Eize Yoffie- What a Beauty
Meet One of Our Past Brazil-USA Connect Birthright Israel Participants
Molly Cohen is 21-year-old student studying Theater and Film in Baltimore City. Molly hopes to continue traveling and building bridges over cultural and language gaps, just like she did this past winter on our Brazil-USA Connect Birthright Israel trip!
The first day of the Brazil-USA Connect Birthright Israel trip, we were asked to ‘look to your left, now look to your right’ and remark on the beauty, shouting “ezie yoffi” (meaning what beauty) at we saw all around ourselves.
Surrounded by strangers speaking three different languages, we were forced to confront the challenges posed by our many cultural and language barriers. Having three nationalities present in one group deepens the meaning of each experience, and a greater understanding was reached because a variety of perspectives were offered. There was never a moment that wasn’t filled with laughter, discussion, debate, challenges, or learning. With every new place and adventure, we would experience a range of emotions and meaning, collectively as a group, and share them with one another. Within the first bus ride altogether, we played music spanning genres from 60’s Israeli folk to 90’s Brazilian club, creating a conga line in the center aisle of the bus for maximum dancing room. It turned out to be the best way to get a proper look at all the beauty that surrounded us, as we continued to shout “eize yoffi” at everything and everyone we saw.
And how perfectly succinct the expression was. It applied in every situation we found ourselves in, many a time without words to describe how we truly felt. But we always knew no matter where we were, we would have an equally curious face standing next to us, with questions and opinions that deserved to heard. Our tour guide Elinoy, committed to teaching us a history that we hadn’t heard before, used every opportunity as a personal learning and growing experience. She would ask us questions we never would have considered or thought of ourselves, and pushed us to stretch our minds and emotions. Equally to this though, were moments of pure happiness and laughter, as her, other staff, and Israeli’s would act as historic characters and share their stories.
My time in the desert is a specific experience from this trip that meant a great deal to myself, and others as well, as we spanned a small hill in the, giving us alone time to think and reflect. Moments of reflection are crucial when on a trip like this, because so much is happening at once and you need time to digest it all. Elinoy recognized and encouraged this, offering her time to us whenever need be. And as we sat alone, yet together, on ancient lands, we cherished the short yet rich time we had left, thankful to be given the opportunity to be here.
Having such a diverse group of people together also creates challenges through differences of opinions. When it came to itinerary and free time planning, we were consulted with on our preferences, interests, and goals to tailor the entire experience more personally. This provided ample opportunities for exploration in ways we never would have imagined. One evening we couldn’t all agree on what to do, so we were given a designated area to stay within, and we could roam and to whatever we pleased, with whomever we wanted. The staff let us be; we then split off into more intimate groups by food interests. We were so committed to meeting new people and trying new things that our comfort zones and previous familiar boundaries were of no concern to us anymore. We shed so many layers throughout the journey that the Dead Sea was almost of no use to us cosmetically.
From sharing a coffee in the markets of downtown Jerusalem, to splitting a pomegranate on the hillside of Tzfat, or scooping up warm hummus with slivers raw onions near the sea side of Yafo, each moment was its own experience, its own story. Surrounded with history that could equally empower and overwhelm you, all we could do was sit, and take it all in. The waves crashed against the rocks, the air moved its way around and through us; we look to our left, and to our right. Eize yoffi.