Grade 8 Israel Trip Update – Days 8 and 9

Mifgash 2018   
Days 8 and 9

A sunscreened, well-hydrated and head-covered group on a very hot day in Caesarea!
Rule number one about the desert: there is no wifi. Rule number two about the desert: there’s a lot of sand-and about half of it is still in my beard. So I’m starting to understand why Luke Skywalker didn’t want to stay on Tatooine (where, actually there was wifi). Anyway, despite the spotty service that permitted a stray text or two, we were unable to communicate to the outside world and therefore unable to share with you what we’ve been up to.  
Let me back up a bit, you’re about to get two-days worth of update in one go! I’ll pause while you get a snack.
Yesterday (Monday), we arrived in the morning to Har Vagai school one final time. Our students had some time to say good-bye before we all piled into the bus to start our trip south. 

Our first stop was Cesarea National Park on the Mediterranean coast to see the ancient ruins built in the time of King Herod the Great in about 25-13 BCE. At the site there is an enormous Roman amphitheater, aqueducts and the remains of pillars, sculptures and other structures. The highlight was entering the remnants of the hippodrome, which at one time housed exciting chariot races. To re-create the thrilling action of the races, a couple of students and Mr Dichter raced around the track in what was, by all accounts, a very one-sided race (photo evidence included).

After Mr Dichter’s victory lap, we boarded the bus. The weather in Cesarea was scorching (which for me is anything above 22 degrees), with a clear sky and temperatures hovering over 30. For a quick reprieve, we stopped at a local mall for some hydration, and even more important, air conditioning. With a nearly two-hour bus ride ahead of us to the Bedouin tent, we all needed a time out, recharge and refresh (well, as fresh as we could be)-not to mention some Aroma iced coffee.
Back on the bus, we headed south again, the landscape outside slowly changing from trees, to green fields, and then to sand and towering mountains. After one final stop at civilization, which oddly enough included another stop at Aroma (it had been almost 2 hours!), we slowly rolled down a long winding road, which lead to the Bedouin tent. I quickly learned people use the phrase "middle of nowhere" somewhat liberally because with nothing but sand and mountains in every direction (and no wifi), you immediately understand the true meaning of that phrase.
Now when you picture Bedouin tent, do not picture a tent singular, but a complex of tents. Many tents–the inhabitants of which were almost entirely adolescents. Within a day our weary group of chaperones had gone from no kids to what sounded like, thousands of kids. 

I think one of the highlights for our kids was the camel ride. In pairs and safely helmeted, we bravely boarded our camels and set off for a somewhat gentle meander through the desert for about a 15 minute ride. Many of the students quickly fell in love with the gentle animals and named each one they rode. Several of you may get some emphatic requests to bring home a camel as a useful and loveable pet (don’t say no right away-you wouldn’t have to mow the lawn anymore). My camel, Buttercup should be arriving in 6 to 8 weeks and if my neighbours ask, I’ll tell them it’s a Labradoodle.

After some time at dinner, learning from a Bedouin and a small campfire complete with marshmallows, our kids set out to sleep in their giant tent. With our boys and girls each on one side we managed to convince everyone to get to sleep to prepare for our early 4 a.m. wake up.

Why were we up so early? Because we had a mountain to climb! After some well coordinated efforts, we were up, dressed and on the bus at 4:45 a.m. Better still, we were the fourth group to arrive at Masada in the early daylight. After following our frequent mantra: hat, sunscreen, water (Lu and Matt even have an accompanying skit to demonstrate), we set off, or should I say up. 

After a quick 15-minute ascent, we were poised at the top to see the sunrise. All around there were birds, brilliant stars, and bells chimed in the distance. I later learned that none of that was real. I was just hallucinating from extreme oxygen deprivation after our little hike. The most activity I usually do before 6 a.m. is sleeping. This was a little bit more and apparently going upstairs a school a couple of extra times a week is not an adequate training regime.
After the sunrise, which was very impressive, our tour guide Barack showed our group some of the ruins at the top of Masada. Our group descended down via the "snake path" and we then came together for a leisurely breakfast. But our leisure was short lived, as we still had a full day ahead of us, which included a float in the Dead Sea and pool at  Ein Gedi, a scenic drive to Jerusalem and time in Machane Yehuda Market.

Tonight, we have had a great evening. We had several alumni join us for dinner and our students participated in some Israeli folk dancing led by a local instructor. All our alumni were looking at our kids and remembering their own King David Israel trip. It was great to hear them talk about the impact the trip had on them and how surprised they were at how young they used to be!

Your kids, by the way, were great today. We have been up since 4 a.m. this morning and have had a really full day and they have been great sports all the way through. As I finish writing this it’s nearly 10 p.m. and all is quiet (except for the cacophony of car horns from the street below-I’m trying to understand how there can be honking this late at night-there’s no traffic!). We’re all off to sleep to have one last fantastic day in Israel. 
I’ll check in tomorrow with one last update and some reminder information on our arrival back in Vancouver.
Until then…I’m going to buy some Camel feed on Amazon.


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