On Sunday, we had our first major goodbye. Our tour guide Yoav got sick (not Covid, Baruch HaShem, as Yoav would say) and had to leave. After we said goodbye to him, we said hello to our new tour guide, Eiran. Sunday was a big day, because we were going to Gush Etzion, which is beyond a place that Israelis refer to as the Green Line. This essentially means it’s part of the West Bank. As we drove there, we saw the walls that are built around territory occupied by Palestinans, specifically, we were closest to Bethlehem. Driving there felt almost like driving through concrete cities because we literally couldn’t see over the barriers.
Our first stop was Rachel’s tomb. Rachel’s tomb is the only thing in that area under Israeli control. It’s basically a small building carved out from the concrete barriers. We were able to go inside and prayed there for a little bit. We even saw that the Jewish Federation of Cleveland had a big part in renovating the site.
After that, we went to the kibbutz Kfar Etzion and learned about its history. Just before the declaration of Israel’s independence, the Kibbutz fell to Palestinian control. Despite that, the settlers’ kids and grandkids, re-established the kibbutz and grew it into what it is today.
We then had a pizur lunch and then went to a program called Shoreshim (roots) where we learned about the Israeli and Palestinian borders and how they are trying to work together to find a solution. We heard from an Israeli citizen and a young Palestinian. We heard their perspectives and how they’re working to change attitudes in their communities in both big and little ways.
Before leaving the Gush, we went to a place where we could overlook the whole country from all four sides, which was beautiful. We ended the day by having a pizur dinner and shopping on Ben Yehuda street.
On Monday we had Tefillah, loaded the bus with all of our luggage and went to get a Covid test. We then went to Tel Aviv. Eiran showed us around Old Yaffo, including a port where Jonah could have come, and we looked at some of the art in the city, too. After Yaffo, we had our last pizur lunch at Shuk H’Carmel and did the last of our shopping before heading to the beach where we did flips off of each other and had an awesome time swimming. Once we were all covered in sunscreen and salt water, we washed off and then had a small closing activity where we all got Beyachad shirts that have some of our favorite jokes and moments written on the back. Then we headed to our final dinner at Maganda where we ate tons of pita, hummus, kabobs, and chicken.
Then, we boarded Moochie’s bus for the last time – our ride to the airport. We said goodbye to Osher outside of the airport because as our security guard, he wasn’t allowed to come in with us. Inside, we have hugs to Daniel and Adva, our madrichim, before going through long security lines. By the time we boarded our flight, all of us were exhausted — most of us slept almost the entire time, which was a pretty big difference from last time when we barely slept at all! When we got back to Newark this morning, it was time to say goodbye to all of our new friends, so there were a lot of tears.