Shalom, and greetings from the Holy Land! I am currently staying with family friends in Jerusalem and relaxing after a busy first week. Upon arrival in Tel Aviv, my group has done so much, so please excuse me if I forget anything! We landed very early in the morning on July 10th, and after we caught up on our much needed rest at Kibbutz Gvulot in Sde Boker, we visited Ben Gurion’s grave. We were treated to pizza and a beautiful view. Then, our group prepared for Shabbat and continued to rest and play games. Because it was Shabbat, we were allowed to sleep in… if you call sleeping till 9 sleeping in. The next morning, we continued Shabbat services and later in the day headed for a dip in the pool. At 8:00, we concluded Shabbat and relaxed. The next day, July 12, we traveled to a playground in Sde Boker. The playground is very close to the Gaza Strip. As a result, there are bomb shelters that double as cartoon caterpillars. Upon hearing this and the normality in my tour guide’s voice, I was in disbelief that children live their lives under these conditions. After the playground, we visited the Salad Trail and learned about Israeli agriculture. We tried all sorts of different fruits, vegetables, and herbs. My tongue turned purple after munching on some purple carrots. At the end of our tour, we had sweet coffee and tea. That night, we were allowed to roam around Eilat. That night was my first time having real Israeli falafel — and let me tell you, it ISreali good. I then treated myself to some ice cream, and called it a night.
The following morning, we went snorkeling, or how the Israelis call it, “shnorkeling,” in the Red Sea. The water was such a perfect temperature and the fish were so colorful. I really did not want to leave. We then went to a Bedouin village and I learned all about their beautiful and welcoming culture. We were treated to a sweet tea and coffee. Though the Bedouin people are very inviting, if they give you a full glass of coffee instead of a glass that is only half-filled, you have stayed longer than you are welcome. After learning about their culture, we went camel riding, and I had a blast! The scenery was like something out of a movie and the ride was similar to that of a horse, just not as fast. After our ride we had a native Bedouin feast, filled with an assortment of vegetables, fruits, breads, and meats. They were so hospitable, they even gave me an entire vegetarian assortment! We then had s’mores and went to bed early because we had a very early rise.
The next morning, we woke up at 3:45 to climb Masada. To say the least, the view was spectacular. At the top we put the selfie stick to good use and learned about Herod the Great and the mass suicide that occurred. Unfortunately, everything that goes up must come down. The trek down Masada was extremely difficult for the group because we were all hot and tired. When we finally reached the bottom, we feasted on bourekas, eggs, and cakes. We then hiked to the Ein Gedi and relaxed in the oasis. Our last destination of the day was the Dead Sea. I had never stepped into such a painful ocean. It was salty, hot, and oily, but of course I floated. After rinsing off, we were accommodated in Ayanot.
The next day we explored Jaffa and shopped in a Flea Market. Don’t worry, Dad — I did not pay full price for anything. We then toured Independence Hall and learned all about Israel’s history and how it got its start. After lunch, we went to Rabin Square and learned about his assassination. After, we went to a beautiful beach on the Mediterranean Sea with beautiful waves, and oh my god Israel is just so beautiful. We then had a night out in Tel Aviv, which was my first time really being in a mall so everything was so new and exciting (#citygirlproblems)!
I had lost my passport, so I had to go to the American Embassy the next day. In reality, losing my passport was the airline’s fault, not mine. My counselor and I treated ourselves to some more falafel. She then took me to this amazing coffee shop called Aroma. Let me tell you, it is way way better than Starbucks, and luckily there is one right by me at home in New York! That day, we bid our goodbyes and I then met my family in Israel! I had not seen them since Kindergarten, so it was a little intimidating. Five minutes later, it was like I had lived with them all these years. This past weekend I have stayed in Pardesiya and the outskirts of Jerusalem. Though I miss my friends dearly, it has been really nice catching up on my beauty sleep. I have made new Israeli friends and can’t wait for them to come visit me in New York. Once I am finished writing this blog, I can look forward to packing for Gadna. Wish me luck!