On Monday morning we left Tel Aviv to head to the Negev desert! We started our day in the city of Be’er Sheva, “the capital of the Negev”. In Be’er Sheva we visited the Palmach monument. Our guide explained the importance of this city to Israel and the Negev in particular.
As the day winded down we visited David Ben Gurion’s grave. We learned about the difficult and influential decisions he made during his career. For instance, he declared Israel’s independence knowing that the chances of winning a war were grim. He ordered the firing on the Altalena, a ship that was carrying desperately needed arms for Israel. He resigned as prime minister in order to pursue his passion of living and building up the Negev and later returned to be prime minister when US – Israel relations were in jeopardy of irreversible damage.
After visiting Ben Gurion’s grave and eating lunch, we drove all the way to Retamim. It is a relatively new settlement (in the Negev) which was rejuvenated by a group called “Hashomer Hahadash” (the new/modern guard). Before we got off the bus we asked the students to leave their phones behind (this was met with a little resistance but it was easily solved). The aim was to see a modern Zionist settlement in the Negev and experience a bit of how life works there. In order to do this we volunteered to help with their Jojoba bushes.
Shai Abrahams was one of the hardest workers there so I asked her to write about her experience:
“This week during our trip to the Negev we, as a group of teenagers from around the world, got the chance to visit Retamim, an agricultural ground. We were given the opportunity to give back to our beautiful homeland of Israel through assisting in agricultural work alongside a few Israeli teenagers who were carrying out their national service. After working hard in the hot sun we got to discuss the reasons behind the importance of giving back. In this discussion there were a few different opinions and ideas thrown in as to why each person does it and how they do it. Some said they felt associated to a Jewish state and not a Jewish Land, some said they feel connected through their parents’ history and some don’t feel connected at all. I put my strongly held view across that helping and giving back to the physical land of Israel not only gives me an alternate connection to my country but also strengthens the one I already have. I truly enjoyed those three cell phone free hours in the heat as well as being pushed by Adi to work faster and harder! “
After a good dinner and a short break to shower and prepare it was time for the highlight of the tiyul, “Dancing with Stars”. The music was on, the scenery set, three expert judges were ready and yours truly was the host. All that left was for the students to get on the stage and dance – and so they did…
It was incredible to watch. They all prepared beautiful shows (regardless of their dancing skills). From Hawaiian dance to Hip-hop and modern jazz. The apartment Herzl 1 (Naomi Katz, Zanna Lewkowitz, Nicol Shutkin and Tali Gein) did a cool hip-hop dance. They were synchronised and danced beautifully. They chose Ricki Studetzki to act on occasion as their background dancer and at other times as the lead dancer. It was a pretty one!
We had many more dances and everyone had a great time.
Our angels doing the MDA course (Asher Goldberg, Sarah Prefenger, Aitan Haviv and Daniel Bard) were not able join the tiyul. As a result, they sent us their dance on video, click here to watch it!
The next day was mostly spent hiking. We gave the students two options:
– The hard hike, which is called “Snapir Katan” (Little Flipper).
– The harder hike, which is called “Snapir Gadol” (Big Flipper).
You’ll be proud to hear that the majority of the students chose the harder hike! They all were up to the challenge, and guess what? Everyone finished the hike and even had enough energy left to play some Frisbee!
Yesterday our group met with a group of Israeli students also on their gap year. However, even though I really want to write all about it, I was not the one who led it so I’ll give it up to Ashley Amaltov:
“All year we’ve spent our time trying to integrate into Israeli society but we’ve been spending all our time with internationals, which don’t get me wrong has been amazing, but I really wanted to meet some locals. I was so excited to meet Israelis our age spending their year in a similar way to us, except, instead of attending university next year, they are mostly enlisting in the IDF. We started the activity with a group questionnaire so that we could all compare and contrast our experiences and then moved on to learn some Israeli slang. I think what was especially great was that Bina is so close to us and it was so nice to hear all their favorite places to go and things to do and now we have more friends in our area that we can go explore our neighborhood with!”
Dr. Harold Goldmeier has written about his Service Learning class this week:
“Service Learning meets on Wednesdays with students studying the ethics, morals and values of the Jewish people. We relate the subject matter to their volunteer and on-the-job learning experiences in which students partake every morning at sites outside around Tel Aviv. For example, we looked at the history and philosophies of Orthodox-Conservative and Reform Judaism and how their traditions and learning are manifest in the US and by Jews. We also tackle “hot button” issues. This week we studied Social Justice and why it is an important topic in Jewish thinking and life. In this video, we saw how Israel organizes teams to greet refugees arriving on the shores of Greece; one doctor calls it her privilege to work with IsrAid; the actions of Israel here and in Haiti for instance are little known to the world and not covered by main stream media:”
You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZrLt5q0SxI