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Shuster’s Journey: Nearing the End

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Tanks from previous Israeli Wars

I cannot even begin to comprehend that I am down to the last 3 weeks of my 4 month long journey in Israel. From the time of my last post until now, I have been to Poland, finished my last full week of school and much more.

As usual, before any long trip, I had to pack up my entire room and move out. Luckily, this was the last time I would ever have to go through that stress again; but it was also sad at the same time. We left for the airport at 3:00am on April 21st, which entailed a very sleepless night. As you can imagine trekking through the airport with 85 other teens at 4:00am in the morning is, to say the least, quite an adventure. We finally boarded the plane and before I knew it I was in Poland. Although I had already been to Poland once before, that did not seem to stop me from getting the most out of the experience. The itinerary was jam packed. We were scheduled every minuite of everyday. We went from ghettos to concentration camps to synagogues to town squares. The days I went to concentration camps were emotionally and physically challenging.What hit me the hardest was the fact that I got to walk out of the horrific sites I visited, but others did not. Something as simple as taking steps toward the exit was an action millions of Jews did not get to take.

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Krakow, Poland Town Square

Of course I visited various concentration camps such as Aushwitz-Birkenau and Maidanik, however, the trip was not all about death and destruction. My itinerary showed the cycle of the Jewish prosperity in Poland and how it quickly shifted to horrid death and persecution. Before World War II, there was a thriving Jewish community in Poland. I saw dozens of synogagues that, believe it or not, were all in close vacinity to each other. We even had services in some of the temples to breath life back into it. It was very heartwarming to know that we were bringing back the life that once danced on the floors we stood on.

Five days after we arrived to Poland we were back on the plane to Israel. The plane was filled with Israeli Firefighters and we all sang Israeli songs for a large portion of the flight. We were all clapping, dancing and singing to Am Yisrael Chai and many other traditional songs. Going from Poland to Israel is another unbelieveable expeirence, as the victims of the Holocaust never were able to see the Jewish State. When we landed in Israel (at 4am), I had no problem saying that I was back home.

On the bus ride back to Tzuba, my counselors announced the new roommates. This was our last rotation of roommates for the rest of the trip, so I was very nervous. In the end, I had no reason to be nervous; I got extremely lucky with my roommates. After we settled into the room we had the entire day to unpack and sleep. I slept until the mid-afternoon as it was well needed after the early plane ride and exhausting five days.

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Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration/Death Camp

After a relaxing Shabbat and settling back into my routine at Tzuba, it was back to reality. The next weeks were pretty much going to be a marathon of school, which I am not used to here.  That week I had my last full day trip with my Jewish History class. We officially reached the modern era of history so our trip was to a few sites of various battles during the Independence War. It was incredibly interesting to see the sites and there were even some tanks that we could climb. I didn’t have much previous knowledge of modern Israeli History, so I am thrilled to be able to learn more about it in depth.

Although, I don’t like to think about it, it is inevitable things are starting to wind down. Finals are beginning, AP exams are in full swing and closing events are starting to be planned. It is unbelievable to think that this expierence in coming to a close, but as the cliche goes: with every end there is a new beginning.

Editor’s note: Rachel Shuster is a junior at Hills West. She is currently spending her second semester abroad in Israel, studying and living in her ancestor’s homeland. She will be returning to the U.S. on May 30th, 2013. This is one of a recurring series of “blog posts” that Shuster will be posting while she is there.