Thursday morning, we woke up in Bat Yam and ate breakfast at the hotel. Something was wrong with our bus, so to be sneaky and pass the time our wonderful guides took us to the beach and had us form EVERY letter of the Hebrew alphabet out of groups of people…very time consuming, but fun. Then we climbed on a different bus and went to Independence Hall, which is a modest old house in Tel Aviv where David Ben Gurion announced the establishment of the state of Israel for the Jewish people on Msy 14, 1948. It was amazing to hear the history of the city of Tel Aviv, which is only a little over 100 years old, and also the politics behind that very important day.
After, we took a bus ride north to make an unexpected stop in Haifa. Everyone was excited to see the view from the top of Mt. Carmel overlooking the city, impressive shipping port, and the beautiful Bah’ai Gardens. It was interesting to hear Shachar tell us the story of Elijah, who proved to the people in a competition with King Ahab that God is powerful and idol worshipping was worthless. Then, we walked over to a little strip of stores and restaurants where most of us ate lunch at the Israeli chain called Aroma. It seemed comparable to Panera back home, and is also known for preventing Starbucks’ invasion in Israel because of its amazing iced and blended coffees. YUM!
Then, we got back on the bus and arrived at Mt. Arbel to do a 2-hour hike down the mountain side. The scenery was absolutely beautiful and different from anything we’ve seen in Israel so far. It was grassy and green on top and we could see a small Muslim town with a mosque below. Everyone was just in awe and felt humbled by the view of the surrounding hilly terrain and rocky mountainside below us. It was definitely a challenge for some to face their fears and get down the steepest part of the mountain, where we had to use built in handle bars and wires and step carefully. But we all supported each other and everyone made it successfully to the bottom. By the end of the hike, the sun had set and it was a nice night to be outside. This was definitely a favorite of many on this trip and proved to be both a challenge and truly a moving experience.
Finally we headed to our home for the next three nights, a Kibbutz called Ashdot Ya’akov near Tiberias. Everyone was excited to have clean, nice rooms accessible from outside that really had a cozy feeling on the Kibbutz after an interesting hotel experience in Bat Yam. Almost all of our rooms were close together and there was a convenient place for us to all hang out outside together and relax. We then ate dinner in the dining hall, which seemed very comparable to an overnight camp cafeteria, along with the children of the Kibbutz. It was such a good feeling of community, relaxation, and fun. Then we headed to the activity room to reflect on this busy day by drawing another “clock” with the numbers representing the different things we did and places we went. The guides were nice enough to let us go early to “get some sleep”…which of course meant we all relaxed outside together and enjoyed the night.