Camels, Ein Ovdat, and Netiv Ha'Asara
By Rachel Newman
After waking up from our group slumber party in a Bedouin tent, we leaned back and were raised up by our trusty camels. We both cringed at the smell & got cozy with our new travel buddies. Some of us even sweet talked and named our curvaceous steeds: "Who's a good camel? You're a good camel! Yes you are!" (Shoutout to Steve the camel).
We set out to Ein Ovdat for a beautiful hike and a challenging climb out of a gorge. Capturing some solid selfies along springs and mezmorizing rock formations we literally crawled to the top and ended up sweaty but in awe of the landscape. We then drove just a few meters from the Gaza border, and I had my most emotional moment of the trip after meeting four soldiers (ages 19-22) on duty in a fully loaded tank. Meeting soldiers younger than most of the people in our group we had a harsh reality shock as some of us ducked into the pit and realized it was unairconditioned and H-O-T. These men had been in there for two days straight. All meals are eaten there, they are required to be in full gear, and they have several more days on duty. Their sweet demeanor and sincere delight in having our group disrupt their mundane schedule, even if for only 15 minutes, contrasted the sour situation we were witnessing. Walking away to follow the call back to the bus, it was the first time I released and started to cry.
While at the Netiv Ha'Asara agricultural center kibbutz protected by these brave soldiers, a female farmer showed us broken rocket shells of which "every family collects as a tradition". She chooses to be there because it is her home, her way of life, and she does not wish to leave.
The director of the sheltered children's' playground we visited earlier that day has a best friend who he has not seen in seven years because he lives in Gaza. They talk on the phone as colleagues - dreaming of a day in which the kids from Gaza can come play with the Israeli children.