Israel Trip Report: Kinneret Israel Updates
I am finally back. It's been about a month since I last wrote. Life has been a little bit weird and non-routine with all the Jewish Holidays in the past month. It was nice to have time off work and learn a little bit more about the country and its customs in that time. It is also nice to be back into a routine now that they are all over, for now.
First was Rosh Hashana, or the Jewish new year. 'Rosh' means 'head' in hebrew and 'Ha' means 'the' and 'Shana' means 'year'. So literally, it translates to Head of the year. (Hebrew class is actually helping!) To celebrate I went to a community dinner at a local synagogue. Here is a picture of the dinner and also the girls I went to the dinner with.
Next came Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the year. This was VERY interesting in Israel. The entire country shuts down on Yom Kippur. All the stores were closed, and there are NO cars on the road. The night before Yom Kippur we took a trip to Jerusalem for Slichot. The head Rabbi of Israel was there reading the prayers at the Western Wall. It was estimated that about 100,000 people were there. For reference, there is a picture of what the Western Wall normally, and when it was full of people.
Since there are no cars on the road, people wander the streets of Tel Aviv during the day. It is traditional to wear white on Yom Kippur. We walked around the city quite a bit, and even ventured to the highway, which was interesting. There were a lot of people out and about walking around and on bikes. Me and a friend walked to a park to sit for the rest of the day.
After Yom Kippur is Sukkot. Sukkot is a remembering the Jews leaving Egypt and their time spent in the desert in temporary dwellings called Sukkahs. Therefore, it is tradition to build a Sukkah and eat in it. We had a Sukkah outside our building here in Tel Aviv.
We took a 3-day trip to the North of Israel during Sukkot. The trip was a mix of hiking and being in nature, and talking about the Arab-Israeli conflict. The first day we stopped at a kibbutz that has a lot of interaction with surround Arab-Israeli villages. I spent some time that day at an Arab school learning about their curriculum and experiences. At this school the Arabs were Bedouins, not palestinian. Bedouin Israelis don't have mandatory military service, but about half of the boys choose to serve in the army.
In the afternoon, we hiked Mt. Meron, which is the second highest mountain in Israel (only about 4000 ft high). There is also a military bunker built into the mountain. From here, you can see into Lebanon.
In the evening, we had a visit with an organization called Hashomer HaChadash, which means the new guard. This organization helps to guard large agricultural farms in Northern Israel, because there have been problems with Arab neighbors stealing farmed animals or cutting down fences. Here we also had the opportunity to help pick olives to make into olive oil. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and didn't get to learn about the process of making olive oil. Picking olives was very relaxing and definitely made me consider going to live on a Kibbutz that grows olives.
That evening we stayed at a hotel with a view of the Sea of Galilee. Something interesting that I learned about the Sea of Galilee is that in Hebrew, it is called the Kinneret, which means Violin. This is because the Sea of Galilee is connected to the Dead Sea by the Jordan River, and all together it looks like a violin. Here is the view of the Kinneret.
After the river rafting, we visited the northern most kibbutz in Israel. The kibbutz is right on the border of lebanon. The border fence is right on the land of the Kibbutz. This picture is looking into Lebanon: It's hard to see, but there is a second fence further down that is a little bigger and more protective. The man talked about what kinds of security measures they had to take, and the times when Hezbollah would fire at the Kibbutz. After that we stayed in a tent. We made smores around a fire, and discovered that kosher marshmellows are really disgusting.
The next day we visited another Arab-Israeli school. This school was palestinian-arab israelis. This time we got the opportunity to sit and talk to the students. They were high school students about 15-16 years old. These kids are very impressive! They know about 4-5 languages (Classical arabic, spoken arabic, hebrew and english). Some kids' English was definitely better than others. All of them had at least 6 siblings and only one girl's mom worked. About half of the girls wore hijabs, but all the girls had goals to work, so that was interesting. One girl my friend talked to was even planning on applying to Harvard and Yale for college! It was very interesting to get to talk to the students and hear their life perspective.
I've been working for over a month now (with lots of breaks because of the holidays :p). I am really enjoying my job! It is a small company with only about 14 full time employees. I am a part of the R&D group, and they have given me a lot of responsibility. The company is very, very busy, so I am never bored at work! Here is a picture of me at work, making a membrane (my first)
I've been eating VERY well here. The food is amazing. Shakshuka: is one of my favorite israeli foods. I eat it a lot. This is a restaurant in Jaffa right in the port that brings you unlimited different salads This is my Israeli friend Nofar (who was a soldier on my birthright trip) We ate lunch at a famous place called Dr. Shakshuka!
Finally, my hebrew learning is going very well!! It's hard, but I am picking up on it quickly. I try to listen to people around me speaking. I can pick out words and sometimes sentences, but definitely not full conversations yet. The only successful conversation i've had in hebrew (if you can even call it that) is ordering coffee. Here is my picture of the body if you care to learn any hebrew today:
Tomorrow I am going to Haifa, so stay tuned for the next blog post! I promise it won't be long till the next one.