Israel Trip 2017 – Day 7

Mifgash 2017   
Day 7
And we’re ready for the ride!

Shavua Tov,
I hope you all had a wonderful Shabbat as we went ‘radio silent’ for two days.  I am hoping we will stay connected from now on but tomorrow night at the Bedouin Tent is always a bit internet challenging – it is such a small country you would think ‘wifi’ would be easily accessible.

Playing games in the Grade 8 building before the jeep ride 
through the Golan Heights

This morning the sky was black – that ominous ‘oh oh’ look that clouds have sometimes in Vancouver (but not in Israel, this must be some cruel joke a day after April Fool’s Day). The students were all driven to school by their host families as the school is closed for Pesach. We met at 9 a.m. where we all mingled for 30 minutes (you would have thought they had not seen each other for 30 years but it was likely that they saw each other Friday or Saturday). We then, 78 students strong, made a circle in their Grade 8 building hall. Here Aron Rosenberg earned his keep engaging with all of them for 30 minutes in a series of games. Their building hall is an echo chamber and I want you to imagine 78 kids in a concrete, tiled, hard-surface only room – and I want you to keep in mind that 26 of these children are Israeli (so like 400 Canadian kids, give or take 7) – way to go Aron!
As an aside, we chaperones are feeling pretty darn good about how our 52 students are doing. We have had a few not feeling well and a few have had to overcome feeling uncomfortable in their new environment. These have been the exception and the kids have exceeded expectations – hiccups are just good learning experiences and perhaps in good and bad ways there have been few hiccups… (thus far, and I just touched wood and threw salt over my shoulder, amen).

So back to such a black sky, and 10 minutes after we were safe inside it was pouring the rain that one gets in warmer climates – which is harder than hard. After finishing playing games and organizing groups – today was jeep ride tour day – and just as we headed out to the jeeps – the rain stopped, full stop. The jeep tours were a bit unusual this year as we normally meet the jeeps up high in the Golan and then explore and come back down towards the school or another pick up point. This year, we had to adjust as the military had closed off some of the area – this closure was not sudden and is provided only as a point of information and not a reason for concern – no calls or texts needed please (I want to save my data for important Vancouver Canuck updates). Up and up we went over back roads and bumps. Now truth be told some of these jeeps are what I imagine in my head when I think of a jeep  – wild and open and illegal in the city (just exaggerating for effect, no calls or texts needed…), while others are like cars we would drive in the city to be ready for our four snow days per decade. So needless to say some kids felt unsafe and very happy and others felt extremely safe and unhappy (by the way by ‘unsafe’ I do not mean ‘unsafe’ – please work with me here). Without any rain we then drove up off the beaten path and there is little I like more than this day of being in the hills of the Golan Heights – green everywhere, stunning vistas and views into Lebanon, Syria and Israel. Sometimes we went over a bump and there was a hideous sound (girls shrieking) and according to one of our chaperones, their car had another hideous sound – Justin Beiber music! Unfortunately we had the beautiful views but we did not get to see any of the old tanks and older military bunkers which the kids really like. There were signs warning to stay out of fields due to the presence of land mines, so that was apparently neat. For those of you less excited by possible explosions, there were many cows of many different colours that we passed along the way.

Happy faces before the ride begins!

After almost two hours we alit from the jeeps at Kibbutz El Rom where we watched a movie about how the Golan was almost lost in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and how a fierce tank battle ensued in the Valley of Tears. Commander Avigdor Khalani and his tank battalion basically held back the Syrians until reinforcement could arrive. Khalani visited King David a couple of years back and if you ever want I could show you our picture together, surprisingly the students are not so interested in my selfies.
If you are wondering how many jeeps were needed for us just let me tell you that apparently they could see our convoy from the International Space Station (ok, 13 jeeps). Another 30 minutes down a winding road and we were back at school for 1:30 p.m. As we disembarked and thanked our jeep driver guides and made it to the host parent collection area it began to rain again (and rain as before – hard).  It was an amazing stroke of luck that we had torrential rain on either side of a 
three hour trip.

Students pose in the perfectly timed rainstorm after the ride

And by 2:15 p.m. the last of the students had been retrieved and it was siesta time (which means Dorin had to go shopping to purchase more ‘Kosher for Pesach’ products than she can fit in her suitcase, I think I know what any empty space in my bag will be carrying home…).
Tomorrow will be leaving day – our time in the North comes to an end and we will all meet in the morning at the school, suitcases packed and ready to go. Please reach out to your child’s Israeli hosts – they have truly made a wonderful effort from organizing a party to taking students out on various trips and for various meals (our presence has certainly stimulated the economy but not through our spending). Our Har Vagai Israeli team have made all of us feel very welcome – and we are ready to go only because it means getting closer to home.
It is going to be a crazy and hectic three days of travel from tomorrow – three nights in three different locations – we are on the southward journey – so little time and so much to experience. I am hopeful to get an update out to you tomorrow but we are at the Bedouin tent (see paragraph 1…).
Lehitraot – hope to catch up with you tomorrow.

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