Day 15: Netzach, Israel - Nicola Weiss

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The morning of a typical IST day usually consists of 3 stages. The first being denial, namely the denial of the beeping of the alarm, the cold showers and the pained interaction between peers still half asleep. This leads to the second stage, regret. My regret may have possibly stemmed from my heavy eyelids, caused by the fact that my roommates and I stayed up until the early hours of the morning talking and laughing - ultimately resulting in me feeling as though I had closed my eyes for only 20 minutes before having to be up for a new day. The third stage, is acceptance. The acceptance that the breakfast may not be what we’re used to back in Sydney, however that there’s still food on our plates. The acceptance that although the tiredness may be slightly overbearing, we’re in for another day of a completely unique and life altering experience. Encompassed in today’s unique experiences was a guest speaker on a kibbutz literally on the border of Israel and Lebanon, a hike in the same place, a bike ride through the Chullah valley below, along with various other activities and experiences.

Upon embarking up north from our kibbutz in Hispin towards Misgave-Am (the kibbutz in which we’d hear our guest speaker), I was warned by a few people that the speaker in question is incredibly right wing and isn’t afraid to speak his mind, no matter how “unpolitically” correct he may be. For people at Moriah to be alarmed at the right wing nature of someone is really saying something because in my opinion I see Moriah as quite a right wing school, so I was preparing myself for a very “interesting” talk. However when we arrived to the kibbutz I noticed just how fascinating the situation was. The metal fence that borders Israel and Lebanon is quite literally the fence of the kibbutz. There, in front of a gorgeous panoramic view of Israel, of Lebanon and Syria - the only place in the world like it, we were introduced to Ari. Ari is 77 years old and has fought in every Israeli war since the 6-day war in 1967. He was born in Ohio and came to Israel in 1961. Honestly, I was ready to have a major conflict of interest with Ari. As he began speaking it was obvious that he was a huge character; he could have walked straight out of a book and I wouldn’t have been surprised.  His huge beard was almost puppet-like as he spoke, and his voice was infused with the American extrovert enthusiasm. He explained that since he joined the kibbutz, it has been under attack from Hezbollah, who occupy the land right next door.  He’s had run-ins with terrorists in the kibbutz, namely one incident where five Palestinian terrorists took the kibbutz hostage and the army had to come (luckily the ordeal ended in their favour and the kibbutz was safe, although with tragic causalities - including a child under the age of two). Ari explained how he’s been shot at countless of times over the fence by Hezbollah and has even opened up his kibbutz to the university students of the nearby town, as the dorms there were under a huge threat from the Hezbollah terrorist organisation. Although it’s hugely commendable that he’s been able to survive all of this I was still preparing myself to hear all about an Israeli-Americans racist views and why we should all hate them. But, I was wrong. And pleasantly surprised. After explaining his ordeals and views, he follows saying that he doesn’t hate anyone. That it’s not in Jewish nature. That he would never strike the Lebanese first, only in defence. Now, that Hezbollah isn’t attacking, he won’t attack them. I find this extremely respectable and honestly quite amazing. To be able to define oneself somewhere between a dangerous nationalist and a pacifist humanitarian is a difficult feat and seeing how he is truly able to encompass both, is astounding. Overall his talk was a perfect mix of humour and fearless commentary of his own opinions and political views. It was truly an unforgettable experience.

After this important educational experience, we travelled a few minutes away to go for a hike along the Israeli and Lebanon border. As I was lucky enough to go on the Duke of Edenborough hikes in year 9, it was very interesting to notice the comparison between the rich dark soil of Australia and the stark grey soil of this Israeli trail. We passed running streams, fallen trees, meandering cliffs and colossal waterfalls. I find that while hiking I tend to have very deep conversations with people such as ones about creationism vs evolution, if aliens would be Jewish etc.  At one point, at one of the waterfalls, I decided to FaceTime my mum, who had just arrived in Tel-Aviv herself, and share the amazing views with her. She loved the sights and I was able to take quite a funny photo of us together in the beautiful scene, although she may have been two dimensional it felt very comforting to be with her as my homesickness slightly increases every day. After the all downhill hike (I’m very thankful for this), we ate lunch at picnic tables and then left to our next destination.

We arrived at a JNF National Park Reserve that cared for all the birds that migrate south for the winter.  Here we partook in a 9km bike ride, which consisted of seeing roughly 10,000 cranes in a giant field and seeing a gorgeous Israeli sunset. It’s very comforting to know that this beautiful stretch of land that we were exploring was not only there for human recreation but also to help ecosystems thrive and provide animals with a safe and protected home. Those who couldn’t ride bikes travelled in golf carts behind the rest.  My friend, Sami Gordon, decided that due to driving at a snail’s pace, and running out of petrol, she would try and ride a bike for the first time. She describes it as “Sh*t scary”.

After this, we traversed back to the kibbutz, had a delicious dinner and then got into groups and made some chanukiot. Although I can’t say I’m too skilled in painting, I thought no Chanukiah is truly complete without a tiny sculpture of Ilan Lavan, so one was created. It was actually really fun to sit there and relax for a night and just be with the people around me.

I’m so glad I was able to come on IST and so far I’ve had so many unforgettable experiences. I can’t wait to see what the rest has in store for me.

Day 15: Lehava, Israel: Daniel Nussbaum

Day 14: Lehava Israel - Ariah Michel