Happy Hump Day! | Shorashim - Israel with Israelis

Happy Hump Day!

By Meredith Woociker, Michael Raymond, Corey Cohen, and Danielle Reischer

Hello from Base Camp (Masada)!

To say we are a little bit more comfortable tonight in our hotel than we were last night in our tents would be the understatement of the year! We woke up around 6:30 am to the sounds of other Birthright groups and the Lion King playing on a phone and then headed in to breakfast. Our first activity of the day took place about 50 feet from where we slept and it was the most anticipated part of the trip for many... CAMEL RIDING!!! Although it left some of us with a cowboy-esque walk, it was absolutely all it was cut out to be. We all came up with great names for our camels, had a long ride to see the beauty of the desert, and got the perfect pictures! 

Next on the agenda was a short, hour-long hike to a beautiful picturesque waterfall. Our hike was called Ein Ovdat and we were not the only group who had the same idea. At the waterfall we were lined up with a few other groups but we are pretty sure we got the best pictures of the day. We could've stayed there for hours trying to capture the beauty and by the time we got back, there were definitely a few of us Floridians who had fallen in love with hiking in general! 

Just a short drive away from Ein Ovdat is the final resting place of David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel and his wife, Paula. We briefly learned that it was Ben Gurion's dream to see the desert bloom with all forms of life. There is still much work to be done to fulfil his vision but the young country is doing a number of things to make the south a draw. Ben Gurion's burial site offered us a beautiful view of the desert and gave us an opportunity to get to know his quirky personality in a way. We role-played a game show in which we asked a question about Ben Gurion and 4 Ben Gurion impersonators, all from our trip, answered the questions and let us guess who the real Ben Gurion was!

A long forty minutes later, we arrived in Sderot. Sderot is a city close to the Gaza Strip. During times of war, many Hamas rockets fall into the city and prevent people from enjoying life outdoors. To see one way of combating this situation, we visited the JNF's Indoor Playground. This JNF project was developed to give children a safe and "normal" way to enjoy their childhood during the dangerous times in their city. The indoor playground was filled with ball pits, a blow up bounce house, video games, a small soccer court, and much more. As we lef, the children began to happily run into the playground. This showed us that while there are daily conflicts, life for the children continues, and because of the JNF, it can continue more safely. 

Our last stop in Sderot was at Shaked's Farm. This farm is located next to the actual border of the Gaza Strip. A resident from the neighborhood joined us on the bus to explain the situation she and the rest of the neighborhood lives in everyday. We drove through in the bus and saw all of the bomb shelters that the people of the neighborhoods use during war times and because of the proximity to the border, learned how the locals have a very short time to get to safety if an alarm sounds. We continued to drive around, seeing the wall separating Gaza from Israel. In addition to the border, there is a secondary wall to help protect. What was interesting and beautiful about this wall was that a local artist has painted murals along it spelling out "peace" in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. Seeing this neighborhood opened our eyes and made us grateful for the Israeli army and all that they do. We then made our way to Shaked's Farm. They showed us how they used water effectively, drip-irrigation technology, and how they can effectively grow their own food. Two of us participated in a game where we were blindfolded and had to figure out what vegetable we were eating! We tried everything from beets to lavender to horseradish! It was awesome! They then took us to the greenhouse that was the most full of vegetables, the peppers. We got a chance to pick our own and eat it right off the vine! They were so delicious and fresh, we're still thinking about them! 

Another long forty minute drive later, we arrived at our hotel Ana Masada for the night. This hotel is incredible because it is located right underneath Masada and across from the Dead Sea. The view is unreal! Tomorrow we will begin our morning at 4:15 am to catch the sunrise on top of the mountain. Can't wait to show you all the pictures we take!