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by Jan Seides
Wednesday 29th June, 2016, 9:18pm


Having wanted to make this trip since I was 14 years old, I finally went to Israel. What follows is partly travelogue, but it is also a very emotional journey through obstacles and wake-up calls.

The history: I did not love high school. I was a reasonably good student, though “not up to my potential”, as I was told repeatedly by my counselor. Trouble at home and a certain lack of maturity were probably to blame. In any case, when I was about 13, I went searching for a new set of friends, because I decided I didn’t really care for the elementary/middle grades friends I had, and high school had only aggravated the problem.

Screen shot 2016-06-29 at 8.34.50 PMWhat  I found was Hashomer Hatzair, a Zionist youth group. We mostly did folk dances, learned Hebrew “folk” songs (I found out later that they were mostly written in the 20s when the Zionist movement first began to bear fruit.) and talked about being pioneers in Israel. They offered me a free scholarship to summer camp that year, and after a lot of back-and-forth between them and my parents, I was able to take them up on it. And it totally opened my eyes in so many ways.

I had never before been out of the city for more than a day, except to go with my family to a Screen shot 2016-06-29 at 8.35.05 PMdifferent city. This was up at the top of the mitten of  the lower peninsula of Michigan in a place called Wilderness State Park. There was the combined waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior a 15-minute walk away. There were kids from many different parts of Michigan and the U.S., and more than a few from Israel. There were opportunities to learn skills that I’d only encountered before in my dis-banded Girl Scout troop (Our leader quit.). There were beautiful songs, intricate dances, stories, the outdoors. And underlying all of it was “Go. Be a pioneer in Israel.”

Three things I remember vividly about that summer:

Screen shot 2016-06-29 at 8.37.06 PMThere was a water fountain in the middle of the campground that served up the purist, coldest, sweetest water I’d ever tasted. I would get up in the middle of the night to cross the camp and get myself a drink from that well. Yum! (I don’t think I ever fell in love with water before that.)

There was a trip to Mackinac Island, where there were NO cars! Screen shot 2016-06-29 at 8.38.52 PMJust 19th century buildings, and horses and carriages. All the people who lived (?) and worked there dressed the part. And the Mackinac Bridge was gorgeous! Doesn’t get better than that!

Screen shot 2016-06-29 at 8.39.42 PMI developed a huge crush, as 13-year-olds will, on our counselor. Her name was Shoshanna, and she was willing to teach me some Hebrew, as was the Camp Director’s 5-year-old daughter, who I was also in love with. Shoshanna went on to marry another counselor and they moved to a Kibbutz. I’m not sure what I was most jealous of, but I was pretty jealous.Screen shot 2016-06-29 at 8.40.45 PM

So anyway ….

Now I’m an adult. I’ve lived in several locations, but have put down my roots in Austin, TX. Most of my childhood and adolescent dreams have morphed into different dreams, or disappeared. Except for one. I still long to go to Israel one day. Only now it’s a little bit different because now I’m a trained musician and a seasoned songwriter. I want to go to Israel and play. That’s what I want.

Time goes by. I am a very hard-working single mom, and then I’m not single anymore. He wants to travel too, but he has different aspirations than mine. Nevertheless, I start to save my money. Then my daughter has a very difficult adolescence of her own, and I start thinking I can’t let her spend the summer in Austin. The youth group at the temple where she became bat mitzvah is going to Israel. Fine. Here’s the money. Take her to Israel. (She’s fine now.)

More time goes by. We travel some. Not to Israel, but to some good places. You can find some pictures on my website in the gallery. I have tried to get a few other musicians and songwriters interested in going with me, so that we can book performances together, but no one really bites.

So last year, I decided if I was going to go, now was the time. It took some talking, and some spending of money, but …. Finally!!!

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At the Wall

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At the Tel Aviv Folk Club

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The remains of a Roman Aquaduct and the Mediterranean

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Our home in Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Garden Hotel)

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Dome of the Rock from a nearby rooftopScreen shot 2016-06-29 at 9.11.37 PM

The Arab market in the Old City (So much kitsch, so little time.)

More pictures at

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