- Are the people and places in the Israel Trail Game real?
Yes! The Israel Trail is a real trail. It traverses the country from the north of Israel (Kibbutz Dan) to the south (Eilat). The pictures on the game board and the descriptions on the cards are all things and people you can actually see and experience in Israel.
Israel really has snow near the northern border with Lebanon (at least some of the year), a drinking fountain of chocolate milk near the southern border (at Kibbutz Yotvata), and everything else in between that you see on the game board.
The kids in the trail game aren't real kids, but they are based on real kids. You'll meet many Israeli kids with stories just like theirs.
And, of course, the trail angels and hidden water bottles — all totally true!
- How do you get to Israel?
You fly in an airplane. It's a 10-1/2 hour flight from New York to Tel Aviv, 14 hours from Los Angeles, and at least 20 hours from Australia.
Over the past centuries, many Jews have dreamed of going to Israel, but most had no opportunity to go. Those who did, traveled any way they could:
- Many immigrants and visitors came by boat, sometimes even crossing the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea to arrive in Israel. (The trip could take up to three weeks.)
- Others came by train. The famous Orient Express ran in the 19th and 20th centuries from London to Constantinople (now known as Istanbul) in Turkey. The line continued through Palestine (now Israel) all the way to Cairo, Egypt.
- In the 1980s and 1990s, many Ethiopian Jews who immigrated to Israel started their journey on foot. They walked from Ethiopia to Sudan, a trek of up to a month, before continuing to Israel by plane or boat.
- What's Jewish about Israel?
Where were you born? In which city? In which hospital?
The Jewish people was born in Israel. The Torah (the first five books of the Bible) says that Israel — then called Canaan — is where Abraham and Sarah settled to start their Jewish journey. It's where the Jewish people built a home after escaping slavery in Egypt and wandering in the desert. For over a thousand years, Israel was where the Jewish people grew up, where farmers farmed and students learned, and where Jewish kings ruled and Jewish prophets imagined a better world.
Today you can visit Israel and discover lots of clues from our ancient birthplace — the same mountains and rivers as well as remains of buildings and even inscriptions from biblical times, caves and coins from the time of the Maccabees, and entire cities from the time of the great rabbis.
What are your very earliest memories?
Because the Jewish people's roots run so deep in Israel, we've kept memories of Israel alive through 2,000 years of living outside the land. We've sung about Jerusalem at every Passover seder and at every wedding. We've read about Israel in the weekly Torah portion and have thought about Israel every time we say a blessing after meals. For centuries, Jews have felt a great love for Israel, even if they've never been there.
Did you ever make something new and feel really proud?
In 1948, a modern state was established in the ancient land of Israel. And because it was formed as a Jewish state, you'll find signs of Jewish life everywhere. You'll meet Jews who immigrated to Israel from every corner of the world. You'll hear and read Hebrew in the streets and experience the ancient Jewish language reborn as a modern living language. You'll feel the rhythm of everyday life, which — from Shabbat to holidays — is based directly on the Jewish calendar. In Jerusalem, you'll find a synagogue on almost every block. And in Israel you'll discover a love of books, a love of learning, a love of family, and a love of the land that all feel very Jewish.
Israel is a country in development, so there's a lot of growing still to do. But that, too, feels Jewish: tikkun olam — fixing our society and our world — is a never-ending challenge.
- Is Israel a fun place for kids to visit?
If you're up for an adventure, then yes, it's great fun!
Have you ever floated in a can't-sink-in-it sea? Climbed up to an ancient Jewish fortress or walked along the ancient walls of a city? Snorkeled with exotic fish? Ridden on a camel in the desert? Dug for ancient treasure? Eaten sweet honey desserts (with ice cream on the side)? Or sprayed graffiti art on the walls of a city?
Best of all, have you met Jews who often look and sound really different than you yet still share a lot in common?
This is all part of the Israel experience.
Oh, and did we mention that there's the real Israel Trail to hike? Have fun!
- If I were in Israel, would people understand me? Would I understand them?
While Israeli citizens speak Hebrew and Arabic, and countless immigrants speak a multitude of other languages, many people you meet will understand and speak some English too. They learn English in school, and they also pick it up by watching English-language movies and TV shows.
But there will be moments when you don't understand something or can't easily make yourself understood, and then — you might need to act it out! (Or else learn some key phrases in Hebrew … )
- I've heard that Jews and Arabs don't always get along. What are they fighting about?
Let's start a long time ago, when Abraham — the first Jew — had two children, Isaac and Ishmael. The Jewish people are descendants of Isaac, and the Arab people are descendants of Ishmael.
Today, thousands of years later, the children of Isaac and the children of Ishmael still live together in and around Israel. Some of them get along and feel a connection as distant cousins. But sadly, many do not.
But when we greet each other, in Hebrew we say shalom and in Arabic we say salaam — both mean peace, and that is what we all hope for.
- Can I go to Israel?
For many Jews, it's a thrilling and unforgettable experience to visit the only country in the world built as a Jewish state — a homeland for Jews everywhere.
Maybe your family will choose to visit Israel when you're young. Some go to have their b'nai mitzvah in Israel. As you get older, there will be many opportunities for you to come independently or on one of the many programs of travel, study, or work available for young people.
It's great to learn about Israel, to see pictures of Israel, even to play games about Israel, but there's nothing like experiencing it for yourself — coming to the land, meeting the people, eating the food, listening to the music, and participating in this colorful and vibrant society.
March 6, 2023