News from the Holy Land


Dear Galesburgians,



I am Hannah Katchen a recent grad of Galesburg High School class of 2007. Instead of taking the path well traveled, a/k/a college, I decided to study abroad in Israel for 9 months. Since the summer of 7th grade I have been going to a Zionist Youth Camp in Wisconsin called Young Judaea. ÒYoung Judaea was founded in 1909, and is the oldest Zionist youth movement in the United States and seeks to build Jewish identity and Zionist commitment in American Jewish youth and young adults.Ó


This youth movement fueled my passion for Israel and gave me more of an understanding of Judaism. The summer of 2006 I toured Israel for 5 Ï weeks, getting a taste of the history of this ancient land. Now I am living, studying and volunteering in Israel. The program I am on is called Year Course, it is a 9 month program for recent high school graduates. The year is split up into a trimester, volunteering, studying, and Israel Experience. My Year Course started in Pardes Hanna, a small town in-between Hifa and Tel-Aviv. I study Hebrew, volunteer with horses (mostly cleaning), and play for a soccer team called Hapoel Hadera. My next three months will be studying in Jerusalem and the last three months will be in Akko at a boarding school called Nautica College. At the school I will do a variety of physical training and learn about sailing. That is my year in a nut shell.



To put the size of Israel into perspective it is relatively the size of New Jersey. Thus giving me a greater opportunity to travel. On Thursday night, after a 2 hour soccer practice, my friends and I jump onto a bus headed to our destination for the weekend. This feeling of freedom, to have the ability to travel from one end of this country to the other, is uncanny.


The past weekends of travel have brought me to the Kineret, a lake known for its biblical story of Jesus walking on water, I swam 3.5km across this lake, and a few weekends later I found myself back at the lake this time on a bike riding around the Kineret. The total bike ride took 65 km and approx. 4 hours. When visiting a friend during Sukkot, she drove me to En Keren to a church which holds the rock John the Baptist was hid behind as a baby. I spent one weekend on the beach in Cesarea. My friends and I brought a tent, food, and our dog Arnold for two days and one night. We slept under the stars with the Med. Sea lapping nearby. We met some hospitable Israelis who shared their lunch with us. They had caught fish in the morning fried them, and gave us three fish, along with pita, wine, cakes, and coffee. It was the most scrumptious lunch I have ever had! That weekend I learned just how furious the Israeli sun could be and spent the next week applying aloe vera every five min. In Rannana I stayed with a friend for the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashana, and enjoyed an Israeli dinner along with all her family. I couldnÕt really communicate with the family well because of my poor Hebrew but I was able to put in my two cents.


I feel so priviledge to have the opportunity to touch and see all the history this amazing country has to offer. I keep a journal so that in years to come I wonÕt forget all the experiences I have encountered and will encounter in this remarkable year.