now attending yeshiva in Jerusalem.