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Israel 2022 – Day 7: Zach Smith

Yesterday we went on a hike at the Ein Avdat, a national park in the Negev. On this hike, there’s a beautiful oasis and then a spot where you have to hike up a ladder one-by-one. It was so hot and it seems like a bunch of other groups had the idea to hike Ein Avdat at the same time, because it was so crowded! We didn’t end up finishing the hike and climbing the ladder because there were other groups there and they were getting stuck on the ladder in 95 degree weather. I’m glad we didn’t get stuck on the ladder, even though it meant not completing the hike.

After our (half) hike, we drove to the first Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion’s, grave. After we looked at his grave and talked about him for a little bit, we went to the Ben Gurion visitor center and saw an interactive movie with actors playing the parts of IDF generals, Golda Meir, and Ben Gurion himself, crazy hair and all. The movie was a fictional trial to see whether Ben Gurion should have established Israel when he did, or if he should have waited longer after the the British left. We were able to see the pros and cons of starting the nation at that time. More importantly, we saw Ben Gurion’s determination to start the nation when he did.

Once we were finished at the Ben Gurion experience, we went to a shopping center and had some down time in a shaded plaza. We were able to get falafel and pizza for lunch, which were both very good. Of course, because we had a dairy lunch, most of us got ice cream for dessert at the grocery store in the shopping center.

After some down time, we headed to ATIF Bamidbar, which was the visitor center of the city. This particular center focuses on innovation. First, we broke into small groups and looked at famous inspirational quotes from world leaders; we had to pick a quote that resonated with us and discuss it with the group. We realized that all of the quotes were about the same kind of belief and determination Ben Gurion had, and we were able to connect that to our own lives. Following the discussion, we broke into smaller teams and designed kites for Yom HaAtzmaut. Luckily, it was the perfect day for kite flying because it was pretty windy.

When we returned to our kibbutz, Mashabei Sade, we changed into different clothes and switched gears to the mood of the Israeli Memorial Day, Yom HaZikaron. When we think of Memorial Day, we typically think of a day off from school, shopping sales, and the day when pools open. In Israel, it is much sadder, not only because everyone has had the experience of the army but also because nearly all Israelis know either a fallen soldier or a civilian who died in an attack. This year, we attended the Tekes on the kibbutz, which is organized by the 13-year-olds as part of their b’nai mitzvah year. Even though we design the Tekes for Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron, these kids experiences were different because the kibbutz itself has had twelve members who died either to fight for and protect Israel or were victims. Singing Hatikva was especially touching because we got to sing about loving and wanting to protect Eretz Israel with Israelis who feel the pain and importance of this day and of keeping the memories and stories alive. Naturally, we broke out into small groups afterwards to process our experience.

After a long, exhausting day, we were told to pack for our move to Jerusalem and go to sleep early. We *may* have tried to have a little חינגה (one of our early Hebrew slang words, chinga, which means party), because even though we’re all tired, we all want to make the most out of every minute we have in Israel!