Day 19 - Free Weekend (Lehava)
We had an early and exciting 6:30am wake up on Friday morning. We were all so excited to see what our free weekend would bring. After three hectic weeks on IST, a weekend break sounded amazing!
We packed our bags, organised our presents for our host families and got on the Netanya and Haifa buses. Although most of us were really tired, the atmosphere was pumping and we were all talking about our plans for the weekend.
I was going on free weekend with two of my friends. When the bus doors opened at BIG Poleg Centre we were welcomed by my great aunt and uncle with huge hugs, I was so excited to be there!
We struggled to fit all 3 of our heavy bags into the car but eventually we all squeezed inside. Driving on the highway towards the infamous Moshav Avichail that I had heard so much about.
It was so nice to be at a home after being at hotels. When we got there we all sat down in the kitchen table to an array of delicious cakes and treats. We began catching up on everything since their last visit to Sydney and our experiences on IST so far.
They told us that my cousins from the Golan Heights and from Jerusalem were coming for Shabbat, which meant they would arrive at lunch time and stay for the night which was so great to hear.
I didn't realise how much family I had in Israel!! Even though a lot of my mom's cousins live here I hadn't met most of them. At lunch time my cousins who live on the moshav arrived and my cousins all the way from Golan Heights. We all sat around the table and it was so cool to see my cousins face to face after seeing them in photos. Even though our lives are so contrasting and we had such an incredible amount to catch up on, there was no awkwardness.
For a few hours after lunch we all helped prepare for Shabbat dinner, cutting vegetables and setting the table and then we got ready for Shabbat. At dinner time more of my cousins arrived and there were seventeen of us around the table! It was really amazing; everyone was here for my friends and I. I was really overwhelmed to finally meet my Israeli mishpacha.
After a delicious home cooked meal we were sooo tired and really ready to go to sleep. My cousin Adiv who lived next door said that he would take us somewhere cool tomorrow and when we wake up we should go knock on his door.
We had the joy of not needing to wake up at a certain time and we really took advantage of that!
When we eventually woke up we went to have breakfast which was the best Israeli cereal and fresh fruit. Adiv and his little boys took us to Alexander River, a beautiful nature reserve in the area. We walked through the park admiring the different nature there.
Throughout this time I was thinking how amazing it really is that I have cousins all the way in Israel that have a life of their own and a family of their own. Even though they are so different to my family we are all so similar too!
We walked to a pop up store that sold delicious pita and laffa with yummy fillings. We sat down in a park and talked whilst we ate. After this we went home. One of the boys came back to our house and we played some seriously intense games of Uno! Although the afternoon was simply spent doing more chilling and eating, it was so relieving to just relax and have a break from the hectic schedule of IST.
It was really so amazing seeing a more authentic side of Israeli life and seeing how my Israeli relatives use Shabbat as an opportunity to spend time together. I love how on a Moshav all the neighbours know each other and help each other out.
To be honest, I found it a bit scary when I was asked to write the blog about free weekend. Realistically, it could have been quite uneventful for some. However, I can definitely say that for me personally, it was one of my most enjoyable parts of the trip. I'm so happy that my friends and I chose Netanya for our free weekend because we got to see another side to Israel through another side of my family.