Shalom Friends and Family!
Last week, the HUC Year In Israel 2007-2008 class went on our final Tiyul of the year. As it has been a very cold and difficult winter in Jerusalem with snow twice, we were excited to be able to go "down south," especially with our shorts and bathing suits to go swimming in the Gulf of Eilat. We started our Tiyul at Sde Boker, which was the Kibbutz that Ben Gurion retired to after his service in the Israeli Government. He is buried there with his wife. His vision for the future included settling and developing the Negev Desert. His famous line was, "The border begins where the plow stops." So, developing the desert was of vital importance!
We then went on a wonderful and exciting hike in the Mahktesh Ramon. Mahktesh does not translate into English as this type of landscape was discovered in Israel. It is basically a naturally made crater in the South of Israel. It is a beautiful area of Israel, and I highly recommend anyone who visits Israel to visit there. This is the place where a few of us went on an overnight hike in September. It is gorgeous! From there, we went to Kibbutz Yahel, one of the two Reform Kibbutzim in the Arava Valley (just north of Eilat) in the middle of the Negev Desert.
Over the next two days, we went on an awesome hike on Mount Shlomo. This is a long hike, not very hard, but with a few quite difficult places. It leads to a beautiful overlook of the Gulf of Eilat. Check out my pictures from the Tiyul by clicking on the Webshots link on the right! There are some gorgeous pictures. We also spent the night in a Bedouin tent called Shacharut. It was a great experience, although it was a little "hollywood"esque...too planned and too touristy. But, it was in a beautiful place.
On Friday, we went to Kibbutz Lotan. This was my favorite part of the Tiyul. Kibbutz Lotan is a Reform Kibbutz in which the residents live their lives based on a VERY eco friendly lifestyle. They recycle everything, and they really make good use of everything they recycle. Check out their Kibbutz: www.kibbutzlotan.com. Anyone who is eco friendly or "green" should check out this Kibbutz. They really lead by example, and are very innovative in their ideals on being eco friendly.
Shabbat was very nice and relaxing. We had Shabbat Shacharit out in the desert, and we spent a lot of Shabbat afternoon playing sports. We also received some very troubling news about our classmate and his family in California. I ask that everyone who reads this blog keep the Spinrad family in their thoughts and prayers as they are in the process of making some very difficult decisions.
About last night...yes, there was a shooting at an Orthodox Yeshiva/Seminary in Jerusalem. It was about a twenty minute walk from our house. We were enjoying the Engagement party of a couple of friends of ours when we heard the news. We are ok, and our awareness of security is certainly heightened. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and injured last evening. We only hope and pray for a time when we don't have to phone our families and friends to let them know we're ok. For now, just keep these families in your thoughts and prayers.
Tonight, I am going to Ramat Hasharon, a Reform community between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, for Shabbat services and dinner. This should be a great experience. Next week, we have a "Rabbinic Seminar." I am not sure what we'll learn at this seminar, but we are really beginning to get excited about being able to come back to the States and share our new knowledge and experiences with family and friends.
Until next time, I wish you a Shabbat Shalom!