Israel

The Dead Sea in Israel

Israel – The Taglit Birthright Program

Posted by | Guest Spot, Israel, Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | No Comments

I have mentioned in my blog that my father is of Colombian descent and I have also written a little about my love for Colombian cuisine (Mondongo, in particular). What I have not mentioned is that the other half of my heritage is Eastern European; specifically Russian. My mother’s side is of Jewish heritage as a result. And while it is fascinating to most just how a Colombian priest and a Russian Jew met, believe me when I say the truth behind it reveals nothing as ironic as my parent’s subsequent marriage and procreation.

Parents and I

Needless to say, I am proud of the fact that I come from two very distinguishable ethnic backgrounds, both special in their own right. And since I have experienced Colombia and what South Americans have to offer, my next adventure involves immersing myself in the Jewish culture. To do this, I am planning on visiting Israel this winter.

Now before getting ahead of myself, and also confusing anyone reading this, I will establish the specific details regarding my ability to actually visit Israel. in 1994, a not-for-profit organization was created titled Taglit Birthright Israel. Taglit, which means discovery in Hebrew, was the brainchild of various Jewish organizations, individuals and philanthropists alike, hoping to educate those of Jewish heritage about their motherland, and to also assuage any kind of hostilities or ignorance associated with Israel and foreign relations.

Any individual who can prove one of their parents is Jewish, and that they also do not actively practice any religion, or any religion other than Judaism, is cleared for potential acceptance to the Taglit Birthright program. I say potentially because unfortunately the demand is high and thousands of people apply each season to go to Israel, which exceeds the allowed number of participants. I plan on registering this fall, when the next round of applications is open, so that I can make a winter trip.

What is amazing about this program is that new individuals, as well as the Israeli government, have continued to pledge more funds in order to not only keep this program running, but to increase the number of allowed participants for each trip. An additional $105 million alone was pledged in 2011 in order to expand involvement. Clearly Israel loves the tourism, but it is profoundly touching how many Jewish individuals are willing to put forth their personal fortunes  in order for strangers between the ages of 18 and 27 to visit the country of their oldest ancestors. What an amazing gift.

The Western Wall

But to get to my point, as I do digress, I had never really considered this trip unfortunately until now, and it is almost too late. My older sister has already reached 27 years of age, and my little sister turns 18 next year, by the time which I will be too old to participate. So it is up to me; I am the sole remaining daughter of my mother who can attempt to achieve the feat that is walking upon ground where our most ancient ancestors did the same. It is a great responsibility, but I am up to the challenge.

I would also very much would like to learn Hebrew. What could be more exhilarating than learning THE original language, one that is still spoken today? (And don’t start with me about learning Spanish. I know..I am still working on that and I’m a bit behind, but I can do more than one!). Either way, visiting Israel would be amazing, and I am sure it is quite the experience, Jewish or non-Jewish. So this Colombian-Jewish girl is going to get her tuchus (anyone know Yiddish?) to Israel, no matter how hard she has to try.

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Israeli army

Krav Maga – The Deadliest Martial Art in the World

Posted by | Guest Spot, Israel, Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 7 Comments

 

Martial arts which happens to be one of my favorite things, and it’s a major inspiration for my travel plans. And, in my opinion, one of the most effective and brutal techniques out there is Krav Maga. This martial art is used by Israeli defense forces, with the word Krav standing for combat, and the word Maga for contact. This unique martial art is derived from street fighting and involves wrestling and grappling, and is meant to end fight as soon as possible by striking the main targets around the groin area, eyes, throat, and joints. In my past I have dabbed in a little bit of everything such as kung fu, tae kwon do, jujitsu and some boxing but out of everything I’ve seen Krav Maga is the most brutal and efficient, while the others are more of an art form with spiritual ties.

Krav Maga consist of lightning fast movements and bone-breaking blows so that their opponent won’t even know what hit them. People with these skills become a deadly force whether it’s with their bare hands or maybe even a weapon that they acquired from their enemy, ranging from a water canteen to a belt to even an unloaded gun or a boot, a knife or even a random thing like a backpack. Whereas other martial arts focus on meditation, chi, focus and rhythmic control over long years of study, Krav Maga is about using everything and anything at hand to quickly and efficiently defend yourself in any given situation.

Krav MagaI’ll be the first to say martial arts is not a game; it can be very dangerous when used the right way and can take a life in extreme settings. Krav Maga in particular teaches you to use every limb of your body to inflict brute force, from elbows and knees or whatever means necessary to defend yourself, including poking the eyes, going for the throat, groin and beyond. Not only is this art known for its self-defense but also the offensive situations, like what to do when someone comes at you with a knife or a gun, and how to either take that weapon from them or break their bones so they can’t continue to try and hurt you.

There are places where you can travel to in Israel and take a 10-day course. You will be taught shirt grabs, hand grabs, what to do in case of an attempted abduction,  plus an array of skills ranging from chokes to weapon attacks and using your elbows, knees, and legs to fight. You also learn how to defend yourself in confined spaces like an elevator or car and the courses also cover hostage situations, VIP protection and protecting yourself from a rape situation. Not only will you learn a great skill but be able to see where biblical battles took place.

It is a dream of mine to travel to Israel and not only to learn the amazing self-defense techniques but to meet the people/culture and history that Israel has. Regardless of what your beliefs are, there has been a lot of history over the years, and while some of it has been fairly violent and bloody, Israel is still a country with a rich and diverse cultural background.

Krav-Maga trainingAlmost everyone gets into a fight at some point in their life and the skills that I have obtained over the years have helped me in several life-threatening situations where my life depended on what actions I took. Proper martial arts training can help save lives, just like CPR and learning how to swim, and you also learn when and when not to use these skills. I advise any person to get involved in martial arts, but especially children because it teaches them discipline and respect and in my eyes that is something not too many people know about these days.

 

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