Hello parents! We’ve gotten settled in at kibbutz alumim for the night - wifi is spotty but hopefully this message gets through!
We woke up this morning in Tel Aviv to a wonderful buffet breakfast and then spent about 45 minutes at the beach - just hanging out, not swimming this time.
We went to Tel Aviv University to visit anu: the museum of the Jewish people - for a few hours with a personal guide. We had a picnic lunch on campus before getting on the road to head to shar ha Negev. The teens from shar ha Negev played soccer with and hung out with our kids for a couple of hours and then had a pizza dinner together before we left for kibbutz alumim. Everyone is now settled into their rooms for the night and they are currently either resting or spending time together in public spaces on the kibbutz. It is hot and humid, but that is to be expected in the desert, right?
We are heading out early tomorrow morning for breakfast then a pool party with the teens from shar ha Negev. After that, we will be riding camels at sunset. We will be spending the night at kfar hanokdim. We have been told by our guide that there is little to no wifi or cell reception out there, so please don’t be alarmed if you don’t hear from us or your kids tomorrow night! We will be in touch as soon as we get reception again in Jerusalem.
Ack! I totally forgot to mention that we went on an incredible guided tour of sedorot! We were given a brief history of the conflict of the Gaza Strip and learned about the iron dome and security measures taken by the community while they continue to thrive and build beautiful homes, community centers, parks, and business.
June 21, 2022
We woke up on kibbutz alumim and ended the day in Bedouin tents!
We started with a private tour of the synagogue and breakfast at kibbutz alumim. We loaded our bus and headed to Nahal Oz, Israel’s first nahal (fighting youth) settlement and kibbutz near the Gaza border and we also met the reform rabbi who serves that community. We visited the black arrow memorial - a beautiful monument and reflection area on the Gaza border where we remembered fallen IDF paratroopers and heard more about the conflicts and operations in the area. After that, we rejoined the teens from shar ha Negev at a local swimming pool to hang out, swim, and have lunch together (first falafel of the trip!).
We stopped at a marketplace in Arad to pick up snacks and some people tried their first Israeli McDonald’s.
We drove through Beer Sheva and down a lot of winding roads to arrive in kfar hanokdim, a Bedouin camp in the middle of the Negev. After getting settled into our tent, we saddled up and rode a caravan of camels in the desert as the sun started to set. We sat down on pillows for a traditional Bedouin dinner and then got to learn about Bedouin hospitality over tea and coffee in a tent while looking out into the mountains. Then well past sunset, we roasted marshmallows and made s’mores outside our tent and some brave people decided to go with our guide for late night scorpion hunting.
Early morning ahead starting with a 4am wake up to head up Masada. Our next messages will be coming to you all from Jerusalem!
June 22, 2022
Boker tov from Masada, parents! Watching the sun rise over the Dead Sea.
What a day. What a wonderful day.
Saying we started early is an understatement. The group woke up to the opening song from Lion King at 4am in their Bedouin tent, and after a quick snack of tea and crackers, we made our way to Masada. You saw our first photos of the day earlier, but the experience of climbing and learning as we explored the rooms of the ruins couldn’t fully be captured in pictures. About three hours later, some of our group took on the challenge to take the snake trail down by foot while some of us chose to take the cable cars down. Both groups met at the bottom of Masada and went to the Masada hotel for another full buffet breakfast.
We left Masada and headed towards the Ein Gedi reserve where we spent the next three hours doing incredible hiking, playing in beautiful waterfalls, and learning about local wildlife, rock formations, and flora. We ended with lunch at a nearby youth hostel.
After lunch, we headed to the Dead Sea! We went to a private beach where we floated in the water, covered ourselves with mud, hung out on the beach while looking at Jordan across the way, and played in their swimming pools.
Exhausted, we climbed back onto our bus and drove straight to Jerusalem. Keeping all of the blinds on our bus closed, we had a big reveal at the Mount of Olives on the campus of Hebrew university, getting our first view of Jerusalem as a panoramic scene starring the temple as the sun began to set on the city. We joined together for hinei Ma’tov and shechekianu while we were welcomed home - for the first time or the tenth.
We’ve settled into our hotel - Lev Yerushalayim - where we will be using as our homemade for the remainder of our time in Israel. Our evening included dinner at the hotel and we are now on our way to do a walking tour to experience some of the nightlife of the city near our hotel.
We have another early day tomorrow - although thankfully not as early as yesterday - to explore Jerusalem!
June 23, 2022
Today we got up at 8am for breakfast at the hotel where we met our incoming shinshinit, Shachar! She joined us from northern israel to spend the day with our group.
We took the bus to the hass promenade where we were greeted with an amazing view of the city before we went to the city of David to begin our exploration of the old city.
We had an educational guided tour of Hezekiah’s water tunnels. The blue lights you see reflected in the picture below are where Solomon was anointed king.
After almost half an hour of walking through knee-deep water through the excavated tunnels, we dried off and changed clothes to head to the Kotel, the western wall. We saw bar mitzvahs happening on the sidewalks and sang along with the musicians. We separated and went into the male and female sections where we were able to pray individually and experience the wall in our own, personal ways.
We left the Kotel and headed into the old city for lunch, a scavenger hunt, and some wonderful shopping. We then made our way through the Armenian quarter and exited through the Jaffa Gate as we made our way back to the hotel.
Everyone dropped off their purchases from the old city and the kids headed out for dinner on Ben Yehuda Street before coming back to the hotel for an incredible program of Israeli dancing.
Off to bed because we are heading to an archeological dig at 7:45am!
June 24, 2022
This morning began with the most amazing archeological dig in Beit Guvrin. Our group participated hands-on at an archaeological excavation of Tel Maresha. After digging and sifting through our finds, we had buckets of bones, pottery, and even some teeth! We then went spelunking through unexcavated caves. Indescribable.
We drove to Tel Aviv next where we roamed the Nahalat Binyamin market and found amazing local cuisine. We met back up and walked through Neve Tzedek, one of Tel aviv’s first neighborhoods, to get to Charles clore beach - right across from the first station. We were so excited that our former shinshinim, Omer and Erez, were able to join us for a while!
We’ve now returned to Jerusalem where everyone is getting ready for Shabbat at the egalitarian section of the kotel where we will be meeting up with families who are traveling from congregation Emanu el from San Diego!
The group decided to go to Shabbat services at a kol hanishama tomorrow morning before we have lunch, discuss current conflicts in Israel, and go on a walking tour of Jerusalem.
We will be unplugging for Shabbat in just about an hour, so we will post again on Saturday evening!
June 25, 2022
This morning began with breakfast at the hotel followed by a 25-minute walk through Jerusalem (we saw so many other people of all denominations walking to temples to Shabbat services!) at a local congregation, Kol Hanishama. They happened to be celebrating Pride Shabbat this weekend and our group was called up to the bimah to say the Torah blessings. There was a kiddish lunch at the temple after services.
We enjoyed lunch together in the dining room and had some time to rest and relax on Shabbat. Some of the group went out with our guide to take a walking graffiti tour of Jerusalem.
After dinner, we walked to independence park for a dialogue on the regional challenges related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After the sun set, we celebrated havdalah together in the park. We walked back to the old city to enjoy the Tower of David light show.
Back at the hotel now and will be heading to yad v’Shem early tomorrow morning.
June 26, 2022
Another morning, another breakfast at the hotel. It was a heavy experience at Yad v’Shem followed by an amazing walk up Har Herzl, visiting the tombstones of Theodore Herzl, Yitzhack Rabin, Golda Meir, and other prime ministers, presidents, and speakers of the K’nesset. We also spent some time in the memorial gardens and learning about sections dedicated to fallen IDF soldiers - those in combat, those in terrorist attacks, and Lone soldiers. Our guide had incredible, personal stories to share about friends who are buried there.
After that, we spent some time exploring the Machaneh Yehuda fruit & vegetable market and got lunch - there was an amazing variety of Israeli cuisine from which to choose! Tons of shopping was done.
Once we were well fed and well shopped, we went to the home of a Holocaust survivor, Rena Quint. To survive the Holocaust, after her family was killed, she was a child with multiple families and identities - being told to act as a boy, a girl, different ages…. Her story was unbelievable.
We took some time in the late afternoon to decompress and process all we saw and heard at Yad Vashem and with Mrs. Quint with an interactive art project at Kol Ha’ot, an artist colony outside the old city.
Tonight, everyone will have some free time to hang out on Ben Yehuda Street before going back to the hotel to pack. It is hard to believe that we are coming up on our last 24-hours in Israel!
June 27, 2022
Our last day in Israel didn’t go to waste! We had our final breakfast at the hotel and had packed up our bus by 8am.
Our first stop this morning was at Yad L’kashish, a nonprofit organization for the elderly in Jerusalem that empowers older artists and craftsmen who are from over 20 countries who speak more than 12 different languages to stay active and socialize.
We went from there to lunch before going to Latrun, a museum that honors the IDF with a specific focus on tank units. This is the largest collection in the world of tanks and amored transport. Our guard, Amit, shared some of his reflections serving in a combat unit in the IDF.
After that, our bus took us to Machon Ayalon institute and bullet factory. This was the location where the Haganah (the original defense movement/first phase of the IDF) trained and played an important role in secretly creating ammunition and helping to establish and defend the Jewish state.
We left and traveled to Tel Aviv where we shopped and ate at Shuk h’Carmel and had a fantastic goodbye/Simone’s birthday dinner at a Lebanese-Israeli fusion restaurant - Maganda.
We then made our way to the airport where we are now waiting for El Al to bring us home. It was hard to say goodbye to Hannah (our amazing guide), Amit (our incredible guard), and Roman (our dependable driver). Sad to say that this will be our last post for this trip. (We WILL let you know when we land and get on the bus tomorrow.) Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow morning!