It’s not often a group of 50 children are given the chance to go to a different country and have 6 weeks to bond over a new culture. As I sit here writing this there is a distinct sound of laughter and song in the background. Although it may only be day 5 there is a lot to be said of a 24 hour plane trip’s influence on people’s relationships. I feel, along with many of the other kids, that this trip already feels like 3 weeks even after only 5 days. I think the 5 days that we’ve had have been so crazy that we’ve had no choice but to like each other.

The plane ride – although somewhat traumatic – led to many new friendships being formed along with the bonding over the dislike of Qantas plane food. When we arrived in Israel at 3:45 am we went straight to Jerusalem. We were taken to a mountain to witness the glory of a sunrise in Jerusalem. After sitting on the mountain for a particularly drawn out time we went straight to the hostel to take a long overdue shower. We then went to a park to have lunch and then that evening prepared ourselves for the Kotel.

We walked through the streets of Jerusalem to the Kotel absorbing the intensity of culture and diversity of the buzzing streets. I’ve never been to Israel let alone experienced Shabbat in Jerusalem. I’m not a particularly religious person but I absolutely loved the air that was shared all around the city on Shabbat. I’ve never known what it’s like to have nearly an entire city shut down on a Friday night and the new experience had me in awe. The men with the furry hats that were impossible to miss and the women in the headdresses were my favourite.

At the Kotel, there were people in song and dance or people praying. I have said to many people that although I’ve never been to Israel or the Kotel for that matter I felt a really bizarre feeling of déjà vu. I loved seeing the young soldiers dancing and singing, the tourists walking around, the religious women and any other person who had come to visit the Kotel. We then headed back to hostel for dinner and then to bed.

The next day we went to shul, then to a light show on the history of Jerusalem in the Old City. After that we took an incredibly long bus ride all the way to campus where most of us couldn’t portray our excitement fully due to the lack of sleep and jetlag.

On Sunday we took a tour of campus and then visited the Tel Gezer. By this point I was so tired that I’ve retained very little of that day but I do remember the child sacrifice alters and the incredible views. From where we stood you could see one quarter of the country which you could never do in Australia. That night we went into Hod Hasharon and for some took a tour around whilst others went to the supermarket.

Yesterday we went to Mount Gilboa which was incredibly beautiful but unreasonably steep and very bad on your ankles. We had to walk for about 30 minutes down an almost straight cliff face. I have a strong fear of heights so absolutely hated it but most kids loved it. After we went to the Sachne and swam – that was much needed after the hike! The water was so nice and refreshing and it was so much fun to play around in the pool for a couple of hours.

Today we went to Sataf and the caves in Jerusalem. Sataf was very beautiful and the history behind it was fascinating. It was raining in Jerusalem which was rather unpleasant but the caves were lots of fun. The history behind it all was interesting and managed to an extent to distract me from the terrible claustrophobia they caused. Most kids went in the water cave where you walked for 40 minutes in darkness but myself and 9 others went through the dry, light route which, might I say, was much more pleasant.

After having dinner in a shopping mall tonight we came back and did Just Dance in the Beit Keneset. This was probably the most fun/exercise I’ve had in a very long time. Despite the sweat it was hysterical to see everyone attempt their best boy band moves.

Overall, it has been a full but fun past 5 days and I’m very excited to see what the next 5 weeks have install. If I had any doubts before this trip I most certainly don’t have them anymore.

Sophie Lew