Originally posted on the URJ Camp Kalsman blog.
Gazing over the Mediterranean Sea at Jaffa Gate was my fist chance to sit and absorb the fact I was in Israel. Along with me were 44 other people experiencing the vision of beauty that I was. While looking at the sea we were all of turning our heads every which way to get a look at whom we were going to spend a whole month with. All of us were anxious to meet everyone but excited to start the adventure of exploring Israel.
After spending a fun filled three days in Tel Aviv by going to an archeological site and having a wonderful Shabbat we then packed our bags and headed to our next leg of the journey. The Negev.
When we first were told we would be spending four days in the desert we were less than excited. No showers, no Wi-Fi, and we would be hiking for a majority of the day. Even though they tried to salvage the announcement by explaining we would be going to the beach during the hot hours of the day, our minds were still fixed on the fact we would be hiking in the desert. One positive aspect about this daunting journey was that it would be a good bonding opportunity for the group. No one knew each other and we figured this would be the perfect setting for us to bond.
We left our hostel and were now heading to the Negev, this trip was becoming a reality and there was no turning back. While looking out the window I could see the landscape starting to shift, no more metropolitan style buildings but instead Bedouin tents lined up against the highway and barren sand spread out for miles. Our counselor soon there after said throughout the bus that we were now in the Negev. Even though we had a long day of getting to the Negev we were now to go on our first hike. Looking back this was one of the most memorable hikes I went on. After hiking for about 20 minutes or so I came to a plateau, just beyond this plateau in the distance was the Red Sea. I soon came to realize this is the sea that parted its water’s to lead Jewish people into the land of Israel. The Jewish people walked the same path I walked to enter the land of Israel. This was one the many full circle moments I had during my trip this summer. I had heard about the Red Sea parting and the Jewish people walking into Israel but to see it and walk it is a moment I will never forget.
The next day we were up bright and early to go on a hike up one of the tallest mountains in Israel, Mt. Shlomo. Each one of us had our struggles and difficulties to overcome during this strenuous climb but with the bond that our group had we all finished with smiles on our faces.
Throughout NFTY in Israel there are many moments to bond with your group and to have those special moments everyone tells you about. But traveling to the Negev as our first excursion was perfect. We came together when all of us needed the support and the encouragement to get up the mountains that seem so intimidating. Once we experienced what the Negev had to offer nothing could break the bond our group had.
While trekking up and down Israel I laughed, cried, ate falafel and walked the history of my ancestors. By praying at the Kotel, to hiking in the Golan Heights, floating in the Dead Sea, witnessing the sunrise up over Masada, and eating endless amounts of falafel this trip is an unforgettable experience. This trip is irreplaceable nothing can or will compare to the summer I had on NFTY in Israel with Group Seven during the summer of 2011.