Israel Journey #4C: Meeting Friends from All Over

Last Friday featured more of Tel Aviv including the famous Carmel Market and an afternoon on the beach. A few participants were able to connect with other friends they had traveling across Israel which reminded them how unique and special both the Jewish community and Israel truly are. Our second Shabbat in Israel was spent in Tzuba on a small kibbutz outside of Jerusalem. We joined together with our parallel trips, Israel Journey 4A and 4B, for a joyful Shabbat service and dinner. The rest of Shabbat was reserved solely for rejuvenation from our long, hectic week. We all lounged by the pool, played group games, and just enjoyed being around wonderful people. To finish the day off, we spent the night out at a mall nearby where many participants snagged a pair of Blundstones (the trendy boots worn by ALL Israelis). 
Sunday marked the beginning of our pilgrimage to the South of Israel. We started with Dig-for-a-Day where we became archaeologists who uncovered ancient artifacts from a site outside of Jerusalem. For lunch, we stopped in an Ethiopian village and learned about the struggles of the Ethiopian Jews both living in Israel and their journey to reach the country. Our drive south continued with two more important stops at the beautiful Ramon Crater and Israel’s famous Yotavata dairy farm. The teens loved trying the chocolate milk in a bag!
The following day was Shelby C.’s, San Mateo, CA, favorite day of our entire month-long trip! We began with a leisurely hike through the Red Canyon in the Arava Valley. Many of the teens took in the views and understood why people would live in a place that isn’t always the easiest to make do. We arrived in Eilat for an afternoon of snorkeling, banana-boating, and beach lounging. Our tour through the desert continued with a trip to Yahel, a reform, liberal kibbutz that is world renowned for their date groves. We toured the campus and learned more about the unique societies of Israeli kibbutzim. Jackson D., Minnetonka, MN, gave the dates an A+ review. 

We headed north towards Kfar Hanokdim for our night under the stars in the Bedouin tent. A camel ride, authentic Bedouin dinner, bonfire, sing-a-long, and more highlighted our jam-packed night before the sunrise hike of Masada. We rose at 4am in order to reach the top of the iconic mountain by sunrise. It was a new experience for many of the teens, and as Sarah G., Prairie Village, KS, said, “I really loved hiking Masada at sunrise. It was like nothing I’d ever seen or experienced before, and I’ll never forget it.”

 After Masada, we drove north to the Ein Gedi nature park for a refreshing waterfall hike – this was definitely the highlight for Adam G., Minnetonka, MN, who said he had never felt better in his life than he did underneath the rush of the waterfall. Although the waterfalls refreshed us, we still needed a nap to prep us for a night out on Ben Yehuda! The teens enjoyed shopping and snacking on the famous street.

On Thursday, we had a wonderful but “chill” day – as the teens would phrase it. In the morning, we volunteered at a school for children with disabilities. We hosted games, activities, and contests for all the students at the school. All the teens loved playing with the kids and taking some time for tikkun olam. In the afternoon, we toured the Israeli Supreme Court and Will S., Minnetonka, MN, told us, “I really enjoyed learning about the Israeli government. I didn’t know how any of it worked and it was similar but different to America.” 

Finally, to top off the night we explored the Western Wall Tunnels, an excavation of ancient Jerusalem streets. Our group thought the tour was interesting, but the best part was the hilarious British tour guide! 

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