SERVAS ISRAEL

Christmas 2013 event in Israel, as reported by Sonali and Yogesh from India

  16/01/2014

The story of Jews, Jesus and Jerusalem…

Shalom all dear friends!

Israel has always fascinated us, we have always heard a lot about this tiny country from my parents who had visited it earlier, and also the impression we had from all books and news articles about how this desert country was a leading agricultural producer too! And when the opportunity popped up from Servas, we just could not resist it!

Our journey could not have begun without the help and support from Claudia and her team… They have been phenomenal in their help to organize this giant event. Planning the itinerary and raking up host families, corresponding with each and everyone from the silliest of doubts to addressing all issues – we got solutions at the blink of an eyelid!

There are always two ways to travel – one as a regular traveler through a travel agent probably, and the other is a Servas traveler. And it’s a world of a difference – something that only a Servas member can tell. From the moment we stepped in this unknown land, we were at home. Each of our host families were like our own families, helping and caring about us to no end. Every day as we stepped out we felt like school kids going off to school with motherly guidance, instructions and also a tiffin box!! Sometimes they spoilt us with local junk food too

What we learnt from each of them is unsurpassed. They shared their life, their experiences, they shared practically the key towards what makes Israel such a wonderful country to be in, against all odds. We had loads of doubts – from the religion, to the demography, their origins, hostile neighborhood conditions… to their positive outlook towards life...! We were very impressed and fascinated the way people have come from all over the world and actually revived their ancient language – Hebrew. Coming from India I knew I was seeing a nation just as old as mine – but having formed in 1948, Israel has truly gone places! And we could see it in their lives. It was immensely inspiring. When we visited the holocaust museum, I could not hold back tears and my respect for all Israelis hit sky high. What grit and determination to rise from ashes like a phoenix bird!

And all this, I know, was possible only because of Servas. We visited several places, we met several people, and the personal touch when we visited a synagogue or a kibbutz was overwhelming. We literally backtracked the footsteps of Jesus as we visited Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee, Jerusalem… and in 10 days I have learnt more than any number of books or TV documentaries I have ever encountered.

Servas also makes you a better person end of the day. People with open minds and who have seen the world, who have big hearts to give room to strangers not just in their homes but in their lives – it is unbeatable.

Thanks to Servas we did not just travel in Israel, we went on a humanitarian pilgrimage – a pilgrimage beyond all religious boundaries! The only way to show this gratitude is to imbibe all qualities that they have taught us.

Toda Raba till we meet again!

Sonali & Yogesh,

Pune, India

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