Every year, the FZY & Young Judaea Maccabiah Games are one of the highlights of FZY Israel Tour. At the opening ceremony, three wonderful FZYniks spoke about their experiences of the summer so far. Here, you can read about what Shana Winston, Annabel Tragen and Lauren Zeffert had to say...
Shana Winston, Leeds (FZY Tour Two, 2018)
If you had asked me about FZY Israel tour before I left, and what I thought I would do, I would probably have said: "Sure, I'm excited," and of course, we would explore the world heritage sites, and, obviously, I would be trying something entirely different from my day to day life back home.
But never could I have imagined it would be such a powerful experience.
With FZY Tour Two, we marched blindfolded into the Kotel Plaza together, to have the most important place in the Jewish world unveiled before our eyes. With Tour Two, we bargained and haggled in the markets together, trading bubble gum and sweets up for fish heads and spices and pickles. With Tour Two, we played with the inspirational and incredible children at Save a Child's Heart together... I’ve seen a side of Israel that I could never have imagined; I’ve learnt so much, and had so many unrepeatable, unforgettable experiences.
We started off as forty-one nervous wrecks at Stanmore Shul, trying, yet mostly failing, to make small talk. And now, we are one big family who laugh together, sing together and grow together. Looking back, Israel tour would not be the same without a single member of Tour Two, even Yoav’s monkey. Is it pink? Is it purple? I’ll let the Maccabiah judges decide for us.
I didn’t know I could have such a deep connection to another country, to another land and to another people, before I came on Israel Tour. So many times, I’ve been left utterly dumbstruck and inspired by what I’ve seen here.
Anyone that’s been on FZY Israel Tour has stories about Maccabiah. Stories of triumph, of victory, of sportsmanship. We’ve all spent so long preparing for today, for these amazing games. I know this will be one of the highlights of tour.
Some people may scoff, and ask why we get so excited over just a sports day. But Maccabiah is so much more than that. It’s a huge coming together of people from all over, with both Young Judaea and FZY participating in a giant shared experience of culture, sport, and education. I can’t believe that I’m standing in front of you all today at the 2018 Maccabiah games, it’s so exciting to start the games, to compete against other tours, to experience the amazing atmosphere. It’s truly exhilarating to be here. Thank you everyone, good luck, drink lots of water, and GO TOUR TWO TROLLS!
Annabel Tragen, Manchester (FZY Tour Four, 2018)
Hi, I am Annabel Tragen from FZY Tour Four Spongebobs!
FZY has been a part of my family for as long as I can remember.
My brother, cousins and now me have all followed in the path set by my mum who went on FZY Israel tour in 1987. Having made such amazing friends and memories on FZY Kesher (Summer Camp) over the last two years, my expectations were set very high for tour.
Now, I can honestly say that tour has lived up to and exceeded these expectations.
FZY has allowed me to meet amazing people from the Tzofim in Israel as well as make friendships with people from Leeds and of course with the Londoners from down south. Although this has caused me to slightly lose my strong Mancunian accent!
Not only is there a constant buzz of energy and excitement but our leaders always treat us with respect and care.
We have done things that would not have been possible without FZY tour, including snorkeling in Eilat, even though I’m scared of fish, watching the sunrise at Masada and kayaking along the Jordan river.
Although some things may have seemed tough at first, for instance the shmutty igloos at the Sde Boker field school where we spent our first Shabbat, it gave us the chance to form bonds with the group and was a great way to end our first week.
Tour for me was a time to discover new friendships and strengthen existing ones.
Many think that Israel tour is just a month on the beach, eating shawarma whilst wearing Israeli trousers, but with FZY it has been so much more than just a tour.
Hagshama atzmit means the personal fulfilment of one’s ideology, the ultimate goal of FZY, and here on Tour Four we have done just that. We haven’t just gone on tour, we have lived it, coming closer as a group as we learn about and express our own Zionism, Judaism and Pluralism in our own unique ways.
The memories we have created and shared during this time will stay with me forever and are what defines my story.
Lauren Zeffert, London (FZY Tour Six)
Where would we be without tour?
We would be normal 16 year-olds, our summer indifferent with each passing day. Tour with FZY has given fun a paradoxical structure, creating an environment in which we all can both learn and enjoy ourselves.
Take last Sunday for example... After having listened to Bedouin women in the morning regarding their campaign for women’s rights, we were allowed time to visit markets and shops around Be’Er Sheva. As you can see these activities aren’t all too similar, yet it manages to highlight the perfect compromise between tour as a learning experience and having an enjoyable time.
Meeting people on tour from around England and Israel creates a greater sense of Jewish identity. We are able to experience the strong unspoken bond between Jews who have never met each other, forming life-long friendships by simply discussing the perfect amount of kneidlach in a chicken soup on a Friday night. Each person on tour has come for different reasons, yet all seem to be able to experience the same things in a multitude of different ways.
Many people will also tell you that there are some experiences on tour that are life-changing. As a teenager, I was determined to prove this was a lie. Yet, Tour has greatly changed the perspective of formerly unenjoyable activities.
Bus journeys are no longer tedious, but rather an opportunity to forge stronger friendships. Hiking is no longer an arduous task, the means to get to the next destination, but now is an opportunity to appreciate beautiful scenery. A trip to the shops is now a time to collect memorabilia to give to parents and the family. In this way, although not as obtuse as an epiphany, tour has changed the way I will perceive things.
And this is being said without having visited the kotel yet, which may further change the way I enjoy and experience things, as it has done for many people before me.
In short, tour with FZY has strengthened my Jewish and Zionist identity, fundamental to ensuring that the state of Israel will be everlasting. The State of Israel that I will always be able to call home.