Happy start of the new workweek everyone!
And in case you were scratching your head as to why I was saying that today……. Israelis start working on Sunday rather than Monday! Yes, it’s an adjustment, but it makes sense to me….. Anyway, I wanted to reflect a little bit more on the first couple days of the program at the Rabin Youth Hostel as well as the Negev trip.
As I mentioned in the earlier post, Career Israel starts at the Rabin Youth Hostel in Jerusalem (conveniently located near the Old City!). The first couple days were spent doing Ice Breakers and touring the city. We were split into to groups in the program, and were given two counselors for each group. Once in those groups, we did the typical name games (but think about it, we need to know each other!) and played fun “get to know you” activities. What I liked about this part of the program was, as tiring as these games can sometimes be, you really get to appreciate the fun facts you get to learn about your peers as the days go on. I made some great friends this way— its an easy way for you to find out what you have in common with everyone! Aside from the ice-breakers, the tours were amazing. We went to the Old City and saw amazing holy Jewish, Muslim, and Christian sites (the icing on the cake of course being the Western Wall!) and we even got to see a huge underground cave beneath the city! We toured parts of East Jerusalem and saw disputed Jewish settlements (of course, we could only see so much for safety reasons). I’d say that part was my favorite of the first five days.
Now to the Negev trip! Oh wow, I wish I could put it all into words, but most of it just cannot be justified here! It was truly a remarkable experience! I must say that the drive down to the Negev is very underrated. Everyone says “prepare for a three hour drive” like its going to be boring. First of all, it’s not really three hours, more like two hours, and second, its not boring! Driving through the desert is a beautiful thing and its very scenic. Once we got into the desert we went went hiking along some beautiful trails and up giant bluffs.
Let me say that the three hour hike on the first day is NO picnic! You go up a lot of hills and rocks, however as long as you have a HAT and WATER and wear sunscreen, you are good to go! It was a very refreshing and fascinating experience. We had a great tour guide (Danny) who was very knowledgeable on the history of the area. The next day (Friday) we went on a nighttime hike— the HIGHLIGHT of the trip! We got up at 2:30 am (!) and hiked around the desert for a whopping seven hours! Of course, it wasn’t continuous hiking. We stopped for some great group activities such as meditating and lectures on more history. This hike was certainly one I will NEVER forget. The spiritualness and the feeling of being so isolated— it was priceless. We even got to have a delicious buffet style breakfast in a clearing…… mmmmmm.
The same day we went to see some Black Israelites in Dimona, which was also fascinating because it is a group in Israel I never knew existed. These aren’t the Ethiopian Jews— its a whole other movement that set up their own Kibbutz like village in Dimona (which is in the Negev). Next, we went to a Bedouin village. Now, mind you, this is NOT Birthright. So the Bedouins didn’t have a giant tent for us to sleep in and camels for us to ride. It was a real Bedouin village that faced real issues. We got to learn about the daily issues Bedouins face living in their villages, and it was very fascinating. One of the coolest things about the Negev trip, I must add, is that I saw many different facets and cultures in Israel I NEVER knew existed.
Since it was Friday, the rest of the day was devoted to resting and Shabbos dinner. That night we had a great meal and then had a group activity after dinner where we hung out in a giant room in our hostel. These kinds of evenings really showed me how well everyone in our group bonds with one another.
The next day was Saturday, where we had an optional hike through another part of the Negev. I decided to go because, hey, you only live once, right? It ended up being worth it, as ANY hike through the desert is. This marked the end of the trip.
The Negev was so far the best experience I had in Israel. Career Israel has given me so much to talk about and so many stories that I’ll never forget…….. and I’m only a little more than a fifth finished with it! I can’t wait to talk about all my other trips and adventures in Tel Aviv and beyond!