Israel Journey #1 – Heading South to the Negev

On day 12, we started off with an Israeli martial arts lesson on the beach. Not only was learning Krav Maga a fun and exciting experience, but it is also extremely informative and we are all looking forward to sharing what we learned with our friends and family at home. Krav Maga is a military self-defense technique developed by the Israel Defense Force (IDF).  

After our self-defense lesson, we ventured on to Independence Hall. This is where Israel was first declared an official state. We spent our time there talking about Israel’s values, future plans, and political history. This was a really interesting experience because we have not learned much about the Israeli Government so far, so it was nice to get a glimpse into how the State of Israel runs.  

Next, we had the opportunity to explore Tel Aviv. This was a really unique experience for most of us because it was on a Friday afternoon, so we got to witness the whole city preparing for Shabbat. Not only did we get to enjoy the candy, food, and shopping that Tel Aviv has to offer, but we also got a taste of the artwork and culture that the city contains. We went on a graffiti tour of the city. All the artwork was so intricate and unique. It was an awesome experience to be able to witness the creativity and passion that these artists have.  

For the rest of the day, we prepared for Shabbat. We got to participate in a musical Kabbalat Shabbat, and it was a really fun and engaging way for us to celebrate. Shabbat in Israel is truly a one-of-a-kind experience, and we all feel so fortunate to be able to immerse ourselves in a culture that we have spent so much time learning about from afar.  

Day 13 was a really fun and relaxing day. We spent our Shabbat refreshing ourselves and getting ready for the week ahead! It was a really great bonding day for the entire trip and watching our teens continue to make new friends is always a wonderful sight. Once the sun started to set, we participated in a Havdalah service to celebrate the start of the upcoming week. After the service, we went to the iconic Azrieli mall, where we got to spend more time together, and do some more Israeli shopping.  

After our relaxing Shabbat, we were more than ready for our action-packed day. On day 14, we started out by traveling to Netiv HaAsara, which is the frontier of Gaza. We spent some time learning about the situation there and how the community that lives there has adapted and how they keep a positive outlook on life. We all put a rock on the inner wall which was a very special experience. This was a really important stop on our trip for our participants because of how relevant this location in Israel is today.  

Following our visit to the frontier of Gaza, we got back in the bus and started traveling south towards the Negev Desert. On our way, we stopped at Sde Boker to learn about Ben Gurion, who was the first Prime Minister of Israel. We learned a lot about what his vision for Israeli was during his time in office. We all thoroughly enjoyed learning about his life and his legacy.  

As we continued south, we also stopped at the Ramon Crater. This landmark is the world’s largest erosion crater and it was a surreal experience to see it up close.  

Finally, we headed to our accommodations in the Arava Valley. The people who live on the kibbutz that we stayed in were so warm and welcoming. At night, we had a BBQ and a pool party. It is really nice to be able to spend time with our new friends and reflect on our Israeli journey together.  

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