Israel As It Gets

Israel As It Gets

Shalom! One of the preeminent Booth trips is the Israel trek (ITrek), which takes place during students’ 2nd year Spring Break. ITrek is an annual tradition at Booth and has historically been one of the largest trips students take while pursuing their MBAs, drawing over 240 students this year—the highest number in Booth history! The best part of ITrek is that it’s led by Israeli 2nd year Boothies, creating an unparalleled opportunity for students to experience Israel with their peers who have an intimate knowledge of the country (translation: they can point you in the direction of the best falafel and shawarma shops).

ITrek offers something for everyone! This year, some days had a more cultural/historical lean with guided tours while others offered more free time for wandering and engaging in important activities such as buying candy and chocolates in Israel’s vast markets. Before getting into a day-by-day breakdown of the trip activities, I want to highlight one of my favorite parts of the trek: Bus 2! Because so many Boothies attended the trek, we were split up into five buses. Although we got all 240+ Boothies together for larger events, we spent lots of time with bus mates and our fearless bus leaders, Gal Ordo and Morgan Harden, who kindly shepherded us from place to place and made sure we didn’t get lost.

We covered a lot of ground over the eight days of the trek, and the following were my personal highlights from each day…

Day 1: Welcome Dinner!

We kicked off the trek with a buffet-style meal, offering traditional Israeli cuisine, giving us a great opportunity to reconnect with classmates following final exams and a long flight from Chicago!

Day 2: Jerusalem Old City Tour

On the second day, we visited some of the holiest sites of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, including the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Dome of the Rock. We learned a lot about the history of these places and how their significance has influenced modern tensions in Jerusalem.

Day 3: Yad Vashem

Our visit to Yad Vashem, the world Holocaust remembrance center, was one of the most impactful parts of the trip. While most of us had learned about the horrors of the Holocaust at earlier points in our lives, a guided tour of the museum helped to fill in the gaps in our knowledge and allowed us to come together in remembrance.

Day 4: Masada & The Dead Sea

This was a salty day. We started the day by breaking a sweat hiking up the Masada Snake Path to visit the former home of Herod the Great, learning about the history of Masada before having a beach party at the Dead Sea. As someone who is incapable of floating in a regular pool, I was mind-boggled by how cool it was to float in the Dead Sea! Certainly one of my personal highlights of the trip.

Day 5: Party in a Castle! (Acco)

We partied in a freaking castle—enough said. After a day of history visiting Nazareth and learning about the history of the Crusaders in Acre, we had a party with dinner and dancing at the Hospitaller fortress.

Day 6: Guest Speakers in Tel Aviv

After traveling from Haifa City to Tel Aviv, we regrouped at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, where we engaged in riveting talks with Michael Eisenberg, a founding partner at one of Israel’s leading VC firms, and Riman Barakat, a native of East Jerusalem. We learned about their roles in the current business and cultural contexts of Israel.

Day 7: Free Day in Tel Aviv

Gotta love a free day. After a quick walking tour around the city, I went with a group of Boothies to the Carmel Market, an expansive outdoor market where we shopped for sweets before hunting down the best falafel I’ve had in my life.

Day 8: Farewell Lunch

After a quick tour around the old port city of Jaffa featuring the most incredible views of Tel Aviv (see photo below!), we closed out the trek with an outstanding meal at the Old Man in The Sea, complete with fresh fish, kebab, and—you guessed it—hummus!

All in all, ITrek was an amazing experience! We learned so much about Israel and the country’s history, and I learned that hummus in Chicago is REALLY lacking compared to that of Israel. The trek truly had something for everyone, and I highly recommend that future Boothies take advantage of the unparalleled opportunity to experience Israel!

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