There are plenty of situations on Nativ where I could write a skeleton blog post about a specific event and describe what will happen pretty accurately, and maybe personal reflections and specific details could come afterwords. Not so with Southern Tiyyul. Almost no day on the tiyyul went as planned. By Tuesday it became a joke to our staff when our activity was cancelled due to weather. So I’ll start from the beginning.
On Thursday 2/4, we departed for the South. As hard as it was raining in Jerusalem, rain drenched the south just as much, and we knew when we got on the buses that only one hiking option would be available due to the dangers associated with flooding. We waited a while on the buses to finally leave Jerusalem, and then we did. Upon reaching Ein Gedi, we learned that the hike we thought we’d be able to pull off was closed as well. Two options remained just to get through the day: go to the Dead Sea spa at Ein Gedi or hike Masada. Since I’ve done Masada and have no desire to go back any time soon, I hung out at the spa and read and listened to music. Later in the afternoon, we went to the Bedouin Tents. Most people took a camel ride, but I chose not to. The few of us that opted out of that hung out in the warm tent (it was very cold outside) until we met with our Bedouin host, wear we were served coffee and tea. I remember learning stuff this time that I hadn’t learned before. He spoke a lot about marriage in the Bedouin world, and sure enough many of the questions were focused on the number of wives and how the man decides whom he sleeps with which night and bachelors and stuff like that. He also spoke about the Bedouin attitude to the modern world, which they partake in but he does not like. We had a delicious dinner, had a bonfire, and we were in bed by 9 something. I ended up sleeping well.
Friday there were two options: colored sands or hike. I opted for the hike, and we hiked up a mountain (the only hike available in the area). There we saw greenery and flowers budding, something very rare and only made possible by the downpour of rain during the preceding days. I had a bit of a hard time that morning, but Razie helped me make it through. We got to good old Kibbutz Ketura, the most American kibbutz in town, that afternoon. Upon arriving, we were welcomed and taught how to use keys and the remote control and got ready for Shabbat. I roomed with Jesse Lender, David, and Seth. After candle-lighting, we got a small tour of the kibbutz that included the cow barn. We saw a five-hour-old cow, which was cute I guess, but after having just showered and being in my Shabbat clothes, I felt sort of gross. Kabbalat Shabbat was nice; we davened with the kibbutz and David was the sha”tz (shaliach tzibbur = leader of the service) for Ma’ariv. Dinner was BBQ chicken and was good. We had a lively discussion about why Joshy should be a bunk counselor this summer and not a specialist – all but Gabe C (ask me which one) were in agreement (or as MoMo would say, agreeence [sp?]). Then came a lively tisch, with a lot more Nativers than normal, and I gave a D’var Torah there. After that, we chilled in the room and had a good time, and sometime that night, long story short, a received a totally unexpected slap from Lainie.
Shabbat morning we were basically the schul, with like 10 other kibbutzniks, and I davened Shacharit. It had been a very long time since I had been the sha”tz for Shabbat Shacharit, so I enjoyed getting back into that and I incorporated many things I’ve learned in Israel this year. I think I did a decent job. After davening, we had a few options before lunch – most of us did a walk to the experimental orchards. Can’t say I paid attention too much. We saw a bunch of donkeys. Woot. We had a quick Shabbat lunch, Mincha, and then I napped, and we had “seudat shlishit” but mostly just singing, Ma’ariv, and Havdalah. Shortly after that was dinner, which sucked, so I hung out in the room. The evening program was either Shiatzu at Kibbutz Lotan or a soccer game against the teens at Ketura. I went to the game and brought my book, Heart Like Water by Joshua Clark, and finished it that night. Even though I was back in my room by 9:30, I went to bed around midnight – we were watching American Idol auditions (icky).
Sunday – we had the option of creative arts stuff related to the desert or a hike around Ketura. I went on the hike and we had a great time. It wasn’t very difficult by any means. Lunch was leftovers from Shabbat, and we had a bit of down time before and after. In the afternoon we went to the Sand Dunes. We had lots of fun with that, tackling anyone in sight. The night treated us to a nice BBQ dinner and some sleep before the SUPERBOWL! We watched it on Middle Eastern TV, and I could recite all of the commercials by heart – they were random commercials provided by METV and they sucked. It was just sad by the end. We had a good time, as it was a great game.
Even though I went to bed at 5 and woke up at 6:30 (plus a few hours before), I woke up feeling pretty good Monday morning. There was a hike and a trip to Timna Park; I chose the latter. It was interesting but not necessarily a highlight for me. At that point we had departed from Ketura and were on our way to Eilat, the worse city ever. The plan was to go on a boat, but there were strong winds on the sea so that was cancelled. After Yossi had told us about how horrible this place was and how year after year things got cancelled in Eilat and he was resorted to this, we went to an “amusement park” called Kings City. The place had one ride and three other attractions. We were there for not even an hour and a half and were ready to go. The ride was a joke, and while the magnet room and the mirror maze were cool, that was just about it. From that point we chilled at the hotel and went out for the night. We were given money for dinner. Eilat doesn’t have many kosher options, and I wanted milchig but I have a hashgacha-only policy in Israel. After 45 minutes of searching, I found no viable option for milchig so I settled for Burgers Bar, which isn’t really settling since it’s good. I went back to the hotel after dinner because I was doing an early hike in the morning and wanted to be well rested, especially after the Super Bowl. There wasn’t much else to do anyway.
Once again, there were two options for the hike Tuesday morning: an easy hike and a hard hike. While I’m not the most passionate of hikers, I heard the hard hike is very rewarding and the easy hike isn’t really much to begin with, so I tried it out. It was at Har Shlomo. Yossi described a lot of it Monday night – 25 minutes around the base, a nice incline, during which there are a couple of times you get to the top and realize it’s not the top. Coming down, there are staples and lots of drop-offs that aren’t easy and takes a long time. The ascent, to my surprise, wasn’t too hard, and the descent had its challenges but wasn’t too daunting. The real challenge involved is that one of the girls broke her leg coming down and nobody was too sure of what to do. A couple of people went ahead to get a stretcher from the bus, a couple of people came down with her slowly, and the rest of us continued on. I could never trust myself to assist someone with an injury in a difficult situation like this. The bus almost didn’t want to take us back immediately, while the gang with the stretcher finished the hike, but we eventually left and made it to the Halleluyah restaurant for lunch. We went on Pilgrimage, and while I remember the food being great (and the pita was in fact very good), the schnitzel I got wasn’t extraordinary. But whatever, I went back and took a nap (water sports was cancelled – Elkana laughed when he told us) and read before dinner, and then we had another night out. We started at the mall, where Jesse and Mosko needed shoes, and I bought a new pair of Naot. We walked around the boardwalk for a while, and then Mosko, Gelb, and I had a drink on the beach. I forgot to mention that Monday night, on the way back from dinner, we did find Kosher pizza, which was annoying, but we hit that up after the beach, and Tyler, Sender, and Shira met us there. The pizza was ok, not great. We went back to the mall, since they wanted ice cream (I think), but I had already had some, so Mosko, Gelb, and I went to Castro and I bought a new shirt there – pink and white stripes and thin blue stripes. I locked myself out of the room, so I made it back in and went to bed.
Wednesday we departed for Yeruham! But not so fast – someone in our group was diagnosed with the mumps Tuesday night and we had to go to Be’er Sheva to get a booster shot, said the government. So we moved in around 7 p.m., no big deal.
Tiyyul wasn’t my favorite part of Nativ but it has some worthwhile memories. Next post be’ezrat Hashem I’ll talk about our adventures that started off Yeruham!