Israel Trip Report: Negev Happy New Year from Israel
Happy 2015, everyone!
One of my New Year's Resolutions is to update this more frequently. I havent written since the end of October, so I have a lot to share!! The program I am on presents us with a lot of unique and interesting opportunities to learn and experience new things in Israel. They took us to see Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, speak and then afterwards there was a concert by Idan Raichel. Idan Raichel is very popular in Israel, and starting to be more known in the world. He has a project where he takes in young artists from all around the world and has them collaborate together. The music was beautiful!
Then my parents came to visit! It was a wonderful week. We got to eat lots of great food and see some awesome places! Here are some pictures from Haifa. We went to see the Bahai Gardens there:
We also visited Jerusalem together and took an awesome walking tour of a lot of the holy sites of the 3 big religions.
This picture is up on the Temple Mount. There have been tensions between Jewish Israelis and Muslim Palestinians over the mount. I didn't feel any tensions, though. I think this building is beautiful!!
I also got to celebrate Thanksgiving in Israel! One girl from my program works at a company that arranges dinners where someone volunteers to host a group and random people can meet for dinner. This company offered to have a dinner for us for thanksgiving. It was actually an awesome meal, even though it was cooked by israelis who had never made thanksgiving dinner before.
We took a trip to a nature reserve, which is right next to the Dead Sea. The program invited about 50 Israeli university students to join us in a "Dialogue Seminar." We had several sessions to talk about many different topics ranging from religion and judaism and the differences in being a Jewish person in Israel and in the Diaspora to the conflict in the middle east to other random topics as well. It was nice to be able to spend time with Israelis from all over the country! We also went on a hike in Ein Gedi, which is full of water falls and got to spend some time swimming in the Dead Sea.
I have also been trying some new Israeli foods! Here is something called Kubeh. Its kind of like a big dumpling. Inside is beef (I promise myself I wouldn't let being a vegetarian get in the way of trying new things) and it is in a beet sauce. My boss made it for me. delicious! Here I am with a couple of Sufganyot. These are basically donuts, but they are a Hanukkah tradition and they are delicious! They are in every bakery here by the hundreds around Hanukkah, and I ate way too many. They are delicious! I tried a lot of variations of fillings. Nutella, chocolate, jelly, oreo, dulce de leche. This beer is called Alexander! It is one of the most popular boutique beers here.
We also took a trip to the Negev (which means desert in Hebrew) Here we are looking out on Mahktesh Ramon. It is basically like a crater, but not made by a meteor. The negev used to be covered by an ocean, and as the water receded, this landform was made. I didn't actually take this picture, but I saw a bunch of these signs in the Negev. I think it's pretty funny. Definitely something you would never see in the US! Our trip was over the first couple nights of Hanukkah. Here is the group lighting the candles.
Here is the view from Ben Gurion's grave. He was the first Prime Minister of Israel. He had a vision that Israel could settle the Negev. He met some young students who believed they could live off the land in the Negev, and who were establishing a Kibbutz in the desert. He asked them if he could join them, they agreed, and he resigned as Prime Minister to join them.
On the last day of our trip, we were traveling to visit a beduoin village, but got stopped at a roadblock because there had been a shooting on the road ahead. We happened to be stuck in a line of IDF tanks being transported. We were stuck for a few hours, and so people brought out their guitars and a bunch of people (Israelis and Americans together) gathered to sing and dance together.
Finally when the road block was cleared, we got to visit a farm on the border of Egypt and Gaza. We got the opportunity to sample all of there fruits and veggies. This is the way they grow their strawberries, to keep bugs off them so they dont have to use pesticides. They had so many different types of cherry tomates, it was delicious!
Last weekend we visited the town of Sderot, which borders Gaza. We stopped in the military base that control s the border crossing into gaza. Here is the view from a kibbutz into Gaza. There are two walls. One is to protect the border from people entering. The one in this picture is to stop snipers from Gaza from shooting the residents of the Kibbutz. Here is a picture from the police station in Sderot. These are just a few of the rockets that landed in the town from Gaza over the years. About 24,000 rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israel since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. There are bomb/rocket shelters everywhere in the town. Because they are so close to Gaza, they have only 15 seconds to get into a shelter once the alarm sounds. Here is a picture from one of their playgrounds. The play structures are reinforced so they can double as a shelter. Also, every bus stop in the town doubles as a shelter as well. Every home has its own personal shelter in it.