Today was the second day of actual activities, and it was definitely the day I was looking forward to the most! After leaving our hotel in Ashkelon which I personally woke up for at the time we were supposed to leave... my apologies everyone we took the bus to our first stop: a garden for us to eat various plants, taste delicious vegetables, and learn about agricultural innovation in the Negev. It was incredible to see plants growing out of mere desert soil, and the experience really did not disappoint.
Our second stop was lunch at a cafe in the desert, followed by a visit to Ben Gurion's gravesite and national park. We watched beautiful, horned animals (apparently called the Ibex?) and learned a brief history of the first Prime Minister's life and his impact on the formation of the state of Israel. We then headed to the Bedouin tents where we would soon be sleeping, and rode camels! (THEY WERE SO GREAT) Then we ate a delicious dinner and learned about the Bedouins, while playing games and hanging out in the spare time between programming.
The last event of the night was pretty special. We walked away from our tent and into the desert. Underneath the stars, we had a discussion about spirituality and our own beliefs, allowing us to voice our own opinions and learn each others'. The peace and quiet of the desert was awe-
inspiring, and a fantastic way to end an incredibly exciting day :)
Sammi Rappaport '18
We landed in Ben Gurion Airport at 9 am after a long red eye flight, and already I was wowed by the view from the airport. We were greeted by six Israeli soldiers, two IDF guards, and our amazing tour guide Hillary. After a quick icebreaker, we were already on our way heading to Jaffa, also known as Old Tel Aviv. The views of the Mediterranean Sea were breathtaking. We stood on one of the oldest ports in Israel, where years ago travelers sailed. Then we began our walk through the Old City of Jaffa. The city is full of beautiful stones and tunnels with small apartments and sea blue shutters. After our walk we strolled through the Jaffa flea market, with tiny stores full of jewelry, furniture, and old records. A few of us enjoyed our first meal at Shakshooka, with our first tastes of chicken shawarma and hummus. It was the perfect way to end our visit in Jaffa.
After Jaffa, we walked to the Jaffa Institute, a nonprofit organization that gives back to those in Israel that are impoverished. It was amazing learning about the different centers they run around Israel for students to go to after school lets out while their parents are still at work. Additionally, they help single parents find jobs and educate and house children without homes. As a part of our visit, we helped the Jaffa Institute pack boxes of food to go to families in need of food. It was a heartwarmimg experience, and I loved seeing community service and tzedakah in action in a different, unique country.
At 4:30, we headed to a Holiday Inn in Ashkelon, excited to finally sleep after a long but fulfilling day. From the hotel rooms, we could see the sun set over the Mediterranean. Dinner at the hotel was amazing; there was an unlimited buffet of some of the most famous Israel food: schnitzel, yummy potatoes, and assortment of cold salads, among many other options. After being full of delicious food, we headed to bed early in anticipation of another exciting day.
Alexandra Nebel '18
The Brody Jewish Center, Hillel at the University of Virginia, is the focal point in a renaissance of Jewish life for the 1,000 Jewish students on Grounds.