Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Spirit of the Negev

By Sam Ware

In the last two days we’ve moved south into our next part of our trip with our new Israeli friends – IDF soldiers who will travel with us for the next five days. Our trip so far has dealt mainly with the sights and sounds of Israel, but now with the soldiers we are fortunate to experience the country from the Israeli perspective. The soldiers hail from around Israel and are positioned throughout the country in K-9, intelligence, naval surveillance and public relations units. Already we’ve had amazing times with our guests from bus jam sessions, camel rides in the Negev and floating in the Dead Sea, but the most exciting part of meeting these Israelis is hearing their personal stories. No historic spot or tour guide can replace hearing the first-hand accounts of Israel from the people who know it best. For many of us, talking and meeting Israelis our own age could possibly be the highlight of the trip.

After meeting the Israelis we traveled south to Negev desert and the Bedouin Tents. While the tents are certainly no 5-star Sheraton they can offer their own unique amenities because right after arriving we went on camel rides and experienced a traditional (and amazing!) Bedouin meal. We then experienced an extremely moving activity where the group left the camp and entered the desert to symbolize the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel and receiving the name Israel. The fading lights of the Bedouin tent and the surrounding beauty of the Negev allowed us to visualize the biblical story of Jacob. We then discussed the meaning and significance of our English and Hebrew names, which to me was the most moving and spiritual part of the trip so far. Hearing the stories and symbolism behind our names helped each us to learn about each other and connect us to the biblical significance of Jacob’s story.

Unfortunately the beautiful weather we’ve had in Israel finally broke with much needed rain. Because of the rain we could not watch the sunrise on Massada the next day, but did eventually make it to the mountain. We then floated in the dead (and cold) Sea and finally made it to the highlight of our trip – Jerusalem! A few hours ago I had my first Shabbat in the city, making this a very special New Year’s! Having this opportunity to blog from the holy city reminds me how lucky we were to first leave NYC before the snow and to experience my first Shabbat mere feet from the Western Wall. No longer will it be “Next time in Jerusalem” since I’m finally here!

Happy New Year’s and Shabbat Shalom from Israel! And Dad, I promise to shovel when I get back to New York.

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