This blog post was written Friday morning and not posted till now due to shabbat... We will be writing a post tomorrow sometime after we get settled at congress.
Back again with Sara and Talia! Today is Friday, and we haven't been able to blog because of our really busy past few days. We'll start with Tuesday, when we began our day with going to Kibbutz Yad Mordechai. We visited a museum there that explained in detail the Warsaw ghetto uprising, and connected it to the larger theme of Jewish self-defense throughout the years. Many of us had trouble understanding the purpose of the museum's exhibit, as it mixed the concepts of the Holocaust, struggles of Yad Mordechai as they faced the Egyptians, and, specifically, the Warsaw ghetto. The architecture of the museum was impressive, though, and it was an overall good experience. Afterwards, we drove about an hour on the bus and drove to an artist colony near Arad. We spoke with a couple who had established an art studio; their art focuses on the desert. We walked around their exhibit containing different art forms using materials from the earth. Each of us then painted small, ceramic camels to get a feel for their desert art. On the bus ride leaving Arab, leader of the day Yitzhak gave us a run down the rest of the day ahead of us. We headed to the Bedouin tents in the southern part of the Negev desert. The group rode camels, some having a more pleasant experience than others. The camel ride took us through the area surrounding the tents. The Bedouins then served us tea and coffee to let us get a sense of their traditional hospitality. Many of us found their customs fascinating, as it gave us a new perspective on the Bedouin lifestyle. We spent the night sleeping in the tents, where we caught a few hours of sleep before a busy Wednesday.
4:30 AM Wednesday morning. We were woken up by our cheerful leader of the day, Ilana, who helped us get ready for our hike up Mount Masada. It was still dark outside when we arrived at Masada, but just ten minutes later we were able to see the sun peeking over the Morabian mountains in Jordan. We spent about two hours walking around the top of Masada, where our wonderful tour-guide Mirav explained the Roman siege, and engaged us in a discussion about the importance of Masada to the Jewish people. After taking the Snake Path down in the warm sun, we ate a much-anticipated breakfast at a nearby hotel. Next we visited the Dead Sea, which was a new experience for some of us, but an enjoyable one for all. It was a relaxing last few hours as just the American group, who had basically become a family by then. Eli, our hilarious bus driver, took us on a beautiful trip up the coast of Israel, northwest to Jerusalem. We ate lunch on expansive grass overlooking the entire city of Jerusalem (can you believe it was only lunch?!) before heading to a youth hostel to get settled in our rooms.
Before we knew it, it was time to meet the Israelis. After waiting for so long, our meeting in person was a chaotic but exciting moment. The icebreaker committee, made up of both Americans and Israelis, took charge for the next few hours. Ilana and Sofia worked with Reut and Amlake to organize activities such as bingo and speed dating, which helped everyone meet and begin to form friendships. We were divided into groups of four, two Israelis and two Americans, for our excursion to Ben Yehuda Street. We browsed through shops, ate falafel and shawarma, and really began to get to know one another. It was overwhelming for us Americans to face so many new people after becoming so close as a group, but we look forward to each day and its excitements and challenges.
Bye for now,
Sara and Talia!