Wow, what an amazing week we had exploring the south of Israel! After arriving at Kibbutz Ketura late Sunday night, we began our stay in Eilat with a beautiful 2.5 hour hike on the Tzfachot trail. There was a point during the hike where our incredible teachers Danny and Reuven pointed out that we could see four different countries at the same time, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. After the hike, we had LOTS (lunch on the street) in Eilat, where we were able to choose from all different types of foods. After lunch, we went snorkeling and saw some really colorful and cool fish. We then relaxed on the beach for the rest of the afternoon and explored the vibrant Eilat boardwalk. We ate dinner on the boardwalk and then got back on the bus to spend the night at Kibbutz Ketura. When we arrived back at the kibbutz many of us laced up our sneakers and played soccer under the lights with some of the residents of the kibbutz. It was really cool to meet members of the kibbutz and connect with them by speaking Hebrew and playing soccer. After an exhilarating day, everyone went to sleep early as we had a 6:00 am wake up the next morning for one of the more rigorous hikes of the trip.
After eating a quick breakfast in our rooms, we had a 6:30 am departure from Kibbutz Ketura in order to begin our hike up הר שלומו before it got too hot. We hiked for around five hours, making a couple stops to stay hydrated and nourished with sandwiches we made the night before. It was a challenging hike, but it was a great experience as everyone in the grade pushed through the heat and the steep inclines and declines together. As Jake Rulnick said “hikes such as these make our grade closer, as we all had to be there for one another. Like when we encountered steep declines, we had to indicate which rocks to step on, helping each other navigate the terrain.” After the hike, we made a stop at Kibbutz Yotvata, where we all indulged in ice cream, iced coffee, and the famous שוקו that is produced at Yotvata. Stopping at Yotvata was a special full circle moment for Abby and me as our parents lived and worked at Yotvata for seven months in 1993/1994. After enjoying the refreshments from Yotvata we made our way back to Ketura where we were given time to shower and unwind after the difficult hike. We then had a lesson with Danny and Reuven about David Ben Gurion’s vision for the Negev and why he decided to be buried in the middle of the desert, fully away from civilization. After the lesson we went on a tour of the kibbutz with a resident named Bill, who coincidentally was from Bethesda, Maryland. After the tour we had an awesome pool party and barbecue, which wrapped up another incredible day in Eilat.
After getting up Wednesday morning, and eating breakfast, we went on a quick bus ride to the sand dunes. At the sand dunes, we slid down the hill, did flips, raced, and just chilled out on the soft sand. It was so much fun, and a really cool experience. After the sand dunes, we drove through the Negev and saw some incredible red canyons. We then drove to the beach in Eilat and everyone got on a boat, where we all listened to Israeli music, danced, relaxed, and took in the incredible views. After the relaxing boat ride, many of us participated in water sports, going water tubing and riding banana boats. After spending the rest of the day at the beach, we went on a quick drive to the famous Ice Mall in Eilat where we ate dinner and shopped, and some of us even ice skated. We ended the day by packing our bags in preparation for our week of volunteering.
Early Thursday morning, we had a great last meal at Ketura before heading to Hazeva for a change of scenery and the start of our one week volunteer period. After an hour and a half bus ride, we had a brief meeting and then lunch upon arrival. Despite the heat, we went to the farm and harvested onions for a few hours before watching an incredible sunset in the fields and celebrating our hard work with refreshing watermelon and popsicles. After cooling down before our first dinner at Hazeva, we headed to sleep early before our 5:30 am wake up and first full day of volunteering.
We woke up at 5:30 am, and harvested the onion field until around 9:00 am. We then had free time before lunch, and heard that there was a slight change of plans, due to the heat. We got packed and had our last meal at Hazeva, before loading the bus and heading back to Ketura. There, we all enjoyed a pool day filled with volleyball, soccer, swimming, and relaxing. After spending time at the pool, our lovely driver Eyad picked us up and we headed to a new location, the Hazeva field house for a picnic shabbat dinner. To end the day, we had a night time meeting with our new madrichim, Shachar and Daniella.
After an unforgettable week,we enjoyed a late wakeup Saturday morning. We woke up scattered from 8:00-11:00 am, to a breakfast from our madrichim including bread with many spreads, a variety of fruits and vegetables, and cereal. Many of our classmates exercised, relaxed, played board games, and enjoyed each other's company. We enjoyed a fulfilling lunch at Hazeva, and then had classes in the afternoon with our madrichim Shachar and Daniella. After our classes we had free time until dinner and Havdalah and prepared for our final four days of volunteer work.