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.
What a great day! After waking up bright and early and saying goodbye to kibbutz shomrat, we got on the bus and headed for the great city of Haifa. After a short bus ride, we arrived in the Bahai Gardens, an array of beautiful trees and flowers built in the Carmel mountains. The gardens are sacred to the Bahai religion, and are also a tourist destination for people who just want to see pretty things. After we had taken in those sights, we attempted to enter the Bahai temple, but it was closed and we were denied entry.
Today we took a trip to Rosh Hanikra along Israel's northern border with Lebanon. We discussed the geopolitics of the border and then took a cable car down to where the white cliffs met the Mediterranean Sea. We walked through the natural grottos that were carved out of the cliffs by the water.
This morning we departed from the Ohalo manor and ventured to the city of Tzfat. We first visited an artist who drew his inspiration from Kabbalah. He made many artistic pieces based on kabbalistic ideas of Judaism, for example the sounds of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. We then saw two musicians who played very obscure instruments such as a 'bell drum'. After this interesting experience, we visited the synagogue of Rabbi Isaac Luria which is considered to be the oldest, still-functioning Jewish synagogue in the world and learned about its history. We then were given a few hours of free time in the city. During this time we were able to explore all of the cracks and crevices of the city and our cultural surroundings.
To start off our morning, we went on a hike through the cool waters near the Sea of Galilee. After enjoying a game of "water baseball," we all headed to Capernaum where we walked along the same pavement that Jesus had. Next, our bus driver, Sveka, drove us to a camp called "Scouts..." At the camp, children of all ages slept in structures built by the campers who were 13 years or older. One of our favorite structures was a giant dragon that's mouth would open and it's arms would reveal the Israeli flag. After viewing all the amazing structures, we split into groups to learn how to tie knots just like the scouts. Once we finished learning about their six-day experience, we went on a boat ride! We danced to "Rather Be," ate watermelon, and laughed all the way through.
Today we explored the northernmost part of Israel, the Golan Heights. We began our morning with a drive through the mountains to Bania. There we embarked on a long hike, where we walked alongside a small creek, dipping our feet in the water and taking in the beautiful landscape surrounding us. As the day became increasingly hot, we were glad to finally reach our destination, the Bania Waterfall. After a lot of walking, suddenly a roaring waterfall was before us. The Bania Waterfall feeds into a bright blue pool, which is teeming with fish. In the end, all of our hiking and sweating was absolutely worthwhile!
We started the day at the campgrounds in the desert and had a nice breakfast of bread, cereal, and chocolate spread. We survived the night outdoors and although we were sleep deprived prepared for a full day of traveling. Our first adventure of the day was a camel ride led by by Bedouins. Everyone's thighs were very sore, but it was so worth it! Then we arrived at Sde Boker to visit the tomb of David Ben Gurion where we learned about his time as Israel's first prime minister. After, we were all thankful to leave the desert and finally begin our journey north. We visited a kibbutz to explore a coexistence greenhouse project where we met with an Arab businessman talk about social issues and discrimination. To end our day, we met with Ethiopian children and heard a story about a woman's migration from Ethiopia to Israel. Then we headed to our hotel next to the Sea of Galilee and enjoyed a wonderful dinner together.
We started our 9th day in Israel with a sad farewell to Kibbutz Ketura, leaving the high-tech algae farm and massive solar fields behind. After playing some games together on the bus, we arrived to our first activity of the day, Makhtesh Ramon or the Ramon crater. We learned about IIan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut to ever go into space on the Colombia shuttle. Ilan and the other 7 astronauts aboard the Colombia tragically died when the shuttle disintegrated upon reentering the Earth’s atmosphere. However his bravery was duly noted and memorialized by the naming of the crater. We also learned about the crater itself. The crater, stretching 25 miles long, 4 miles wide, and 1,640 ft deep was formed 10 million years ago by extremely erosive wind and water. We also watched a short video documentary about the exotic animals within the crater, making us paranoid for our camping trip later that night. The view of the crater was stunning and for a moment we were beyond words, giving David and Bri a brief, but peaceful moment of silence.
Today we had a later start than the past few days, beginning in the dining hall of Kibbutz Ketura, one of very few socialist kibbutzim left in Israel. After breakfast, we conducted a little activity on the kibbutz about how they run the kibbutz, make decisions, and handle problems. They have a general assembly (Aseyfah) that meets once a month with the entire community. At that meeting, committees bring up issues for the assembly to vote on. There are a lot of subcommittees that report to an executive committee. The subcommittees work on different topics and try to create solutions and regulate their own aspect of Kibbutz life. We did a little project where we were split into groups where we pretended to be committees and were presented with problems. Each committee was supposed to find a solution to the problem and present it to the assembly who then voted on the solutions. It was a simulation (in a much faster sequence) of decision making on the Kibbutz.
Today was truly an exhausting but incredible experience. Today was an especially exciting day because we were able to celebrate Matt Hopen’s Birthday! We all woke up at 3:30 am to gear up for Masada. With only a little coffee and snacks we all made the long trek up the snake path to smile at the top stopping often to overlook the beautiful view.