In order to beat the heat, No’ar Hadash started the day off early, trekking down Mount Arbel. Not only did we climb, hike, and sing through this famous site of Crusaders and Muslims fighting, but of course danced. This path may have been tough on the knees, but even more on the heart, as there was a steep and sketchy decline with just a rope to hold onto -- a great challenge to those scared of heights. At the end of the hike, we were welcomed by a wandering cow to a fresh spring, where we washed and refreshed.
This morning was relaxed; we slept in, had breakfast, and joined together for communal services. Services were led by "rabbis" Eva Nates and Yonit Slater, who made services engaging through meditation and song. After services, we began to brainstorm ideas for the No’ar Hadash t-shirt, which we will design ourselves. We jotted down certain pictures and words that embody special moments and values that we have gained throughout the course of our trip. The thought process continued up until lunch time at the hotel. After lunch, we headed down the the Kineret (Sea of Galilee) for a relaxing and sunny beach afternoon. We spent the majority of our beach time cooling off in the water. At around early evening, we headed back to the hotel for showers and more relaxation. A few people took advantage of this free time to exercise and clean up after the beach. Once the sun went down, we thoroughly enjoyed a Havdalah service, which reminds everyone of a fun Saturday night at camp. We then headed to the city of Tiberias, one of the four Jewish holy cities in Israel, for dinner and to explore the shops and the downtown area. Overall, this Shabbat was very relaxing and fun, as we got to prepare for our last week in Israel and strengthen the already close bonds that have been created over the course of this trip.
After a hike, the day began with an overlook of Israel’s diverse landscape, from hilltops to city to the sea and even the border with Lebanon. Another short bus ride and we were going down the world’s steepest cable car which led us to natural grottos at Rosh Hanikra. We ventured through the caves, looking at clear blue pools of water that flooded in from the Mediterranean Sea.
We went to see the Bahai Gardens and learned about the Bahai religion. We went inside the shrine and had to keep completely quiet out of respect for the holy site. We overlooked the gardens from above and saw the beautiful port city of Haifa in front of us. Next we went to the Umm el-Fahem art gallery where we played with some clay and sculpted some unique creations.
We departed from Tel Aviv and headed up north. The landscape was very different from the south. We were now surrounded by pine trees, olive trees and bushes instead of desert. Our first stop was the Ein Shemer Eco-existence Ecological Greenhouse where we listened to an eye-opening talk. An Arab-Israeli explained how Arab-Israelis feel in a Jewish country and her relation with Palestine. Their aim is to create bonds between Arab and Jewish kids and mold a future Israel with no stereotypes or preconceptions. The Greenhouse itself had a very nice purpose: kids and teens who have difficulties at school go to the greenhouse and use their imagination to solve day-to-day problems.
We started today off by meeting with a speaker from IGY (Israeli Gay Youth), with whom we discussed how LGBTQ rights have progressed in Israel. We asked our speaker about what life in the army is like for LGBTQ youth and the strides that have been made to create a more inclusive environment.
We started our day today at the Shimon Peres Center for Peace. With an amazing view of the sea, we listened to a representative who explained the mission of the center and the different projects they take part in. We learned about the various ways the center works to achieve peace between Arabs and Jews in the area. After the meeting, we headed to Rabin Square, the site where Yitzhak Rabin, an Israeli Prime Minister, was assassinated while attending a rally for the Israel-Palestine peace agreement. Once we had taken in this historic sight, we headed over for a surprise visit to our counselor Leila’s parents’ apartment. The apartment had a beautiful roof where we got to enjoy snacks and drinks while overlooking all of Tel Aviv.
Yesterday, we visited Moshav Nativ HaAsara along the Gaza border. We talked to a resident of the area and learned what life was like at the Moshav and practiced running to a bomb shelter. We also saw the decorated walls along the border. Next, we went to the Ayalon Institute, where we learned about the secret production of bullets in an underground facility in the 1940s. We shopped at the shuk (market) in Tel Aviv and bought plenty of pairs of "Israel pants" before heading to the hotel. We had Kabbalat Shabbat at the port in Tel Aviv and watched the sunset. Before the end of a long day, we exchanged the gifts we got for our Shabbat buddies.
Today was a relaxing break from the exhausting days prior, such as our hike up Masada and sleeping in the Bedouin tents after riding camels. After waking up around 7:30, we ate breakfast at the Kibbutz Gvulot dining hall. We then hopped on the bus with Issa (the best bus driver ever!) and drove to the desert city of Be’er Sheva where we got to go on a tour of the Chatzerim Air Force Base. The tour was amazing because we saw all different types of Israeli aircraft on display. Some were presented in photograph form but we got to see the actual models of the older planes in an outdoor display area. We even got to enter a real Israeli aircraft to watch a video describing the history of the Israeli Air Force. We even managed to get in a few pictures of us inside some of the old helicopters and planes before we left!