American and Israeli Diller Teens in Baltimore
By Anneliese Feldman
The North American Seminar (NAS) was so much fun in Baltimore. All the Diller teens were together before the Israelis came, and we were so excited. Finally, the Israelis arrived, and everyone was hugging and talking as if we were already best friends. We played some games to get to know each other and learned more about each other before we went to our individual houses with our Israeli match. By the end of the first night, we already had become closer.
Although most of the American students were not present for the activities of the second day, the Israelis had a great time exploring the Inner Harbor, M & T Bank Stadium and Fort McHenry. That night the American families spent time with the Israeli they were hosting,and the Israelis learned more about their host family. Afterwards, all 40 teens got together to hang out and play games.
The next day, many American teens joined the Israelis in Washington D.C. We first went to the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument, then the Lincoln Memorial, the Einstein statue and the Vietnam Memorial. The Israelis had done research about these people and events and shared their knowledge with the rest of the group. The next part of the day was spent at the Newseum, where the group explored the history of American news and important events. Finally, the day ended at University of Maryland, College Park, where the group was given a tour of the campus and talked to Diller alumni who attended the University of Maryland. Everyone in the group was able to learn something new about America and American history in the nation’s capital.
The weekend retreat began Thursday evening, and we slept at the Owings Mills JCC. Friday morning, the group left early to head to Capital Camps in Pennsylvania. When we arrived, we unpacked our belongings; then we sat together in a room to begin a set of interesting discussions headed by Uriel, the Israeli coordinator. After these discussions, everyone went to their rooms to prepare for Shabbat, and we all had a blast taking pictures outside with everyone in white clothes.
On Saturday, the group broke down into smaller groups. These groups, combinations of Israeli and American teens, worked together to determine what they would organize during Community Week in Ashkelon. Each group had different themes and ideas of what to do, and everyone was very excited to plan a day of activities in Israel. After a really fun Shabbaton, the group packed up and headed back to the JCC to get picked up by parents and to head home.
The only planned activity on Sunday was at Art With a Heart where the teens decorated bird houses with pieces of cut glass to be hung after they were finished. Although everyone was tired from the crazy weekend, it was a very calming and relaxing activity that everyone enjoyed.
Finally the American and Israeli teens who were matched were given free time. While many went to the Towson Mall to go shopping, others went to places such as the National Aquarium or mini golf. The matches had another fun dinner with their host families and afterwards met at an American teen’s house.
The next day was one of the most exciting. The Americans took their Israeli match to school with them until lunch time so that the Israelis could have the opportunity to meet their match’s friends and teachers and to see what American school is like. After school, many of the Americans met the Israelis at the Pikesville Target to go shopping and buy some really cool things.
Later that evening was the Teen Summit where the Israelis and Americans listened to interesting speakers. The following day was unfortunately the last full day of NAS. At the closing dinner with all the American host families and Israelis, we enjoyed amazing slideshows that allowed everyone to reflect on the fun times during NAS.
It was a great closing to the crazy 10 days. Everyone realized how amazing the experience was – to be able to learn so much about each other’s cultures and lives. It was very sad having to drop the Israeli’s off at a hotel that night where everyone said their last goodbyes. We have all made lifelong friends in Ashkelon. Now we are counting down the days until the flight leaves from Baltimore to Israel!
What An Experience
By Andy Neumann
Truthfully, I was not so excited for the North American Seminar (NAS). I barely spoke to my match beforehand, and I was nervous about missing school and losing sleep. I had no idea of how amazing those 10 days would be.
From the first dramatic meeting, filled with smiles and hugs, the excitement of the NAS never diminished. The dynamic in our Baltimore Diller group is so special that when we found that the Ashkelon Dillers had the same bond, we immediately clung to them. It felt like one crazy 39-person family where each member contributed differently to make the NAS incredible. The first night silenced all my apprehensions: I knew I would love everything in store.
Over the next few days, Diller became my beacon of every day, my “light at the end of the tunnel” every evening. During school I would daydream about being reunited with my new family. Despite my exhaustion and homework, I felt like it was all worthwhile just to spend a few more minutes with the awesome bunch.
The NAS put me on something that I can only describe as a “Diller high.” I’ve felt it before, mostly from the retreats, but this time it was more intense. The 10 action-packed days felt more like a dream than reality. I longed for time with the Israelis to bask in that warmth just a little longer. It was so incredible to be a part of that group through all of the energized yelling, the Hebrew punch lines and the friendly mocking. I am so excited for Israel and I know we will pick up exactly where we left off.