Day 16, 17, 18 - Lehava - Chloe Fisher
After our educational day yesterday exploring the beauty and history of the old city of Jerusalem, the next three days would be a change to our usual setting, as we would have an opportunity to explore and connect to the flourishing agricultural developments of Israel’s farming land.
We started our morning with an early 6:00am wakeup. Tired yet excited we had a delicious breakfast and davened prayers before getting on the bus and travelling for an hour and a half down south to the Negev where our program Hashomer Hachadash, sponsored by the JNF ,would commence.
JNF is a non-profit organisation founded in 1901, with the purpose of developing land for Jewish settlements by re-establishing our ancestral Jewish homeland in modern Israel. Through their passion, commitment and vision to take barren land and flourish it , JNF have planted over 240 million trees.
Excited to contribute, we finally arrived at Sde Boker our first stop, to find our new madrachim who would be taking us for the next few days. Lehava then got split into three groups, the groups that we would be doing most activities with on the program. In order to get to know our new leaders better, we played a fun introduction game, which set a positive demeanour for the rest of the day.
We then got back on the bus and went for lunch at the JNF Ha’Roah Recreation Park. After a few days separated from Netzach we finally got to reunite again, although our attention was soon drifted to the smell of the delicious wood fire pizzas cooking in the outdoor ovens. We caught up with our friends and exchanged our favourite moments from the past week, bonding over fresh pizzas and funny stories, the best combination!
Full and satisfied, all of IST began the hour long hike, through the Negev desert, encompassed amongst the uninhabited mountainous landscape, as the sun reflected onto the melange of brown rocky, dusty terrain. This fun hike gave us insight into the Southern part of Israel, as we walked through the largest desert region in southern Israel.
To conclude the hike, there was a handing over ceremony from Netzach to Lehava, at the site of David Ben Gurion’s grave which overlooked the Tsin canyon and Ovdat highlands. It was an honour to have the Mayor of Rammat Ha’Negev come to speak to us on the importance of developing the Negev, through addressing David Ben Gurion’s impact on the land. Ben Gurion became an active member of the Kibbutz Sde Boker, creating settlements for people to fulfil their potential as pioneer settlers and flourishing the desert with bustling communities. All of Lehavas excitement increased after Netzach described their amazing experiences from the past few days. It was a surreal to be standing next to the grave of the first prime minister of Israel, an extraordinary man who shaped the unique country that we know today.
After a long day we arrived at our Kibbutz, set up our mattresses in our tents and relaxed before the tochnit. In our groups, we participated in a tochnit about the connection between man and land, is it a spiritual connection or a physical one. We then did a fun activity blindfolded where we linked hands with one another and walked around the area whilst listening to music and smelling different scents. This showed us that when one of our most prevalent senses, eyesight is taken away our other sense are heightened. This is reflective of the connection we can create with the land as if you use each of your senses on this program your appreciation will grow because you will be fully immersed in your surroundings, as the true essence of things is invisible to the eyes.
We were then treated to a delicious dinner, if not the best dinner we have had so far, giving us a taste of the Kibbutz lifestyle. To end off an eventful day, we gathered wood and started a bonfire, as we all sat around the warmth, singing songs and of course roasting marshmallows, creating a stronger connection together as Lehava.
After all the girls first restless night sleeping in a massive tent together, we started off day two with another bright and early 6:30 wake up. At breakfast we received news that it is compulsory to hand our phones in for the day. Many girls struggled to comprehend the fact and frantically sent there last Snapchat streak, but despite the inconvenience we all soon realised that it would be a chance to escape the realm of technology and disconnect in order to appreciate this enriching experience with materialistic distractions. It was quite strange to have a proper conversation on the bus, but wow was it an experience!
We then split into our two options, one group did weeding and the other olive tree branching. I along side many others participated in olive tree branching where we went to the Kibbutz Revivim and cut weeds that were effecting the growth of the tree.
It was such a rewarding feeling knowing that we helped the farmers by
completing work in one hour that would have taken the farmers fifty hours of intense labour. The phrase “many hands makes light work” was a testament to our achievements today.We now realise the copious amount of energy, ongoing determination and time that goes into producing items and tending to the environment.
We then heard from a farmer, Sam, who works and lives on the Kibbutz. He educated us on the life cycle and maintenance of olive trees and the manufacturing process of olives.
After the agricultural experience, we drove to our second destination, the Bedouin camps where we would be riding camels. Before we started the long anticipated activity, we were treated to a delicious lunch of fresh pita, falafels and a variation of salads. Afterwards, we walked around the corner to see the seemingly harmless camels awaiting our arrival. The ride was such a fun experience and a nice adrenaline rush to boost our energy!
Our day concluded with a Lehava Karaoke session, that may have done some temporary damage to those with sensitive ears, but overall it was a time of laughter, fun and shivers as the room filled with tears from the extraordinary performance from Jordan Cohen- an unforgettable night for all!
Our last morning was bitter sweet, knowing we would have to leave this beautiful Kibbutz, yet we were still excited for what the day ahead had to offer. Once again we were able to relive the daily life of a farmer as we drove to another Kibbutz, where we dug holes and filled them with soil in order for trees to grow in the future. This tested our mental and physical strength as it was challenging but our perseverance and determination lead us though.
The Hashomer Hachadash program was an opportunity to further our knowledge on Israel’s cultivated land and give back to the land of Israel which provides us with so many benefits in life.
JNF helped us to gain a new form of appreciation for the power of teamwork as the phrase “my brothers keeper” reflects the responsibly we have to look after our community.