Day 20: Netzach, Israel - Ella Rogut

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My morning began with a lovely and peaceful wake up after my 8 o'clock sleep in! Compared to our normal mornings which usually begin with the piercing sound of an alarm at 6-7:30am, this was paradise. However, waking up in the morning meant that the free weekend, and break from the usual routines of IST, was coming to an end. On my way to the bus meeting point, I couldn't decide if I was excited or dreading getting back onto bus one, knowing that it would serve as my second home *cough*prison*cough* for the next three weeks.

After an hour long delay of Bus A in Jerusalem, due to protests blocking traffic (which conveniently gave me time to stock up on snacks at the store at the gas station meeting point), the bus arrived at the Lutrun gas station, and IST began yet again. By this time it was 11:30, so we headed to lunch at the Ramat Aviv mall in Tel Aviv where we met up with the rest of the Netzach gang.

There were mixed reactions when we were told that we would be catered for by the kosher McDonald's in the food court for lunch. Personally, I can't say that I particularly enjoyed my dry, soy patty burger and soggy fries. Luckily, I had my snacks to fill me up till dinner.

After the delightful lunch and catch up with friends, teachers and mads after the free weekend, we hopped onto the bus and drove to the Jewish Diaspora Museum. There, we learnt about Judaism around the world in both the past and present. The first exhibition we visited was filled with miniature models of synagogues from around the world, some destroyed in history and some still standing today just as magnificently as the miniature models portrayed them. Each synagogue had its own unique features and clues as to the people who used them and the time and place they were built.

We then entered an exhibition about Bob Dylan, the legendary singer-songwriter, musician, author and painter who just so happens to be Jewish. While learning about Bob Dylan's journey with Judaism, our ears were filled with the familiar tunes of "Knockin' on heavens door" and other iconic songs that changed the face of folk music. Our final stop at the Jewish Diaspora Museum was a room filled with screens of Ethiopian Jews telling their Aliyah story. The topic of Ethiopian migration was familiar to us, as last week we had the privilege of visiting an Ethiopian woman's house and hearing her Aliyah story. Hearing more of these stories were even more immersing, and gave us a deeper understanding of the struggles the Ethiopian Jews faced on their journey to the Holy Land.

Before the tour was over, we were informed that our bus was already leaving! We ran to the bus, making it just on time, and were driven to the Independence Hall, the building in which the Declaration of Independence took place. There, we watched a short film about the history of Israel and then headed into the historic room itself. The room was much smaller than the photos made it appear, but we still felt the tremendous importance of the occasion that had taken place there. We came together at the end and sang Hatikvah, as a recording of the band, that played during the original ceremony, rang out overhead.

The activity that I was most anticipating for the day was iJump, a room filled wall to wall with trampolines. It would be a chance to let out some steam, have some fun and move around after being stuck on the bus with my legs squashed between my backpack and bag of snacks. Unfortunately, bus one got stuck in some traffic due to a road accident meaning that we would have very little time at iJump so it was decided that we would just head straight to the hotel for dinner. Bus two managed to just miss the traffic and made it to iJump for a short and action packed outing where they could relax and have some fun and much needed exercise. From what I was told by my bus two friends, it seemed that they all had a great time jumping around, showing off tricks and flipping into the foam pits. I was a little jealous.

Many of us on bus one were disappointed about the lack of trampolining, however once we reached the Metropolitan hotel and were greeted with the colourful, elaborate dinner buffet, our minds were fixed on the food. The buffet display resembled a 1950's recipe book cover and was almost too pretty to eat. It definitely made up for the somewhat lackluster lunch.

After dinner, we lit the channukiah for the sixth night of Chanukah before everyone headed to their rooms to lay their heads down on the all too familiar hotel beds. I think it's safe to say we were all a little more prepared for the early morning wake ups and busy schedules to begin again.

Day 20: Lehava, Israel - Jenna Karpas and Ash Corrick

Day 19: Lehava, Israel - Romi Grauman