It’s hard to believe it has already been 5 days since I said goodbye to by friends and family. It’s also hard to believe it has only been 5 days since I left. On one hand, the time is already flying by, and on the other, I feel like I’ve been here for a month.
We left the Jewish Agency building on Wednesday and headed south for our Opening Tiyul, or trip. But first we stopped at an overlook outside of Jerusalem called Yamim Moshe, where we said Shechianu. This was also our first real introduction to Israeli weather – it was hot!
From Jerusalem, we made our way south to the town of Arad and the Arad Youth Hostel. On our way, we also stopped to learn about some Israeli current events and taste the fruit of the Locust tree (otherwise known as Carob).
We turned in early that night, so that we could be ready for our 5:30am wake up call the next morning. Yes, you read that right! After downing several cups of instant coffee (for some reason I love this stuff!) we grabbed our 3 liters of water and hopped on the bus for the short drive to Nachal Gov. The hike at Nachal Gov was amazing! Ladders, ropes, steep climbs and rock scrambles. It was exactly up my alley and a real learning experience for many in the group who had to push themselves way outside of their normal boundaries. After hiking we headed to Tsell Harim, a hotel and spa on the Dead Sea for some lunch and swimming. It was the perfect post-hike reward!
Later that night, after dinner and a safety and security briefing, we were allowed to leave the hostel to explore Arad, visit the music festival, or, if you are me, finally go for a run! I was only able to fit in 15 minutes that night, but it was just enough to help me feel like I was not falling into a trap of not working out that would perpetuate more laziness.
The next morning we were up just as early to hike to the Hidden Waterfall at Nachal Agurout. This is an amazing oasis in the middle of the desert. Our sweet reward for this hike was the chance to swim in the waterfall. After a short return hike we were off to our next stop, the Almog Guest House, where we would celebrate our first Shabbat together as Otzmanikim.
A beautiful Kabbalat Shabbat was led by a few participants. To hear a group of 50 voices come together in the prayers and tunes that I grew up singing at home, camp or Day School. It was truly moving to hear all of our voices rise in sync as we all realized we knew the same melodies.
This Shabbat felt really special, and I think it was the knowledge that it was the first of many!
Ok, so now it is getting late on Sunday night and I should be unpacking my room in the Mercaz Klitah (absorption center), but we have wi-fi so I will definitely keep you posted!