Since we last blogged, Maya and I went to a cute locals cafe with Dani called Marakiah, which only serves delicious soup! We met up with Assaf, my other EIE madrich and had nice night with them! Then distant family, Moshe and Vivian, picked us up from Dani’s house the next morning and kindly took us around Jerusalem! We visited the beautiful Chagall windows in Hadassah Hospital, walked around the Jerusalem Zoo, and toured stalactite caves! It was a great day. We’re now resting at their house and getting ready for dinner.
Today we realized that we have spent more of the year 2012 in Israel than we have in America! Yay! We started off our day with Bar, my eie counselor, at Tel Aviv University and saw the beautiful campus and got to go inside some of the buildings. The weather was so beautiful today, the nicest we have had so far! We met Dani, another counselor from eie at Aroma, and drank iced choco! Then we traveled to Shenken street, a popular shopping area in Tel Aviv, and walked down a street with art vendors, a shuk, and street with regular stores. We had a late lunch at Benedict’s, which was delicious! After saying goodbye to Bar, we traveled to Jerusalem and are now staying with Dani there!
Today we traveled to the carmel forest in the north near Haifa, to learn about the devastating fire that happened last year. To prevent future forest fires, we cleared out an area of trees that had been previously cut down. Afterwards we went to see the part of the forest where the fire happened and it was devastating to see the burnt trees and barren land. After lunch we headed to Dor beach and volunteered for a program called Clean Beach. We picked up trash all along the beach in the rain. Before we came it was disgusting, but we could tell that we had made a difference as we left. We all got together for a closing discussion as a group and ended with dinner at a nice restaurant on the beach. As Maya and I said goodbye to our new friends, we began our journey on our own for the week visiting our friends all over Israel.
Today was a long day! We started off at Yad Sarah in Jerusalem, a medical resource center for the elderly. My group spent the morning sorting bed parts so they could easily be turned into needed beds. We then drove to a nice picnic area in the park for lunch and then headed to a field near Kfar Schiller to pick clementines for an organization called Leket, which helps provide food for poor families. I actually did the exact project on EIE but it’s always really fun!! We then visited the 9/11 memorial in Israel, the first and only memorial outside of the U.S. It was beautiful and really showed how much Israel cares for the U.S. We then had some time in the old city of Jerusalem for shopping and hanging out. We ended the day by going to the kotel. I brought the notes from my hebrew school students and put them in the wall for them! It felt so good.
This morning we had a great discussion with the group about the torah portion of the week. It eventually led into a discussion about how everybody in our group grew up differently in Jewish backgrounds. Some people said they grew up with absolutely no Jews in their town or school, others grew up in a very Jewish town were they knew nobody else but their community! All in all, we learned a lot about each other and it really brought our group much closer. Other then another small group activity about Jewish identity, we had free time at the kibbutz all day so we went to the indoor pool! Then around 5:30 we had Havdallah and later on went to Ben Yehuda st again for dinner and shopping.
Today we volunteered for the morning at Beit Yalin, the first Jewish agricultural community outside of the Old City in Jerusalem. They renovated it a few years ago and are still working on it, being a natural and historic preservation project. There were different options on how to help out, and my friends and I decided to cut down trees! When the British first came to the land, they planted trees from China because they didnt know what was good for the land. Now they want to cut down the trees to plant new beautiful ones that will thrive in Israel… So we sawed down a ton of trees and it was so much fun! Then we had free time for lunch at Machane Yehuda, the shuk in Jerusalem. We ate at the infamous Aroma cafe and walked around and bought some interesting fruit including the parsimmon! Later that night Shabbat began and everybody got all dressed up, a change from our work clothes! We had a choice of services, and Maya and i went to reform services where somebody from NFTY was actually leading them so it was great! Then we had a delicious dinner and bumped into some familiar faces from Camp Harlam!!
Today, we visited Yossi’s Farm, a farm in the middle of the Negev Desert run by one man. The farm is beautiful and has lots of animals and crops! We helped him by weeding his olive trees and cleaning up that area of his farm. We would take large bags and fill them with huge weeds and then dump them over to a herd of bedouin goats who went crazy over it! Yossi told us all about his farm and why he chose to leave Tel Aviv to start his own farm in the Negev. We talked about how David Ben Gurion’s dream was to “make the desert bloom”, and that’s exactly why Yossi did it.
Afterwards, we had a great hike in the Negev. It was about an hour and so peaceful and beautiful! It was really great.
Then we went to visit Ben Gurion’s grave, which is in Sde Boker and overlooks a gorgeous view of the Negev. It’s right next to the Sde Boker army base which is where I did Gadna on EIE!
Tonight, we left the Negev and traveled to Jerusalem, where we will be for the rest of the trip. We went to Ben Yehuda Street, a big popular shopping street in Jeusalem, and I saw my cousin Rachel who’s on birthright!! It was so cool and so much fun!
That’s it for now, xoxo paige
Today we woke up at 730 and had a lovely Israeli breakfast before we headed off to Earth’s Promise, an Ethopian refugee site in Beer Sheva. While there, we had the opportunity to make the refugees’ days a little brighter. For the whole morning and afternoon, we worked hard to create herb beds around an area that they walk through a lot, that doesn’t look so nice. My friends and I dug into hard ground and eventually had a hole deep and large enough. We put tires around the edges of the hole and then filled the hole back up with mix of mulch and dirt. We did not get to actually plant the herbs, but we made a huge dent in the project and felt very good about it! While there, we also got messy and made a mud bench out of tires put together with dirt inside to fill it and mud slathered around it.
It was a very tiring day, but we were not done just yet! We went to Nahal Beer Sheva, where there once was a river but is now a large dry bed in the middle of the town. JNF built a large, beautiful bridge that goes across the empty bed. They are hoping to build up the area and make it be a nice place for people to go, and to eventually have water there again! We listened to a JNF employee who is American and just made Aliyah with his family talk about his experience living in Beer Sheva. I did not know that it was not nearly as built up as bigger cities like Tel Aviv, and that’s why we’re helping out here and not there. He told us about his experience with the sirens in Beer Sheva that go off when a missle is about to hit. It was a very moving talk and it truly made me realize how our work is really making a difference!
The last trip of the day was to Sderot, a city that a lot people know to be one of the most unsafe places in Israel, being that it was only one mile away from the Gaza Strip. It has slowed down a lot recently, but in the near past, thousands of the Quassam rockets and missles have landed into Sderot. A siren goes off and they have 15 seconds to run to the bomb shelter before the missles hit. Because of this, it is very unsafe for children (and everyone else) to play outside and enjoy themselves without living in fear. JNF built an indoor recreation center for the children of Sderot to play in and finally be able to not be scared and let out their energy. The recreation center is huge, beautiful and has everything from a rock wall to basketballs to video games to fake shopping stores to a moon bounce! The place is too huge to be a bomb shelter itself, but there are 7 bomb shelters inside of the center that the children know to run too. It is truly an amazing thing that JNF has done for the families of Sderot that go through so much.
Right now I am writing from a hostel in Yerucham, which is near Beer Sheva! After the 11 hour flight, we arrived at the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv and then headed straight down south to Yerucham. After eating dinner and settling in our rooms, we had some orientation and then were free to hang out around the hostel. I met some girls who I know that are on other JNF busses staying at the same hostel! My friends and I walked around outside the hostel and got a glimpse of the nice quiet neighborhood that it’s in.
Tomorrow is a full day of work in Beer Sheva! לילה טוב
I’ve made this blog so my family and friends can follow what I’m doing while I’m in Israel. While participating on JNF’s Alternative Break, I’ll be doing various community service projects throughout Jerusalem, the Negev, and Beer Sheva.
I’m finishing my last bit of packing now, and then tomorrow, Maya and I are off to JFK airport to board an El Al flight with the rest of the group!