We woke up to yet another beautiful morning in Ramat Rachel. With Shabbat fast-approaching, we set off for the Jordanian border.
There, we saw the famous Jordan river where it's believed that Jesus was baptised, and were quite surprised at how seemingly easy it would be to cross the border, the only obstacles being a few meters of shallow water and two of our IDF brothers on patrol.
Due to the river's history, the place holds deep significance to many Christians, and we were able to get an insight into their religion as we watched many people on both the Jordanian and Israeli side of the river come to be baptised.
After being given a brief history on the area, we were lucky enough to ask the Israeli soldiers some questions about their life in the army as well as their role on the border.
Afterwards, we set off to do some shopping. We were told that we would be visiting Amir's army base, so both Netzach busses chipped in money to buy them snacks. After buying an enormous amount of food, we made our way to the base.
At the base we eagerly waited to meet the soldiers. We had heard a little bit about the דובדבן (Duvdevan) unit from Amir but as it's quite an elite and specialised group, most information isn't disclosed.
A van came out of the gate carrying a group of about 15 soldiers. One soldier introduced himself and gave us a bit of an idea of the type of operations they do. After that, we were able to speak to the soldiers individually and ask them questions. I really enjoyed getting to know how they feel about their duties and some of things that they go through every week.
We left the soldiers with their tonne of delicious snacks and went on to lunch. We quickly devoured our food then drove to Hashmonaim. We arrived and were sent to our host families. Zak, Kovi, David and myself stayed with the Horowitz's. Hashmonaim is very close to the West Bank and when we arrived at the house, we were greeted with the lovely sound of smoke grenades going off, which is apparently a weekly occurrence.
We prepared for Shabbat and walked to Shul, where we had a beautiful service. Afterwards we headed back to our hosts for a delicious meal, over which we exchanged life stories and discussed Jewish/Israeli politics.
Later on, we walked across the road to Amir's house where the whole group hung out and played some traditional IST Shabbat games. We were lucky enough to meet Amir's amazing family, who were so incredibly hospitable, and it was great to get an insight into the life and upbringing of one of our Madrichim.
On Saturday morning, we all went to Glenwood for Davening and following that we had lunch with some boys in grade 10 from Amir's old school. It was nice to meet kids the same age as us and compare our lives as Jews in Australia with theirs in Israel.
Later, we walked around the neighbourhood and went back to Amir for more games and relaxing followed by Seuda Shlishit and Havdallah, capping off a great Shabbat in Hashmonaim.
The overall experience gave us a great feel for an observant Shabbat in an Israeli neighbourhood and I personally really enjoyed getting an idea of the various aspects of Israeli life like the Army, family and sense of community.