Day 31 - Lehava - Leehea Haikin & Mia Sher
We began our last morning at Kibbutz Tzuba, located on the outskirts of Jerusalem with a 6:30am wake up, followed by tefilla and breakfast on the bus. We made our way to Gush Etzion, an Israeli settlement situated in the West Bank. The Gush Etzion area is a hub for Jewish life with many towns and Yeshivot. It is about a 20 minute drive from Jerusalem.
Upon our arrival at Gush Etzion, we toured through the kibbutz’s technologically advanced museum, which allowed us to capture an essence of the diverse experiences of early Israeli settlers during the 1948 War of Independence. We were exposed to a number of personal experiences, each depicted through an entertaining video presentation. Finally, the tour ended in a memorial of those who fought on the kibbutz, commemorating their efforts of participation and sacrifice in the war.
The Gush Etzion story is unique as it has only had a Jewish presence historically. The Jews lost this land in the 1948 War of Independence, but yearned to return which was fulfilled in the 1967 ‘6 Day War’.
Following this insightful tour, we had the privilege of listening to two guest speakers, who work together in a collaborative organisation called “Roots”. The aim of “Roots” is to achieve a mutual bond between Palestinians and Israelis by working together to overcome their indifferences through various programs. Both guest speakers, one being Palestinian, and the other being Israeli, each gave us an insight to their early childhood encounters with the opposite side and personal upbringing. For example, the Palestinian speaker told us that he was forbidden to leave the West Bank for 13 years due to their strict security fence. The Israeli recounted negative terror related experiences he had encountered. After hearing both sides, we had the opportunity to ask a series of questions in relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict and our questions were fairly answered by the two speakers, reflecting both Palestinian and Israeli opinions. The aim of the talk was to promote dialogue between between both sides and to see some grassroots attempts to solve this complex conflict.
After listening to our guest speakers, we got back on the bus and drove to the Gush Etzion lookout, where we were treated to a delicious lunch. At the lookout stood a lonely oak tree, which had marked for hundreds of years and continues to mark the definite location of Gush Etzion. The video presentation in the museum included snippets of the lonely oak tree existing throughout the war, symbolising its eternal existence. This parallels with the everlasting existence of the Jewish people and Jewish continuity, despite our confrontations and obstacles - we always come out even stronger as one, solid unit. We were so surprised and took it to heart that we, the 80 students of Lehava on IST, got the opportunity to see the same lonely oak tree with our own eyes, as those who fought for the establishment of our home country.
We hopped back on the bus after a very informative morning and heartwarming closing ceremony of our 3 day Israeli advocacy program with our two guides, and made our way up north-West towards Holon, where we were about to embark on an eye opening experience like no other. We made our way into Dialogue in the Dark, a blind museum which was built to offer ordinary people who are fortunate enough to have regular eyesight, the experience of what a blind person endures throughout their day-to-day lives. The museum totally exceeded our expectations and we really didn’t know what we were in for! Splitting up into groups of 10, we were taken through a series of pitch black rooms within the museum by a visually impaired guide. As we entered the first room, our guides made the effort to learn each of our names in pure darkness. Each room was filled with realistic objects which created a different scene of the places in which regular people would go everyday. For instance, the museum consisted of rooms that created the scene of a supermarket, a trip on a boat and a cafeteria where students were allowed to purchase food and confectionary items with their own money in the dark, just as a blind person would. As we walked through and exited the last room of the museum, we closed our fulfilling experience with a personal, one to one confrontation with our visually impaired guides who remembered our names by the sound of our voices. This amazing tour of Dialouge in the Dark, of which we all captured a different experience, truly opened our eyes to how grateful we are to have the eyesight and health that we have. This showed us how heavily the quality of our health impacts on our day-to-day lives, and how especially easy life is for us!
We finally concluded our jam-packed day with check in at the Ruth Daniel in Yaffo, Tel Aviv, where we ate dinner and prayed ma’ariv. As we reflect on our meaningful day, from opening our minds regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict that is so prominent in our home country today, to stepping into the shoes of a visually impaired person’s lifestyle in the blind museum, we can take away various lifelong messages and lessons. From this day, we can conclude how lucky we are to be healthy and how our health impacts so heavily on our day-to-day lives, as well as how no matter what obstacle stands in our way, the Jewish people overcome these stepping stones and come out stronger than ever, as we continue to protect our beloved homeland, Israel.
The key message was gratitude - “what if you woke up, with only the things you thanked G-d for yesterday.”
Leehea Haikin and Mia Sher