December 7, 2013
December 6, 2013
We woke up this morning to the pitter patter of rain from outside, it was unusually cold and rainy today compared to the warm weather we have had for the past week and a half in Israel. We had our usual routine of thirty minutes to get dressed and pack our backpack for the day ahead. We davened shacharit in the shule, ate breakfast in the dining hall, collected our lunch from the lobby and then boarded the bus to embark on the final day of our Ulpan Or program.
The first part of Ulpan involved learning new vocabulary and reading texts in Hebrew that were going to assist us in our last Ulpan excursion to the Kalah Prison. Before venturing off on our excursion we had a small graduation ceremony in which each of the groups prepared a performance that we was later shared. It was a wonderful and fun way to sum up our Ulpan Experience.
At noon we boarded the bus for a short drive to the Kalah Prison which since the 90’s has been a museum. Before starting our tour we all sat down and ate our packed lunch consisting of a role with either tuna, avocado, egg, cheese, hummus or if you are fussy like me a plain role and green salad. The tour began with a short film focusing on the story of a Jewish man and his time in the prison. Afterwards, our Ulpan teachers led us from room to room explaining each one’s significance and often sharing a meaningful and true story about life in the Prison. We visited a normal cell and then a special cell that homed those who were sick or had a white collar. Additionally, we passed the old clothing storeroom, the bakery and the toilets. We also got to see the tunnel that was created and resulted in the escape of 12 prisoners. Our guide informed us on the incredible story of Rabbi Ariel Levin who used to visit the Jewish prisoners on Shabbat and memorize the messages they wanted to send to their families and loved ones. We were then told about Meir Feeshtine and Moshe Brazuainu who were sentenced to execution in Jerusalem but refused to die in the holy city for the whole population to see so they smuggled a grenade into the prison through an orange in which they blew themselves up prior to their execution. Overall the prison was quite interesting and the experience definitely broadened our knowledge of the resistance against the British prior to the Jewish State of Israel.
Following Ulpan, IST was split into two groups, Bus One consisted of those who went to the mall and then the Blind Muesum and Bus Two were those who first went to the Blind Museum and then to the mall. I was on bus One so after a 40 minute drive our group went to a mall in Rishon. Everyone split up and did their own thing, some bought clothes or items for Gadna (the army training we will be participating in next week) whilst others just browsed around the shops enjoying the freedom. As it was 4:15pm, my stomach was ready for some afternoon tea so I ventured to Aroma, IST’s favourite coffee shop, and ordered an Iced chocolate. In the Chanukah spirit I also devoured a donut filled with cream and topped with white chocolate in Oreos from a well known pastry shop called Roladin. I literally rolled back onto the bus, as I was so full, for a half an hour bus ride to the Blind Museum.
The Blind Museum brought a few nerves and a slightly anxious vibe as many of us didn’t know what to expect. We were greeted by the friendly face of Roi who briefly explained that we were about to embark on an hour journey through the perception of a blind person, thus in absolute darkness. We were split into groups of 10, each group with their own individual guide. Our guide was named Talia and we met her in absolute darkness so we had no idea what she looked like. It was so dark that opening and closing your eyes would make no difference to what you were capable of seeing. Throughout the experience we went into different settings including a re-created rainforest, boat, street, shuk, park and bar in which we were forced to use our other four senses in order to get around. Talia guided us from room to room by using her voice and we were asked to touch things in order to work out was they were for example working out a number plate on a car or finding a bench somewhere in the room to sit on.
Bumping into walls and people became a regular occurrence however as the experience continued we became less anxious and it became easier to use our other senses for direction. Nearing to the end we had a ‘Dialogue in the Dark’ in which every group spoke to their individual guide about their challenges of being visually impaired or blind as well as discussing our experience in the museum. Talia informed us that she has been blind since birth so she has no idea what colour looks like and when she feels things she can only imagine what they look like but the image in her head could be completely incorrect. We found out that she is a qualified high school teacher who has taught in American and Israeli schools and she is married to a sighted person. She left us with the message to make the most out of life and every situation as even though she is blind she gets the most out of life and is so happy whereas many people in the world who have everything and aren’t happy. The whole experience really mind-boggled a lot of us and also made us truly appreciate the gift of sight and how fortunate we are. We slowly made our way into the light and finally got to see Talia for the first time. We were all stunned as each of us had a picture in our head of what she looked like but what we saw was completely different. Overall the blind museum was an incredible and unforgettable experience that I am so glad I got to experience.
Next we travelled to the restaurant Grill 443 for dinner where we met the other half of IST. The room was filled with chatter as we discussed the great moments we had just experienced. We had classic Israeli foods encompassing dips of hummus, beetroot, cabbage, salsa, cucumber and potato with pita for starters and the delicious meatballs and chicken skewers with hot chips for main course. It was very tasty and as usual I ate way too much. We were fortunate enough to have a Moriah graduate, Josh Bloom, who joined the army last year have dinner with us and give us a short talk about his involvement in the Israeli Army. By 10:30pm we boarded the bus, everyone eagerly ready to get back to the hostel so that we could pack our bags for the free weekend ahead of us.