Becca's Maccabiah Diary -- July 11, 2001

(The following is today's installment of Becca Schwartz's diary as a member of the USA Swimming Team competing at the Maccabiah Games in Israel.)

TEL AVIV, Israel, July 11.

HELLO again.

We have all been very busy this week trying to get in all the sight-seeing that we could. Yesterday we went about three hours southeast of Tel Aviv to the Dead
Sea and Masada.

First was the Dead Sea. Every swimmer should go there if they get the chance. It is ten times more saline than the oceans of the world and therefore much more dense. You can't sink no matter how hard you try! I was floating around doing the hardest syncro moves with ease and, believe me, I am no synchro swimmer. It is the strangest feeling.

Next was Masada. This is a huge mountain that overlooks the Dead Sea where a huge fortress once stood. It was built by King Herod about 2,000 years ago and destroyed by the Romans, after Jewish resisters to Roman rule took refuge there and held out against overwhelming odds. Eventually, rather than submit to slavery, they all killed themselves.

After that we ater dinner in a Bedouin (Arab nomad) camp. This was very interesting because these people were not Jews, yet they invited us all in for a meal and entertainment. Some people were unsure as to how these people would react to us because of the Arab/ Israeli conflict, but they were very friendly, and their camels were cool too.

Today we did some sight-seeing between Tel Aviv and Haifa (where we are swimming). We saw a containment camp, used by the British to hold Jewish refugees who escaped Europe after the Shoah. Next we went to a Druze village for lunch. Druze is a religion that a few Arabs in the Middle East have. They are loyal to the country they live in and fight in the Israeli Army.

We finished off the day with a beach party on the Mediteranean. It was a lot of fun. Lenny Krayzelburg showed up towards the end of the night. He seemed pretty tired, but everyone was very excited to see him.

Tomorrow we leave for Haifa and we start competition on Sunday. I am very excited to meet the swimmers from other countries. It is so amazing to be around so many people who share two huge parts of my life with me: swimming and Judaism. This has already been an awe-inspiring experience and we still have two weeks left!!!

Opening Ceremonies are Monday night!!