Israel Trip 2017 – Day 8

Mifgash 2017   
Day 8
One last group photo with our Israel hosts – time to say Lehitraot!

This morning was raining… tears, as we said goodbye to our wonderful Israeli hosts. It was clearly a bittersweet time, as we were all sad to be leaving new friends, but also excited as we prepared to leave on new adventures. With many hugs all around (the Israeli students are so nice – many were even hugging me goodbye, it felt nice to be noticed by an adolescent in a non-fear based way). We were on the road before 9 a.m. with our fleet of (read: two) buses. The buses left for Caesaria, but I left for Tiberias to return a rental car – yes I considered just driving to Eilat  and taking up a new life as a diving instructor. You might wonder why I had to drive to Tiberias. Like many things in Israel, it is best left unexplained – just look up mishigas!
 
By 10:45 a.m. the buses reached Caesaria: home of some ancient Roman ruins, including a wonderfully preserved amphitheatre. I was about 20 minutes behind the group and found them just in time to see a video of Caesaria’s last two thousand years. The short version is everyone ruled Caesaria for a while: Christians, Muslims, Jews… I think I read on Twitter that Donald Trump did, as well. The video was a good short summary, but we did not have enough time to walk around the ruins. This was our first visit to this site, so we know for the next trip that it needs more time.

Braving the cold to have fun in the waves.
 
Our next stop was Acadia Beach, another beach in Herzliya. Although the weather was "Vancouver" when we left Har Vagai, it was now "Los Angeles." Students were given an hour to eat lunch and go in the water (the beach just opened with a lifeguard). I was truly impressed with the bravery and fun that the water-bound showed. There was a good body-surfing spot, and of course the sand is the perfect kind of beach sand. We had a number of us that just walked in the sea up to our ankles, but a third of the students fully immersed themselves (and for those of you who still hold a gender bias, let me tell you there were more girls than boys in the surf). I am a sun-bunny (who knew?) and I love the heat and the sea – as I type I am reconsidering my decision not to run away to Eilat. Sadly, that time came to an end and at 2:00 p.m. we hit the road for the big two-hour bus ride to our next stop, Arad, for a much-needed bathroom and snack break.
 
Arriving in Arad – at what I would call a mall except all of it is outside – we had a 45-minute break where students indulged in snacks, but mostly in Aroma Iced Coffees (on this the students and I agree, though I like them best with ice cream added to them – extra nutrition is always the way to go). Then at 4:45 p.m. we had disorganized chaos, which is truly never a good plan (and yes we planned it). In the parking lot we had the students remove all of their luggage (which barely fit on the bus because many, many parents do not know how to use a measuring tape when the instructions say suitcases should be a maximum of 29 inches long – we will consider offering an adult ed course in the future). Here we asked them to take out all that they would need for the Bedouin Tent, to climb Masada, and for the Dead Sea, with the proviso that their bag would then be stowed until we checked into the hotel in Jerusalem. Mayhem. But kinda fun in a perverse kind of way! Anyway, after about 20 minutes the bags were all packed and we were on the final journey to rendezvous with camels.

The trek begins …
 
The road to camels is short – about 15 minutes in the desert – with spectacular views along a winding path with mountains and sun and rockscapes and Dead Sea peekaboos. And then a palm tree oasis in the middle of nowhere appears, sitting at the bottom of the valley. We call it the Bedouin Tent, known as Kfar Hanokdim. And it was here that camels lay, spitting and chewing and waiting for children on which to take out their wrath (frankly, there are times when I wish I were a camel).
 
Camels. Gotta tell you, I was pretty disappointed that there were not enough camels for all the staff, but I graciously opted out (leadership is hard sometimes). Helmets on, student pairs ready, camels lying flat, and then… shrieking. Camels are clearly very patient animals, and when they get up there is shock and shrieks – it is not smooth, it feels as if you will fall off, and just when you have been flung forward so far that you are sure you are going over, you are flung back (the helmets are not just for show). Twenty-seven camels in a long line, and many more space station notifications (if there were air particles in space I am sure they would hear us too!).

The King David Camel Train!

Finally, it was time to check into the Bedouin tent – all 52 children are in one tent, and in spite of our begging, the staff rooms are right beside this tent. The Bedouin Tent experience is one that is on the Taglit Birthright Experience, which I hope our students will do one day as well – but for me this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience (do not ask me why, then I do it annually – Dorin makes me!).  After getting organized and doing a bit of exploring, it was 7:30 p.m. and time for a traditional tourist Bedouin meal with couscous, meatballs, chicken, and lots of vegetarian options.
 
Ismael talks about Bedouin culture while the groups is treated to sweet tea – the traditional way to welcome guests.

Dinner was a pretty fast affair, with an orange for desert. Then we met with Ismael, one of the Bedouin Arabs who talked to us about the Bedouin culture. We were served a welcome glass of sweet tea. Once again I was very impressed with how well the students showed respect to our host – they listened very well and asked good questions. Finally, after a very long day, at 8:45 p.m. we went back to the student tent and made plans for the rest of the evening – a bonfire and some guitar music, with lights out by 10:00 p.m. We have a 4:30 a.m. wake up time so that we can climb Masada and be atop the mountain for sunrise.
 
As long as today was, it is nothing compared to tomorrow – wish us luck!
Russ
 
Singing around the campfire!
 

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