Waking up in a new hotel in a new city; this morning being Tel Aviv, is always a slightly unsettling experience. But knowing that we would be able to spend breakfast with the Netzach group brightened us up. Tearful goodbyes were said after the meal, despite the fact that we will be seeing each other again in just four days. We split up into tefillah groups and had an extended shacharit as it was the last day of Chanukkah, which included Hallel and Torah reading.
The Israel Children's Museum, more commonly known as the Blind Museum was our first stop of the day. The tour 'Dialogue in the Dark' is led by blind or visually impaired guides, in which visitors are invited to experience an intense sensory journey. Danny, my group’s tour guide began to lose his vision around two years ago and can now hardly see as a result of tunnel vision.
We experienced simulated realities that we might encounter on a daily basis, but in these cases without the use of sight. Locations included a greenery-filled forest and a bedroom fitted with a cupboard, table, bed, books, lamp and more. A rocking boat with sprays of the "splashing" waves was the third room we journeyed through. The city street experience gave us some minimal insight into how frightening and dangerous walking the streets of a busy city like Sydney or Tel Aviv might be with the lack of one of our senses. A market filled with real fruit and vegetables proved to be one of the more straightforward tasks, easily being able to identify various foods through touch and smell. The second last room was a sound incubator with speakers under the floorboards and throughout the room, enabling us to physically feel the sound waves and vibrations around the room and running through out body as we sat or lay on the floor. In the cafeteria, we ordered snacks and drinks in complete darkness. We talked with Danny about our experiences and asked him questions about his life being visually impaired. While crunching through my Bamba chips, I learnt about his daily life, his playing with his young six-year-old son, previous and current work as an accountant and currently as a masseur and how he interacts with the world since his loss of sight.
We gradually made our way through to full brightness in stages so as to not hurt our eyes and got to meet Danny in the way that we knew best; through sight. It was a surreal experience being able to interact with familiar surroundings in a foreign manner. Interactions with one another were transformed entirely, as the normal pressures of social constructs manifested into trusting communications.
We then had lunch of two delicious fresh salads, pasta and fruit just outside the museum in the warm sunlight. Then we hopped back on the bus headed to the Carmel Shuk, where we spent just under an hour. I found the most delicious figs at just 15 shekel a dozen (working out as 47 cents a fig) and they were incredible! One of the seven species of Israel, they really are delicious. The hustle and bustle of the market awoke our senses even more than the morning’s experiences had; the sharp elbows, yelling product promotions, aromas of spices and natural produce, as well as vibrant colours and patterns of fabrics, foods, jewellery and more.
Then it was back to the buses to head off to our pre-selected options for the afternoon, including a graffiti tour of Southern Tel Aviv, visit of the Palmach museum, technology start-up quest and Magen David Adom experience. Thirty of us, myself included, went on the photographic graffiti tour of Floretine, a hipster music-artsy suburb of southern Tel Aviv. Learning about the different types of street art, the rivalling artists, 'politics' of the culture and stories of the different pieces was really intriguing. We saw the oldest piece of graffiti in Tel Aviv, which is an illustration of the video capturing the assassination of Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin. We really got a sense of some of the lifestyle of people here in Tel Aviv and had some great photo opportunities!
We had a special evening activity planned - we went to iJump, which is similar to SkyZone in Sydney (a trampolining centre). The whole group bonded as we bounced around, flipping, tumbling …and falling a fair amount. We loved every minute, spending time bonding in the most peculiar way possible - bobbing up and down. After spending an hour jumping around we headed back to the hotel for dinner exclusively set for IST and an early-ish night in.
Thanks IST for yet another eventful and incredible day. I'm so excited to spend the remainder of the trip strengthening relationships and creating long-lasting memories.