We started the day by leaving our Grand Beach hotel in Tel Aviv and getting on the bus to Haifa. Our first stop was a training session with the Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer coach where we sweat a lot and got cool posters. Next we went to lunch at Givat Haviva, a kibbutz that focuses on peace between Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis. At the kibbutz, we met with a panel of Arab Israelis to learn about their lives and unique Israeli experience. After, we visited Caesarea where we learned about Roman history in Israel, walked around the ruins, and got ice cream. Finally, we arrived at our hotel in Haifa for dinner as an end for a great day!
We kicked off the week with visits to towns on the border of Gaza and learned about what daily life is like for the people who live there. Later that day, we rode camels and settled down to sleep in Bedouin tents. We woke up bright and early the next morning to climb Masada and watch the sunrise. We also swam in the Dead Sea – actually, there was more floating than swimming – and surfed sand dunes for hours. On Tuesday, we had Negev-themed education programs and ate a delicious, homemade Moroccan lunch. We jeeped through a huge crater called Mahktesh Ramon and then spent even more time in large vehicles on our ride down to Eilat. While in Eilat, we snorkeled in the Red Sea and saw beautiful coral and huge arrays of stunning fish. We kicked off Thursday with a visit to the environmentally-oriented Kibbutz Lotan, where we learned how to be more waste-conscious and reduce our environmental footprint. Today is Friday (Friday, Friday gotta get down on Friday) and we just drove five hours up to Tel Aviv. (We slept more in those five hours than we have the rest of the trip!) We had a lovely Kabbalat Shabbat service right on the beach and we are now settling in for a relaxing shabbat filed with swimming, laughter, and way too many gas station snacks.
Today we visited Kibbutz Lotan; an ecologically friendly kibbutz that focuses on natural construction and waste-free living. We learned how to build geodesic domes, took a tour of the community, and drank fresh tea.
We did laundry today! Followed by breakfast at the hotel and a morning at Top 94, an etgar (challenge course)-like building full of various rock walls and other elements. After Top 94, we went to a mall and wandered around while eating lunch.
This morning we came together to have a panel discussion with four Israeli citizens representing different denominations of Judaism. They shared their experiences and thoughts on education, politics, religions, and Israel as a whole.
The day started with a nice breakfast and a tour of Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter. For lunch, we walked around and chose from a few stores. Then we traveled through Hezekiah’s tunnel which, while fun, was a bit small for some of our taller participants.
After a very rainy morning in the Poconos, we all made it to JFK Airport and onto the plane. The flight was wholly uneventful, but when we arrived in Tel Aviv we got to meet our Israeli staff and visit Neot Kedumim, a biblical nature preserve featuring over 100 species of plants that were all mentioned in the bible. Joanna, our guide at the preserve, showed us how to open almonds and introduced us to two other edible plants in the area.
Today was our final day in Israel. We ended up hearing different perspectives before we left. First we heard a presentation by Women of the Wall, who advocate for women to have the same rights as men at the Western Wall.