Each spring break Fuqua’s second-year Israeli students lead ‘iTrek,’ a trip to Israel. Since learning about the historical significance and political challenges of the Middle East during my freshman year of high school, the region has fascinated me. So I jumped at the chance to visit with my classmates and learn about the country and its culture from the unique perspective of a local.
Jerusalem was our first stop—one of the oldest and holiest cities in the world. The historical sites were incredible: Via Dolorosa, the Western Wall, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, just to name a few. We also toured Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and had a very emotional and powerful visit at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum.
Next, we traveled to Tel-Aviv to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim (picture a Halloween-like atmosphere). We represented well with a wide array of costumes, from Moses to Snow White to superheroes. Purim is a multi-evening event so our costumes saw lots of action during the trip.
We also met with Shimon Peres, former president and prime minister of Israel, at the Peres Center for Peace. We were incredibly fortunate to meet with someone who played such an important role in the founding and history of the Jewish state.
From Tel-Aviv we went north to the Golan Heights and Syrian border for an all-terrain vehicle excursion and a winery tour, followed by a bus ride south through the West Bank. We had a Dead Sea mud party with excellent Israeli food and floated in the sea, buoyed by the high concentration of salt in the water. At night, we slept in a large tent in a traditional Bedouin village.
The next morning we hiked up Masada, an ancient fort on top of a rock plateau, for a sunrise view over the Dead Sea. Uri, our incredible tour guide, was so impressed with our costumes he dared us to wear them on the hike. We didn’t want to disappoint so we braved the strange looks from other tourists and wore our Purim costumes during the ascent.
From the Dead Sea we traveled to the southern city of Eilat on the Red Sea. Eilat is the ‘Las Vegas of Israel’ with lots of resorts and nightlife situated in the desert, minus the gambling. From Eilat, we day-tripped to the historic archaeological city of Petra, Jordan (cue Indiana Jones music), a bucket list item for many students. We also toured the Jordanian city of Aqaba before returning to Eilat for a Red Sea boat ride to end the trip.
The Israel Trek is easily one of my most fond Fuqua memories and the perspective and insights I gained about Israel and the Middle East are invaluable. To my Israeli classmates Tal, Gal, Alexei and Itai—you did an incredible job planning this trip of a lifetime. Thank you and yalla balagan from us all!