A Travellerspoint blog

Israel

Last day of Sar-El :(

Today was a short day. The last day on base, we had a little problem with the quantity of breakfast that they provided compared to the number of people who were supposed to eat it. One of our madricha had to go fight for us to get food, but she made sure everybody was fed. We spent the morning cleaning, had lunch, and then took off from the base.When I arrived at the Herzliya bus station, I called my cousin to make sure I was walking the rightway back to their house. Just at that moment, another one of my cousins came up to me. It was total coincidence that she was there at the same time as me, but it worked out as she walked me home.The evening’s focus was on good food. We made an apple dessert that was delicious. We went toJaponika, where I got pad thai. (Yes, Thai food at a Japanese place. Whatever, I just wanted something with flavor and that they didn’t serve on base.) I made sure that I was set for the next day, as the whole morning would be spent traveling. Then, I went to bed.

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Entebbe 1

Wednesday morning, I worked with Anastasia again. This lifted my spirits as I knew that we were being as efficient as possible, and I think it lifted her spirits to have us. We had a lot of fun packing things and moving things.Plus, the Russian old folks were extra funny to watch. Some of them had taken hard-boiled eggs from breakfast and put the eggs in their pockets. (In contrast, some of them had tupperware containers to put the breakfast leftovers in.) I’m always reminded of Napoleon Dynamite whenever people shove unpackaged food into their pockets. As the group is mostly elderly women, they are always given very light work- folding, labeling, etc. One of the 2 guys decided that he was going to help us do the “heavy” lifting we were doing, despite the fact that he didn’t know what we were doing and couldn’t really lift the bags. His stubbornness was absolutely adorable (maybe because it reminded me of some people related to me).Towards the end of the morning, they cleaned up and put plastic down on the table (again reminding me of some quirks I adore in people I love). The base commander brought in a New Year’s party for the Russians. We got to partake in the juice and food because we were there, but mostly I was just happily amused by the antics of the old folks. In the afternoon, some of the volunteers got a little wild as we were all mostly in the same area and we finished the work earlier than planned. It was our last day of work, so we just all went back to the barracks to get rested and cleaned before our guest speakers arrived. We had originally planned to stop work at least somewhat early, because today we had some special guests- 2 people who were rescued from Entebbe. After the evening activity the night before, it was quite interesting to hear the story first-hand. There were some aspects that we would never have thought about on our own, but the lady who was speaking brought up. She seemed very conscious of every thought, every emotion, every process that was happening throughout the time in Uganda. She was great at explaining the intricacies of what people were saying, thinking, and planning from the captive side. Her analysis seemed like it had been well-thought out, as if she does this every day. (She doesn’t though; she has a “regular” life.) She seems extremely well-adjusted considering what she had beennthrough, but she did explain to us some of her mental scars that aren’t apparent just by meeting her. In addition to the afternoon activity, we still had our last evening activity of the trip. In this one, we used paper slips with our names on it to assign superlatives to the group. Some were funny, like “Most Obsessed with Shoko” or “Biggest Hit with the Soldier Boys.” Even the less funny ones became funny, just because of how the voting turned out. By the end, I was cracking up. As we finished the activity, people were just being so hilarious that I started laughing so hard that I was struggling to breathe and went to grab my inhaler, which of course was hilarious and made me laugh harder, making the whole situation worse. Really, this was just another example of how awesome the people on my trip were.

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Last Week

Tuesday was... interesting. Breakfast was even weaker than normal, which sucked at the time. It ended up ok because when I got to the warehouse I was going to work in for the day, they started with a food break. The soldiers working there pulled out cans of corn, fruit cocktail, tuna fish, baked beans, pickles, and olives. They had breakfast out of the cans and shared with us. I suppose when you're tired of tomatoes and cucumbers even corn mixed with tuna sounds good, just because it's different. I didn't stoop that low, but I did partake in some of the other food.

After breakfast, we pressed the soldiers for work, and they set us to folding some of the large vehicle covers. So far, so good. However, the next task frustrated me. We were to take all of the items that we counted on the very first day off the shelves, put them into boxes, mark the boxes with the quantity, and return them to the shelves. I was asking myself why we couldn't have just put everything in boxes on the first day and saved all of this work. But, I did it anyway. To be fair, I actually had a lot of fun boxing the items as long as I allowed myself to ignore the inefficiency of the tasks. The team I was working with really made the difference between frustrated boxing and fun boxing. Also, the soldiers were entertaining us while we worked. Some of them were filming a video involving them rolling around on chairs and shooting staple guns at each other. There were quite a few bloopers and the whole thing was hilarious. When they weren't shooting at each other, I did get a chance to talk to some of the soldiers, some of whom were Druze. (For those who don't know, the Druze religion is an offshoot of Islam that is about 1000 years old. A long time ago, it was closed to conversions, so you are either born Druze, or you can never be.) One of the soldiers and I had a very interesting conversation about how his family feels about him maintaining (or not) status within the religion. We also talked about his opinion on the religious elders and some of their decisions that had affected him personally. It was very interesting to hear his opinions on some of those topics.

Lunch was good enough to make up for breakfast though. I was particularly tired in the afternoon, and started off with making boxes and unloading skids. When we were about done with our time, we took a break and I found a coloring book, which excited me. I ended work with a big smile because I got to color in one of the guy's coloring books. The evening activity was talking about the Entebbe Rescue. The situation starts out sad and scary as people are hijacked and held hostage. However, it ends (mostly) happily with a daring rescue that brings most people back to their families. We were split into groups and got to act out the various scenes of the hijacking and rescue. Hilarious! This is another example of how the people in my group were fabulous and made the trip great. After our hilariously poor rendition of the events, we watched an old movie about the event that had slightly better acting. While there were a bunch of ups and downs, this definitely helped make me feel like I was experiencing "real life," which was part of the purpose of this trip.

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Field trip!

Today was field trip day, so we didn't work today either. Instead, we piled on to a minibus and headed off to do some touring of the north. Two soldiers from the base, Harry and Lloyd, came with us as guards. They looked pretty funny in their swim trunks and flip flops with their M16s, but looks aren't everything, right? Oh yeah, turns out that they may have forgotten ammo. If somebody attacked us, they would have had to make gun noises with their mouths to scare the attackers away. In any case, the day was completely peaceful so it didn't really matter.

Our first stop was the Tsippori olive factory. Before we even got to the part where the lady who owned the place told us about anything, one of our Madrichot slipped and fell. She messed up her foot pretty badly, but she still carried on. To be fair, we were literally carrying her as she was having some trouble walking, but she wouldn't let us interrupt our tour to do anything with her foot besides wrap it. On a happier note, the factory building itself was pretty amazing. The lady explained that it was made of stacked bales of hay that were covered in mud and then sealed with a coating of olive oil and egg albumen. The windows were recycled bottles. The whole thing was built by her and her family on the site of an old barn. Inside the factory, she explained the olive oil making process to us. She had an ancient grindstone brought in from Italy so that she could crush the olives the old-fashioned way. Using modern machinery with knives heats the oil too much for her taste. Heating the oil at any stage increases the acidity, she explained, and the highest quality olive oil has lower acidity. She also showed us the cold press, where they press the ground up olives for oil (using a cold process, again to prevent acidity). Finally, she showed us where the oil goes when it is complete. Once we were done learning about the oils, it was time for us to taste them. We were fed lebne, pita, veggies, dip, and a selection of oils. They were all pretty good.

When we were done eating, it was back to the bus for us. Harry and Lloyd sang for us on the way to our next stop. I felt a little bit like I was at camp, except that they were the only ones singing as they were the only ones who knew the words. I was very amused. Additionally, they were fooling around. These guys were behaving as if they were let out of their cages for the first time in a long time. Or, maybe they were just acting as if they were 18 year old boys. I haven't been around any 18 year old boys in a while, so perhaps what I saw was normal.

Eventually, we stopped for lunch in Kiryat Shmona. Janice and I made a beeline for the falafel stand. As usual, it was delicious. Next, we stopped off at the grocery store that was inside the bus station mall. By this point, I was so used to opening my bag for a bag security check at the entrance, that I was ready right as I walked up. Fortunately, I was able to replace or get a substitute for all of the foods that were in my bag that I left on the bus yesterday.

Our next stop on the field trip was a mountain right next to Metula. Metula is a town on the northern border with Lebanon. From the mountaintop, you can see the buffer zone between the city and Lebanon, as well as the border and the Lebanese mountains. If you look to the right instead of the left, you can see Mt. Hermon and the Syrian mountains. The view was pretty cool.

From there, we went to the site of a memorial. In 1997, two Israeli helicopters crashed into each other, killing 73 soldiers. Near the site of that crash, there is a memorial with 73 stones in a circle and all of the names of the soldiers in a pool of water in the middle. Off to the side, in some woods, there are more private memorials to each soldier.

Our final tourist stop on the field trip was at a park with a little stream running through it. There were some waterfalls in the park, as well as signs saying not to swim as there is a drowning danger. I'm guessing that at a different time of year, the water has to be higher. We ignored the sign and went in anyway as the water was about up to my thighs at the highest. I didn't really think anybody was going to drown. After the nice "swim" we hiked back to the bus and got ready to return to our base.

The Madrichot must have been in good moods though. They let us all stop at a rest stop on the way back and grab dinner there instead of eating on the base. I had matbucha and an extremely large ice cream. Both of those were very pleasant meals, not because they were particularly great, but because they were different. The lack of variety of food on base was really starting to wear on me. If I was getting bored of cucumbers and tomatoes after not even 3 weeks (with breaks on the weekends). I can't even imagine how bored the soldiers must be after 3 years. I'm surprised any of them ever eat tomatoes and cucumbers again.

HelicopterMemorial

HelicopterMemorial


Olive grinding stones

Olive grinding stones


Playing in the stream

Playing in the stream


Bottle windows

Bottle windows


Waterfall in the park

Waterfall in the park


Lebanon and Metula

Lebanon and Metula

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Boring Sunday

I got a bus from Be'er Sheva to Tel Aviv, where the group was meeting. In my rush to be on time, I ended up forgetting a bag on the bus. I no longer had all of the food I bought at the fabulous grocery store over the weekend, the present I bought my grandma, my sweatshirt, and my towel. While most of those items were easily replaceable, I did need a towel to shower during the week. Fortunately, we were running on "Israeli time" and we would end up waiting at least 40 minutes after our pickup time at the bus station before we moved to our bus. So, I ran around the bus station, looking for a store that sold bath towels. I was successful on my mission! It wasn't the best quality towel, but it would dry me sufficiently. Eventually, we did get out of the bus station. Since it was a bus just for Sar-El, we dropped off some other folks and picked up some of our folks who had spent the weekend in the north and were waiting at a station other than Tel Aviv. Finally, we got to the base and had lunch. Another surprise was waiting for us- because the inspection was today, there was no work for us. We spent the afternoon just hanging out. Maybe it's because I wasn't constantly doing something, but today was the first day I felt a little homesick. I got over it pretty quickly though. Other than losing my stuff and the frantic search for a towel, it really was a boring day, which happens from time to time in "real life," so I was pretty ok with it.

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