I was up with the sun after a short but deep sleep in the tent, despite virtually sleeping on the ground. We had a quick breakfast and went to our canyon hike at Ein Ovdat. The gorges of the canyon were a different, and welcomed, change of scenery from the desert that surrounds Masada. We had assumed that we were walking through the canyon. And we did…until it was time to go straight up. Through a series of ladders and stairs, we made it to the very top of the canyon and looked down from where we came. It was stunning.
We headed back to the Bedouin tents for our camel trek. The “Four Humps” rocked the caboose of our camel-chain. We trotted along, laughing and joking around for a bit before riding back to the tents.
Can’t say camel riding is the most comfortable experience in the world, but it’s an experience nonetheless. Naturally, I had to take a selfie…
We departed from the Bedouin village and went to Midreshet Sde Boker, the site of Ben Gurion’s grave. He and his wife are buried on the cliff overlooking the Zin Valley. David Ben-Gurion was Israel’s first Prime Minister and is commonly known as Israel’s founding father. On May 14, 1948 it was Ben Gurion who officially proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel and was the first to sign the Israeli Declaration of Independence. What’s most interesting though is that after retiring from political life in 1970 Ben Gurion moved to Sde Boker, a kibbutz in the Negev Desert, and spent his final years there trying to fulfill his vision of cultivating the Negev.
After a quick falafel for lunch, and the discovery of guaraná in Israel (!!!), we stopped by a goat farm in the Negev, held baby goats, tasted delicious goat cheese, and reflected with the Israelis (as it was our last time gathered as a group).
Honestly, it sucked. It sucked knowing that seven members of our newfound family were leaving, and I felt like the dynamic just wouldn’t be the same after their departure – their presence, smiles, laughs, and viewpoints would all be sorely missed. We hugged them goodbye and waved to them from the bus as we watched them walk away.
We made it to Netanya, and as soon as we arrived we were greeted with an outstanding sunset right outside my bedroom window. I took in the beauty as I reflected on how I already missed my new Israeli friends.
That night we went out in Tel Aviv, and the Israelis just “happened” to show up in the same place at the same time. Hmmm, I wonder how that happened?! 🙂 We all sat around a large table drinking, chatting, and enjoying each others company for what we knew would actually be our last time hanging out together. There was a lot of love and respect going around that table.
We spent the following day in Tel Aviv. We began in Rabin Square, where Yitzhak Rabin, the fifth Prime Minister of Israel, was assassinated in 1995; he was assassinated by a radical right-wing Orthodox Jew who was against the creation and signing of the Oslo Accords (to which he won the Nobel Peace Prize).
We spent the morning wandering around Tel Aviv before ultimately entering Independence Hall – it was at this site that Ben Gurion officially declared the State of Israel on May 14, 1948 (despite being in the midst of a Civil War). The following day began the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Armies from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria all attacked the newly-deemed land of Israel. It wasn’t until 1949 that Israel signed armistices with everyone (Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria) except Iraq and Palestine.
After learning quite a bit about the creation of the State of Israel, we headed to Jerusalem Beach to relax on the Mediterranean. The water was beautiful and the sun was shining; it was some much-needed downtime.
We boarded the bus to Tiberias, ate, and had a fascinating talk about the West Bank. As I crawled into bed, exhausted, I rolled over to check the time and saw an urgent email from NYU Buenos Aires. I quickly opened it to discover that my tango buddy from my Buenos Aires program, Zake Morgan, had passed away during his travels in Nicaragua; it’s amazing how truly fragile life is. Zake brought laughter and smiles to everyone he interacted with and will be forever missed. I pray that his parents find peace and comfort in these difficult times.