Israel: Day 4 & 5

Sorry we didn’t get a chance to write yesterday. We spent the night in the middle of the desert and there was no Wifi.

Yesterday, we left Tel Aviv and headed south. We began our day at an archaeological dig where we went into an ancient cave system and looked for pottery from the time of the Maccabees. It was an extraordinary morning, with many of our students found glass and other very rare goodies. We then went into another non-excavated cave system and explored. It was a a bit of an adventure and at times we were crawling on our stomachs to fit through tight holes but all out students did it!

After this we went off to Yerucham for lunch. Yerucham is in the middle of nowhere and that’s by design. In the 1950s it was the place where Israel settled Jews from Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia and the rest of the Arab world. Because they had no room for them in the cities they had to make due there and make a life. We ate a wonderful meal in a woman’s home and heard her story. Many of our students bought a cookbook with her recipes.

We ended up only stopping for a second at Ben Gurian’s retirement community S’de Boker but we told students about it on the bus and then we were off to K’far HaNokdim, which is a Bedouin tent near Masada. While there our students rode camels, enjoyed hospitality where they drank tea and coffee in the traditional style and learned about the Bedouin life.  Even though he was reluctant to, we even got our presenter to open us about the place of feminism in Bedouin culture. After a traditional meal of lamb and chicken, we went into the desert. We wanted to stargaze but it was too cloudy so instead, each student found a quiet place and spent 10-15 minutes alone in the desert. It was very powerful with some feeling like they felt the presence of God and others saying they felt a long lost relative with them. Afterwards we had a big campfire and since Rabbi Katz forgot his guitar on the bus we brought out a speaker and had a giant sing along to recordings.

The next morning after breakfast we headed for Masada. After a brief hike we learned the story, how a group of Jews who were surrounded by the Roman army chose death rather than surrender. Then we had a long conversation about what they would do in that scenario and if their was anything in their life they felt “worth dying for.” Interestingly, most said their was. We then walked around learning about the bathhouses, the food stores, and seeing the cisterns and palaces.

After a brief stop at the Ahavah store we headed to the dead sea where students floated and tried putting on mud. Some students complained about the smell, a few got the water in their eyes, but most liked how smooth their skin felt when it was all done.

We then stopped for lunch. We gave our students a choice of Mcdonalds or Aroma (the trendy coffee and sandwich shop in Israel) and surprise, surprise most of our students chose Mcdonalds, but even the variation was a lesson. Cheeseburgers were hard to come by and it was much more expensive than in the states.

We then headed to Jerusalem for a meeting with a group of High School Students, some Jewish, some Muslim, and some Christian. They did an activity where they talked about maps and then talked about why the traditional map of Jerusalem did not really show much of east Jerusalem. Then they heard from a Muslim student named Omar who told about his experience being harassed by police for riding his bike. We ended up spending a lot of time debriefing that visit and talking about narratives, peace, and political will. It was powerful.

We are now in for the night after a brief dinner at the Kibbutz. We are staying at Degania which was the first Kibbutz in Israel. Tomorrow we will be explaining why this was important to our students.

More soon!

Pictures Below: