Center for Jewish-Bulgarian cooperation

Israel – from here to there

I am Stella Nikolova – participant in the 6th National Literary Youth Competition “Who Saves One human Life, Saves the Whole Universe”, organized by Center for Jewish-Bulgarian Cooperation Alef and with my story on the topic”To Love, despite,” I won a participation in the one-week international congress for young leaders in Israel. There I had the opportunity to present my visions for preserving the environment, based on the United Nations model. Students from 7 countries (Israel, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Taiwan, Czech Republic and Bulgaria) were present at the congress, which took place from 19.08.2019 to 26.08.2019.

The topic of the seminar allowed each participant to express his / her opinion on the various environmental problems on a global scale and to present a presentation on the Ecological sustainability of his / her country. The most different and unforgettable experience for me happened this year with my participation in the congress in Israel.

 

And to the question “Where did the seminar take place?” I will answer you: In Kfar Yarok, whose translation “The Green Village” can be taken as a literal answer to the question.

Every corner of the village is scattered with beautiful, graceful peacocks, huge palm trees grow in the gardens, and for relaxation we had wooden gazebos. All congressional students and travelers were accommodated in comfortable and unpretentious villas. And the huge buildings and halls where we talked and held seminars and major events were equipped with microphones and video screens. The village also had a large stage where concerts and other musical entertainment were held on hot nights. On Tuesday, September 20, all participants in the congress presented their countries at nationally organized tables packed with beautiful souvenirs.

 Bulgaria’s Ambassador to Israel- Mrs. Rumyana Bachvarova also attended the Bulgarian presentation. Meeting her was very exciting for me because in May she hanede to me the grand prize of the competition. In the evening, we – the Bulgarians, played a folk dance, applauded by the other “congressmen”. We were dressed in long, beautiful costumes with leather tsarvul.

The other nationalities also appeared on stage in equally interesting and colorful costumes, typical for their countries. And the hosts of the congress taught us their common and very funny Israeli dance.

I love to travel and to try interesting flavors that I don’t find every day. And the time before my travels passed on exploring the traditions, religions, cultural treasures, landmarks and traditional cuisine of the country I am about to visit! Of course, I don’t go without sunglasses with interesting shapes, my smartphone, camera, comfortable shoes and local money (which are never enough …)!

Israel impressed me with its rich history. It combines ancient traditions and modern, developing cities. I’m glad I had the opportunity to be there all week!

Jerusalem is so ancient and full of history and faith that everyone can feel the unique atmosphere in it. The city was considered sacred by Jews, Christians and Muslims. A city you can’t leave indifferent, at least because of the customs of thousands of years ago…

First we looked and toured the area around the old town. But to get to the city of David we passed through the tunnels of Hezekiah. These are dark tunnels that used to supply the city with water. There was still water in them, so we needed to have an adventurous mood, lots of drinking water in bottles, to turn on the lanterns and… we were ready! After 45 minutes ofwalking in water almost to your knees, we reached the capital of King David’s kingdom.

The tour guide then led our group to the Wailing Wall. After checking for weapons, we headed to the place where men and women continue to cry separately (there is a male-left and a female-right area). On the leaflets handed out by the guide, everyone wrote down their wishes and tried to secure them in the clefts of the stones on the Wailing Wall, which is 18 meters high. When a person touches the stones, the ancient grief that is embedded in them, burst out into tears.

I cried in one more place in Israel – descending to Jordan – the river where Christ was baptized. Thousands of small fish swim in the Jordan River that gently touch our feet.

Another landmark that we visited in Jerusalem was the Holy Sepulcher. A magnificent place! From the outside, the church looks ordinary, but inside it is impressive and vast! First we ascended to Calvary, the hill of the Crucifixion, now turned into an altar. We went on into the huge hall that housed a small chapel surrounded by pilgrims – from the most faithful to those who just wanted to feel the magical energy in this place, arranged in a long queue (similar to the one for the Louvre) … Holy Sepulchre-the main sanctuary of the Christian world!

After this unforgettable excursion the organizers have arranged all foreign participants in the congress to visit the family of an Israeli delegate. So in Thursday afternoon, I also find myself visiting some Israeli family in Tel Aviv for couple of days. On Friday, the family began preparing for a festive dinner – Shabbat. Shabbat is a very special time and continues till Saturday afternoon. Then the cars on the streets reduces dramatically,only the main tourist buses ride in the city, because the most religious Jews do not drive and work. In the Israeli family I visited, I tasted the most delicious food for my entire visit. In the evening, there were a variety of country-specific dishes, such as falafel, hummus, taboulos and shakshuka – spicy tomato sauce with stewed eggs in it. It was served with freshly baked Arabian bread “loaf”” and Arabic salad of finely chopped vegetables.

In Israel, I have learned that security in this country has become an art. From my conversations with Gal (the girl I was visiting) I learned that she will join the army the next year. There girls serve two years and boys serve 3 years.

With only a few exceptions, Jews are released from military service and work. It is also an interesting fact that the state supports the highly religious, non-working people with the taxes of the rest.

For the Jews Saturday is a day of rest. This break comes at sunset on Friday and ends after sunset on Saturday. Similarly, all national holidays occur. On Saturdays and public holidays, all public transport does not work (except taxis).

If Jerusalem is the religious and historical heart of Israel, Tel Aviv is its future! Tel Aviv is a new city, and life is around the clock. In the metropolis there are many shops, colorful and long markets (where you can find from the Bulgarian waffles “Chudo” to all kinds of beautiful and exquisite paintings and jewelry), large and small restaurants and a wide access to the Mediterranean with endless sandy beaches.

Food in Israel is not cheap. In fact, nothing is cheap except for small souvenirs.

During my stay in the Israeli family, I also enjoyed the Mediterranean beach, where the extreme adventure begins – swimming in huge waves. What is the feeling? Joy, happiness and … freedom!

 

On the last day of the program, we also visited northern Israel, and more specifically Tiberias, Kinneret and Nazareth.

That night was the time to say goodbye. Let’s promise “See you soon” and “Till next time”.Lets support our friendship with memories, take photos and exchange addresses!

I thank to everyone in Center for Jewish-Bulgarian Cooperation “Alef”, that contribute to the realization of one of my dreams, namely to be a participant in the International Young Leaders Congress in Israel.

Thank you!

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