Today we said goodbye to Kibbutz Ketura and went first to Machtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater). We visited the visitors center, and learned all about Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut in space, and about the crater itself, including its ongoing formation over millions of years and the wildlife that inhabits the crater.
This morning we woke up to freshly-made pancakes from the kibbutz. Man, were they delicious!. After breakfast, we spent time with one of the original members of the kibbutz and learned about the different committees (i.e. environment) and the general assembly that make important policies and decisions on behalf of the entire kibbutz. We split into groups and dove into real issues that occurred either at this kibbutz or at a neighboring one. After deciding what we would do in our individual committees, we brought it to our own Asefa (general assembly) and discussed what we would do to solve each predicament. It was a great experience and enlightened us to the behind-the-scenes of such a unique and efficient community.
What time did you wake up today? We woke up at 4 AM. After a short drive from our campsite to the base of Masada, we started our hike. Thirty minutes and many calories later, we were at the top of Masada. We toured the ancient ruins, sang and danced, and began our hike back down. Strangely enough, the hike down was much, much more difficult than the hike up. After a quick breakfast, we were off to the Dead Sea.
We departed from Jerusalem and headed towards the desert. After crossing into the West Bank, the group met with teen representatives from the Alon settlement. We discussed topics that ranged from basic facts about the settlement to the Palestinian and Israeli conflict. It was interesting to see the similarities that the two of our groups had with each other even though we were raised in very different environments. Likewise, the arguments raised against different ideas were interesting to hear about, and we achieved greater understanding during this meeting.
We woke up groggily to a beautiful Jerusalem morning; and were greeted with another amazing Israeli breakfast. After we finished our meal, we boarded the No'ar Hadash bus and drove towards Marichia. After an enlightening playlist of Beyonce classics and many “Boker tovs” we arrived at an archaeological site and got off of our longest bus ride yet (45 minutes). Following a short bathroom break, Missy, our site leader, led us to the entrance of a 2,200 year old cave used by people in the time of the Maccabees. Upon descending down the deep cave, we began putting our digging skills to work and awakened our inner archaeologist in order to aid in the search for the omnipresent “trash” of the inhabitants of that ancient time. Our determination and enthusiasm paid off as we found many ancient and unique treasures which had been untouched for thousands of years. The yield of our digging led to over 200 buckets of dirt, and we made a chain of hands to hoist our finds out of the cave. Following the extraction of the buckets the campers sifted each bucket to make sure we did not miss anything. Coincidentally, we found the most impressive treasure by doing this, which included part of a necklace and a ancient candle. To finish off our archaeological experience we went spelunking in nearby cave, which helped many of us getting over our fear of small spaces.
In the beginning of the day, we walked around on the ramparts surrounding the Armenian Quarter. It was a great sight to see around the city on the rolling hills, as well as seeing the cool gates from the different periods of Jerusalem’s different occupations. There was a bar mitzvah by the last tower we were on which was very cool.
We woke up today feeling far more refreshed and ready to spend the full day out and about, whereas we had been up for about 36 hours yesterday. Once we filled up on a delicious Israeli breakfast, we got on the bus and went for a walking tour around the Old City. We discussed the history of Jerusalem with a demonstration of stacked hats, much to the interest of the nearby tourists.
Our first day of our Israel trip, we stumbled off our plane and into a coach bus headed straight towards Neot Kedumim, a biblical landscape full of ancient ruins and herds of sheep and goats. We first were taken by a lively tour guide around the landscape to where farmers used to crush their grapes in preparation for wine. The tour guide told us stories about the once abundant vineyards and legends about the grape crushing escapades of the Devil and Noah, all while standing on an original pit used to stomp grapes dating back thousands of years.
Today was an incredible day because we finally arrived in Tel Aviv. We started our day by traveling back 130 years to the first colony of modern Israel named after the father of the main benefactor, Yakov Rothschild. This was where the ultra-orthodox families from Europe settled and began work in agriculture. We then walked around the colony for a little but then ran to get ice cream from Aldo. We played on the playground for a bit and then got back on the bus.