Penultimate Post: Days 6 through 8 in Israel with Jesse Hartman

Day 6-

The morning begins with another average hotel breakfast. We toured the Old City of Jerusalem some more, stopping at King David’s Tomb and the Western Wall again. Jerusalem is beautiful and our guide Elad is as awesome and informational as always. I branched out this time at lunchtime going for falafel instead of shawarma. It was fantastic and the vendors are always pretty impressed that I can order my desired fries, veggies and hummus to go inside the pita. The major program for the rest of the day was Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum. The whole experience was incredibly moving, and we also had a group discussion afterwards that was pretty intense. The evening took a turn for the more upbeat as we went on the light rail towards our familiar bar area in Jerusalem. Tonight the US played Portugal in the World Cup. Everyone partook in a very loud and lyrically accurate rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. The cold air forced everyone into one bar, which made for a very fun time drinking Goldstar and dancing. We grew a bit weary of the scene eventually and returned back to the hotel just in time to see Portugal dramatically snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat.

Day 7-

The conclusion of our stay in Jerusalem also marks the culmination of our trifecta of our emotional days with a visit to Mt. Hertzl the military cemetery. Seeing our visiting soldiers so affected by the gravesites was powerful stuff. Next we’ll be having a long drive into the desert towards the Bedouin tent where we’ll be staying the night. We stopped at a beautiful overlook in the desert that overlooked Kfar Hanokdim where we will be staying. As Elad says it’s not really rough camping, but it’s not like Disney World. We all will stay under one big tent that has outlets and running water. Before eating we do our camel and donkey rides, which consisted of a stroll of a few hundred yards, but it was still a hilarious and neat experience. Dinner was actually pretty delicious with lamb meatballs and fresh couscous and hummus. We had a lovely free night smoking hookah and playing guitar around the campfire. A few of our friends and I also went into the main tent to watch the Brazil/Cameroon game. After the game we stayed up to watch the beautiful stars as Aviel played his guitar for us. It was a very magical experience that again resulted in a distinct lack of sleep.

Day 8-

We woke up pretty early in the morning to hike up Masada. Breakfast was fairly decent with the typical cold items like herring and salad. Masada was amazing. Beautiful ruins and an amazing view from the top of the peak are well worth spending time in the sun for. We descended down the Snake Path (~2000 feet of stairs) to the bus to take us to lunch and the Dead Sea. Lunch at the Ein Gedi spa was truly wretched, but paid for by our program. The Dead Sea itself was absolutely phenomenal. It was an experience that cannot be replicated. The water was like a bathtub and stung like crazy and the mud was wonderfully to cake on from head to toe. We were a bit rushed as we had to head off to the Taglit Mega Event. Mega is essentially a giant party for nearly 4,000 Taglit participants. There was a concert and Prime Minister Netanyahu came and spoke which was incredible. On the way, we stopped at another mall for dinner and Billy and I decided to try Israeli McDonalds. The portions were much bigger and the food seemed fresher, but it was a lot more expensive than its American counterpart. At night we stayed at the Blue Bay Hotel in Netanya, where we checked out some beach raves that were complete with Israeli trance music and populated by high school graduates. We eventually got booted; Mt. surely we stuck out like sore thumbs, and went off to bed.

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