Sherril Smoger-Kessous, of Bloomfield, NJ, went to Israel at the impressionable age of 16, with a teen-tour called The National Bar Mitzvah Club. (National Bar Mitzvah Club = boys and girls age 16 .
7 week program enables Bar and Bat Mitzvah boys and girls to accumulate funds and prepare them-selves to participate in a specially designed trip at age 16. Includes lectures, trips to archeological and biblical sites, and a brief European stopover. Members of the Bar Mitzvah Club are oriented for the trip during the three year period through educational materials. Kashruth and Sabbath observed. Fee $850.).
The trip was a pivotal exerience in my life, in that Israel made a deep impression on me, which would stay with me for the rest of my life, and, as importantly, Eileen, a fellow traveller from San Antonio, Texas, also made a deep impression on me, as throughout that summer, we developed a profound friendship. Eileen and I remained friends for a few years beyond the summer of 1968, but unfortunately lost touch sometime during our college years. I made some attempts through the years to find Eileen, but was not successful. Then in the beginning of the year, 2015, 47 years after we met, a connection was finally made, albeit, in a round-about way, via Facebook.
This blog post is a tribute of sorts to that summer of '68 in Israel, the friendship that developed and the following year when we reunited at each others houses. Unfortunately, I cannot find the pictures from my visit to Texas. Fortunately, I do have them from when Eileen came to visit me in Bloomfield during the winter of 1968 or '69. She had the good fortune to come when we had a major snow storm. We had a reunion party with some of our trip-mates from NJ. And we had more time to bond as friends.
Then in the summer of '69, I went to visit Eileen in San Antonio. It was a momentous summer all around. Not only did we have another wonderful get-together, but also Apollo 11 was launched and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made their famous walk on the moon on July 20, 1969, "One small step for man. One giant step for mankind".
Then from August 15-18, 1969, the most famous rock concert and festival, Woodstock, took place on Max Yasgur's 600 acre dairy farm in the town of Bethel, NY.
Eileen and I did not get to Woodstock, but I believe we did
watch the moon-walk together. We also travelled to Dallas to see another kid from our trip and to Houston.
So, without further ado, here are the photos from The National Bar Mitzvah Tour, summer of 1968...
We stayed in what had been a hospital in Jerusalem, called, Bikur Cholim, but for some reason, I remember calling it Ze'ev. The only connection to that name that I could find was that the architect of some bronze doors in the hospital was Zeev Raban. What I cannot presently figure out is why we were able to stay there because as far as I could find, the hopital functioned as one throughout it's long history. In any case, we would return there as a home base after each "tiyul" (trip) we made.
|Our home base in Jerusalem: Bikur Cholim Hospital, or as I remember it, Ze'ev Hospital. .|
|Eileen in black Bedoin dress, Sherril in white at Ze'ev Hospital, our home base in Jerusalem. . The dresses and the pipes purchased in the "Old City" of Jerusalem, the Arab Quarter.|
|Mike with flowers in his hair, next to sign: "Do Not Smoke the Grass".|
Yerushalayim Shel Zehav: Jerusalem of Gold.
|Tiyul in the Negev Desert|
|Eileen smack in the middle. Sherril sitting in first row on the ground, 2nd from right. I remeber Bunny and Stuart sitting on either side of me,|
|New Jersey Group planting trees for Jewish National Fund|
|He is either smoking a joint or blowing on a harmonica. You' choose.|
|Our Fearless Leaders|
Eileen faking sleep.
Sherril faking sleep.
Take note of my bedroom ceiling. Pretty cool, ay? Eileen seems to be contemplating it.
Looks like we are about to go out to dinner with my family.
Eileen with Jo-Ann, my sister.
A girl from Texas can't be too far from her 10 gallon hat!
Sisters! Sisters! Never were there such devoted sisters!
Dressed to the T's, Eileen and Me.
Deep in conversation. Note the white princess phone on the table.
Eileen and I made decoupage pocketbooks. They were so cool. It probably went with all the other stuff up in the attic when my mother moved out of the house. ):
Note the guitar case next to me. I still have that Gibson guitar and same case 47 years hence!
Coy AND Playful.
We had a small reunion with a few kids from the National Bar Mitzvah club and a few friends of mine.
Jeff Friedman (laughing next to Eileen), a friend of mine. Then Mitch from the trip and the guy on the other side of Eileen, may have been from the trip and the blond guy was a friend of Jeff's.
Those were the days when playing TWISTER was all the rage and play it we did.
FUN! FUN! FUN! till my daddy took my T-bird away.
Then came the sad day that Eileen had to go home.
A trip, a visit and a friend I will always remember!