December 22, 2013
I woke up excited for the day ahead after hearing from the other group about their experience at Save a Child’s Heart. When we arrived at Save a Childs Heart (SACH); everyone was really looking forward to interacting with the children and to the opportunity of bringing a smile to the kids faces. Save a Child’s Heart is an Israeli-based international humanitarian project, its mission is to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries who suffer from heart disease, SACH is motivated by the Jewish tradition of Tikkun Olam - repairing the world.
We listened to an introduction about the foundation and their success in making a difference in the quality of the children’s lives. We watched a short clip about a young girl named Betty and her struggle with heart disease and how the foundation helped her overcome her illness and continue to live a normal life. Something that particularly stuck me in the video was the quote “A child is a child, a life is a life” this highlights that regardless of where the children come from, they all deserve to live a healthy life.
After watching the film we were lucky enough to be provided with the chance to play with the children. At first I felt this overwhelming sadness when the children came out to meet us, to see the difference between our lives and Stella and Daniel’s lives who are our age. This highlighted how privileged we are and emphasized my appreciation of living the lives we live in Sydney. However, seeing the smiles on the children’s faces as a result of our presence, made me feel much happier. I came to the realization that these children are so lucky to be selected and cured by Save a Child’s Heart.
Together with the children we coloured in cards in order to take them home to sell them as part of a fundraiser. To watch the children smile as we played with them was heartwarming. SACH reinforced for me how precious our lives are and that we must not take life for granted. It made me extremely grateful for absolutely everything in my life. SACH is so special because it gives a child a second chance at life and that is the most incredible gift anyone could give.
We met the other group for lunch at a mall in the middle of nowhere. Imagine 100 teenagers all going to two restaurants in the period of one hour. The orders were flying around the sushi bar and chaos had hit the restaurant as Miriam our tour guide doubled as a waiter for the hour, trying to help out the staff. Aroma must have sold more iced coffees in that hour than in the whole week. Many people had to stock up on carrots because the food standard on IST didn't meet their fancy health requirements.
We then got back on the bus, everyone couldn’t wait to arrive at the Bedouin tents. The whole bus ride we sang songs and ate food, the excitement was tangible. On the way we passed the Gadna base, everyone was cheering and relieved that we had finished our service and that it was now a distant memory.
Following the bus ride we arrived at the tents and were welcomed by the camels. Everyone paired up and waited in a line to meet their camel. As we approached the camels, everyone was bubbling with excitement. The sunset was beautiful and everyone was taking photos as they prepared for the ride of a lifetime.You have to get onto the camel in sync with your partner otherwise the camel will take off without you. The camel had the most bizarre way of making its way onto its feet, you feel as though you on a massive roller coaster as it jolts back and forward on its knees.
After the exciting camel riding we set up the tents with sleeping bags and mattresses. Everyone then piled into one of the Bedouin tents for an introduction to their lifestyle and culture. We were greeted with hot black coffee and the comfort of mattresses while sitting on the floor and spoken to one of the Bedouin men. He taught the group about the way the Bedouins live. It is very different to how we live. Our Bedouin host taught us how to grind coffee as well as using the process to entertain the audience.
From the introduction we went straight to davening Maariv in the tent together while waiting to eat the delicious meal prepared by the Bedouins. The room was filled with the gourmet smell of Israeli food, the laffa and kebab. We all entered the tent in groups of five and sat around a triangular table on the floor. The Bedouin hosts brought out the food to each table one at a time, while everyone was eagerly waiting to receive their dinner. We ate our meal as though we were living in the Bedouin culture, we used the laffa as a plate and used fingers to eat the food, it definitely tastes better that way. To end off the meal we were served delicious tea with a side of date cookies and palmiers. Everyone was lying around on the floor because we were so full.
After dinner we ventured out into the desert and gathered on the rocky floor under the beautiful twinkling stars. We all had to make sure we had a buddy so we did not leave anyone behind in the desert. We lay on the rocks in a circle and were given the time to reflect and meditate about our trip so far, while gazing at the stars. Rabbi Benji spoke really well, relaxing us, and allowing us to think and process our past four weeks. Shlomo then shared a part of his army service with us and taught us how to read the stars. We all then gathered around and were counted to make sure no one had escaped. It was fun walking back in the pitch black.
We then all sat around in a circle around the campfire together and sang tish songs passionately. Together our voices took over the campsite and we could only hear the beautiful echoes of the songs. People started to fade away after a long and active day. We all huddled into the tent and had a massive pyjama party. We went to sleep in the warm tent with the sound of the crackling fire under the starry sky.