This is my Kivulife
This blog has definitely been on the back of my mind and every day I think of something new and creative to share with y’all. Since it’s been a while, I hope you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the recap of the past 10 days or so.
To finish up with orientation… After leaving Sde Boker, we traveled down south to a placed called Yerucham for more hiking and bonding activities. On our way to Yerucham, we stopped at an unrecognized Bedouin village to stay the night and learn about their culture. It was such an interesting night to say the least. Usually when traveling to a Bedouin community with a tourist group, you usually get the VIP treatment - camel rides, turkish coffee, hot fresh food, plush pillows and mattresses, etc. But we are not on any ordinary trip. On KIVUNIM they want us to get the non-tourist treatment, to do what others would not usually do. We arrived in the middle of nowhere and met with one of the elders of the community, Abu Yusef (Father Joseph). There were no paved roads to his house; no running water in his home or village, no electricity but from the portable generator. He spoke about growing up as a Bedouin (through a translator) and shared a few funny stories about his 18 children. After a delicious dinner (completely Americanized…we had Burgers) it was time for bed. We all thought we would be sleeping in a Bedouin tent under the stars, with a nice fire keeping us warm. But no, again as Kivunimers, all 58 of us crammed into a shack with sleeping bags. It took a solid 3 hours for all of us to finally fall asleep. Even at 19 years old, we still get the late-night giggles.
The next day, we got up bright and early to meet with 3 inspirational Bedouin women. These women went against their social norms to get an education, create a name for themselves, and spread their story. The first women we met, was named Amal El Sana. When Peter introduced her to the group, he explained that with his first encounter with this extraordinary woman several years ago, he remarked to those around him that “I had just met the first Arab Prime Minister of the State of Israel!” This is how powerful and compelling she is. She began her story at age 5 years old when Amal was a little shepherd girl like her ancestors of 1000’s of year. Each morning she took a flock of goats, a few donkeys and a dog out to the field to graze. It was hard to imagine. This little girl went alone into the desert day after day without a second thought. But the woman standing before us was no traditional Bedoui. She is a powerhouse of political savvy, a pure feminist, she obtains raw impressive intelligence, and as her name literally means, she is full of HOPE. We learned of her imaginative refusal to accept the Patriarchal and Tribal roadblocks constantly put in her way: for an education of quality, for choice of husband, for political and social equality for women and for full citizenship as part of the Arab minority within the Jewish State of Israel for men and women alike. Today, Amal has been the recipient of many awards and much public recognition. After her speech, we all gave her a standing ovation - we all knew something magical had just occurred.
After the Bedouin experience, we traveled to Yerucham to continue our orientation. We stayed in this Hostel that did not have an elevator. This is something we’re going to have to get used to; many of the places we’ll be staying abroad at will not have elevators and we’re going to have to haul our stuff up many flights of stairs. I’m glad I packed smart - I have a traveling backpack so everything can be stored on my back - it rocks.
During one of our hikes in the Negev, our tour guide got a text saying that Gilad Shalit was back in Israel. Gilad is an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas militants on 25 June 2006, while in active service. In the first few weeks of October, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Hamas had finally agreed to a prisoner exchange deal that would secure Shalit’s safe return. As part of the deal, Israel agreed to release 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners. It was a bitter-sweet moment for everyone. We were all so happy to hear and see that Gilad was safe and healthy, but on the other hand, we were sad to see 1027 murderers, bus bombers, and terrorists go free. When we returned to the hostel, we all sat and watched the news for hours, with hundreds of emotions running through our veins.
Simchat Torah, ”Rejoicing with the Torah”, is a celebration marking the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah Readings, and the beginning of a new cycle. To celebrate, we went to a Moroccan synagogue to sing, dance, and pray with their congregation. It was such an amazing experience. The members of the synagogue did not speak any English, so our only means of communication was by singing the similar tunes of the prayers, laughing, and dancing with the Torahs. A few of the congregants were Persian, so I was able to converse a bit with some of the ladies, but my Farsi isn’t at any level to get past the meet and greet of a conversation.
On October 21, we finally got to Jerusalem to celebrate our second Shabbat together. Being able to finally unpack our bags, meet our new roommates, and have a place to call home has never felt so great. We had friday night services in the park overlooking the Old City and enjoyed a nice Shabbat dinner in Beit Shumel. Beit Shumel is our upscale hostel in Jerusalem. It’s a 7 minute walk from the famous Ben Yehudah Street, the fun bars and clubs, and a 3 minute walk from Mamila Mall (a mall that includes fun cafes and shops). Our classes and meals are also hosted here. Most of the week we are served all three meals, but a few times a week we are given the option to go out into Jerusalem and eat at restaurants, cafes, bars, etc. We are also conveniently located next to a YMCA. A bunch of my friends and I bought memberships and go everyday together. We even attended a few group fitness classes that were taught in all hebrew. It was pretty funny trying to figure out what exactly we were supposed to be doing, but we got the main gist of it.
Our academic schedule is long and intense (i’ll post a picture of it for you). We have Arabic and Hebrew classes as well as Middle Eastern Studies and Civilization/Society lectures. Next week our first essay on Greek Culture is due, and on the 18th we are headed off to Greece and Bulgaria! I’m in the lowest level of Hebrew and Arabic, but I’m learning fast and improving. I’ve been using both languages in my daily life (ordering food at restaurants and talking to the Arabic Beit Shumel staff) however, most people recognize my American accent and just reply to me in English.
It’s been so fun here and I’m really having a blast. My friends are so great and I’m truly starting to feel like I’m at home. I would love to continue writing, but I have to go get some work done :(
STAY TUNED… I have stories about traveling through the Old City, Halloween in the Holy Land, Girls Weekend in Tel Aviv, and the adventures of my first time getting sick away from home!
Thanks for reading and make sure to check out my facebook for more pictures!