Eliza Binstock’s Experience on Mach Hach Ba’Aretz

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Rebecca Kalimi ’23

Compared to last summer, this past summer was full of endless opportunities. With COVID-19 mandates becoming more lenient in Israel due to decreasing cases, summer Israel programs restarted, and Ramaz students jumped at the opportunity to join. Eliza Binstock ‘23 signed up for Mach Hach Ba’Aretz early in December. She knew she wanted to get out of New York City and have a new experience outside of her hometown. She knew specifically that she wanted to explore Israel more than she had in the past, and that she wanted to be able to still have a religious experience. To her, Mach Hach had the perfect integration of religion, social aspects, and activities. Binstock loves to be active and engage in hikes, or water activities and Mach Hach included all kinds of different events she wanted to experience. She also wanted to see meaningful museums and historical monuments to understand Israel on a deeper level, deeper than just sightseeing.

Binstock was away for five and a half weeks. The trip had nine buses, each with forty kids and five counselors. Her bus was filled with kids from Los Angeles, New York, and Florida. She traveled all around Israel from the heights of Masada to the lows of the Dead Sea. Her fondest memories of the trip include hiking Masada at sunrise, water activities in the Red Sea, shopping at Machaneh Yehuda, visiting the Kotel, and of course, sneaking out late at night. Not only did these activities strengthen her Israeli identity, but she fostered friendships with amazing people on her trip. Since returning from Israel, she’s already made an effort to meet up with kids from her bus.

Although she had an amazing time over those five weeks, there were some lowlights to the trip. Binstock emphasized how horrible the food situation was. At times, the kids would have to use mini stoves and cook their own meals! Besides the food, all the Mach Hach students were required to be quarantined in Israel for the first part of their trip. Binstock noted that although she had the opportunity to get closer with all her friends, 

It was still tough to be confined to a space she was so eager to explore. On top of that, throughout the trip, they were periodically required to wear masks in the scorching heat. Binstock says that it was definitely hard to wear masks in that weather, but all in all, it was worth it for the amazing experiences she finally encountered.

Besides all the activities and fun events she engaged in, Binstock also mentioned the religious effects that the trips had on her. She felt connected to God throughout the trip, considering she was in the holiest place a Jew could be and was davening three times a day, every day. She felt proud of herself that she stayed connected to her religion. It showed her that she could have so much fun, and still have a steady relationship with God. Although she didn’t have a huge religious epiphany, she credits that to the fact that she already feels very comfortable in her Jewish identity. She felt religiously fulfilled on this trip.

Overall, Binstock’s trip to Israel via Mach Hach was an unforgettable experience, and she has dubbed it as “the best summer of my life.”