After an amazing night out in Tel Aviv, Bus 235 started Day 8 with a trip to Israel’s Independence Museum. Through a short movie and moving lecture, we learned about the struggle to establish a permanent Jewish state. We listened with great excitement to audio clips of Ben Gurion ‘s speech from 1948 declaring Israel’s independence. Sitting in the actual room in which the speech was made recreated the atmosphere from the original speech, allowing us to experience a special moment in history.
Outside the Independence Museum we stopped to enjoy some coffee and pastries. After originally being told by our staff, memeber Jonathan that we would be walking the four miles from the Independence Museum to Jaffa, it was revealed that Jonathan was joking. We were not amused. Fortunately, Jonathan’s joke had a good ending. Instead of walking, we would be taking the bus and, more importantly, have free time at the beach!
We next visited the city of Jaffa, known as the “Gate to Zion“ because of how many Jews entered Israel from its port. It is a historical city that has retained its old world characteristics. We took a leisurely stroll through the town’s colorful street markets and ancient alleys, with a stop at a wonderful jewelry store where many of us bought gifts for friends and family. After lunch and checking out the local flea market, we took off our shoes and spent some much needed relaxation time on the beautiful beach of Tel Aviv.
Next was a stop at Yitzhak Rabin Square. Located in the center of Tel Aviv, the square serves as a powerful reminder of the awful event in 1995 when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated as he gave a speech about peace. We split up into groups and discussed the circumstances leading up to the assassination. It was clear that the assassination, perpetrated by an Israeli, had a devastating affect on the country. Our Israeli friends explained in great detail how the assassination divided Israel’s various factions, leading to even more uncertainty about the future for peace.
Leaving Tel Aviv behind, we drove two hours south to the Negev Desert where we stayed at an authentic Bedouin camp. Dinner was served in the traditional style, with laffa bread, chicken, hummus and more. Per Bedouin style, we ate only with our hands. After dinner we enjoyed a standup comedy performance from our fellow participant, David Jonas, as well as a talk from the camp’s leader about the history of the Bedouin people. To cap off a long day, Bus 235 gathered around a bonfire, sung songs and enjoyed each other’s company.
Unlike previous nights on the trip, where we enjoyed hotel or kibbutz rooms with modern amenities, at the Bedouin camp all 43 of us slept under the same “roof” in a large tent. Despite some snoring and a smelly foot or two, we all finally fell asleep. One big happy family.
Alexander Ripps , Washington DC and Mirav Argaman, Israel