Youngsters at the age of 16 will always be hungry. Some of them devised a plan to wake me up at one o’clock in the morning, offer me some chocolate in my dazed state when I opened the door. Then two others would rush into my room and collect my “hidden” stash of oranges and cookies kept in the cabinets under the sink, which I was meant to ration out for activities. Who knocked on my door to offer me chocolate? Harry Sudarsky! “Bully!” he said. Who snuck into the room to pull out food supplies? I don’t remember. Probably one of them was Harry Guberek, who had even considered climbing through a chute that entered my room from above. I soon shooed them out and fell back to sleep.
“Bully”? Why would Harry call me “Bully”? This was decades before anybody talked about a bully, or bullying. (Obviously I never bullied these students).
That was my mistake. You see, my father was principal of Theodore Roosevelt Junior High School in Weston, New Jersey, and he gave me the official sweat shirt of the JHS which had “Bully” written across it. “Bully” was Teddy Roosevelt’s nickname. And I was dumb enough to take the sweatshirt with me to Israel, with 33 sixteen-year-olds. As soon as I put it on, the day that we were riding camels in the Negev (a very comfortable ride, let me tell you), there was no end to it. From that day on, my name was “Bully”. Harry Sudarsky, Harry Guberek, Monica Goldstein, everyone called me Bully.
By the way, after the camel ride, we stopped at the Bedouin tent where we had either a delicious aromatic tea, or a muddy Turkish coffee, together with large Crepe-like pitas cooked on a metallic cover over the outdoor fire.
On that trip we went all the way down through the desert to Eilat, hiked through the red mountains, visited the underwater Sea Aquarium and even went water skiing. At least Isaac Lee went water skiing. The beginning of January was sunny but chilly, yet Isaac did very well!
Skiing on Mount Hermon
Whereas only Isaac went water skiing, EVERYBODY went snow skiing back up on Mount Hermon, both those who knew how to ski, and also those who did not. I chose not to risk an embarrassing moment, so I stayed down below to film and take pictures. One of pictures showed Luis Szapiro falling and hitting his head on I don’t know what. All of sudden there seemed to be blood everywhere. Salvador (or was it Pini from the school) and I suspected the worst, but in the end blood is much scandalous than reality, and it was nothing more than a light scratch and wound, nothing that a head bandage wouldn’t take care of. And Luis is now head of the Colombian Israeli Chamber of Commerce, so I think he is OK.
While we were at Yemin Orde, we would be on the road for two weeks, then in the school “studying”. Often we would have a weekend for the kids to go and stay with a relative. When that was the case, I was off to Jerusalen, to visit my friend, Andrew, from our Mount Sion community and who taught English linguistics at the Hebrew University. He often attended a Bible study in Spanish given by Colombian employees of the United Nations living in Nahariya. So one weekend Chaim Peri agreed to lend me his car to drive to Nahariya. “It’s a religious car,” he told me, so you may not drive it on Shabat. (It had a insurance with a ten percent discount if it was not driven on shabat).
I made a point not to drive it on shabat, so I had to leave earlier enough on Friday to make it to Nahariya before sundown. I picked up two friends at the Haifa bus station who had just come from Jerusalem and then headed up the highway. Soon a policeman blasted his siren and pulled me over.
“What are you doing driving in the left lane (of the divided highway),” he demanded. “That is only for passing”.
“Sorry officer,” I explained, “but I live in Colombia, and in Colombia we pass on the right, on the left, whever.”
“OK,” he conceded as he looked at my driver’s license, “I’ll let you go this time, but don’t let it happen again.”
Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu
One of the two-week trips was on the kibbutz Sdei Eliyahu, a religious kibbutz. When the kids got to their rooms, they found names inscribed on the closet doors, names from the Class of ’87 which had proceeded them: Carlos Kowalsky, Marcel Calef, Toby Warticovschi, and at least two dozen others. So now we knew where the former CCH class had stayed. I diligently filmed everybody washing carrots and going about their duties on the kibbutz. Sadly however, this cassette was the only one that never arrived to Bogota!
The best stay, however, was probably the two-week stay in Jerusalem. Every free weekend, I took the chance to go UP to Jerusalem. There was something special about it. Always with that mystical spiritual something in the air. Never got tired of it.
And still haven’t to this day. (As of 2019, I have been to Israel and Jerusalem 19 times, and hope to go again in 2020).
When March rolled around, it was time to return to Colombia. I might have stayed in Israel, but I had 33 youngsters that I had to return to their parents. When we had left Bogota in November, the students were not united, they were in their own little clicks, against each other. When we returned, after four months, they had been fused into one big united group: a fascinating sight to see. Certainly well worth all the sacrifice and effort their parents had made to send them.
And I was different myself. I tell people: Go to Israel. It will change your life, your perspective. You will never be the same. And it’s true.