It's been a full month since we landed in Israel, but it only feels like a day! I guess time really does fly when you're having fun.
Our group was offered an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience of climbing the red canyon for an amazing view of the sunrise over the Negev. Those that went on the hike woke up at 4:15 in the morning to leave the hotel at 5:00 am. The hikers left and started the trek through the canyon in the semi-darkness. When they got to the top, they had a stunning view of the sun rising above the Negev. While up there, they had a very spiritual morning prayer session.
The rest of the cohort woke up from a much needed sleep-in at 9 am, and enjoyed a lovely breakfast in our hotel. At around 10:30, we left the hotel to a semi-secluded beach of the Red Sea overlooking the tremendous Jordanian mountains and the port-city of Aqaba, with the southern tip of Jordan across the sea, just six kilometers away. The crystal-clear water paired with the magnificent mountains created a picturesque scene - something you would find on a postcard.
The group was then split into boys and girls - the girls were to go snorkeling at the coral reef by the beach while the boys relaxed on the beach. Relaxing on the beach was really nice - we had a beautiful view and warm temperatures in comparison to the cool weather of Jerusalem. After around two hours, the two groups swapped, and we found ourselves sitting in front of a lovely Israeli lifeguard, who briefed us about basic snorkeling safety and where we can and cannot swim. The Red Sea water in Eilat is always 26 degrees year-round, so the water was the perfect temperature to swim in and enjoy!
As we strapped on our goggles and stuck the snorkels in our mouths, we jumped into the water and looked at the reef. The kaleidoscope of fish mixed with the pretty corals and clear water made this an amazing experience. The beautiful depths below the surface are something I won't forget anytime soon!
After drying off we hopped back on the busses to head back to the hotel in time for a guest speaker to come and talk to us. The speaker was Kay Wilson, a British woman who made Aliyah when she was 20 and worked as a tour guide in Israel. Whilst on a hike near Beit Shemesh 5 years ago with a friend of hers, she was attacked by two terrorists. She was held captive for half an hour with her friend, and they were attacked with knives and machetes. Unfortunately, her friend was killed and Kay only survived by playing dead. Even while suffering from 13 stab wounds, dozens of broken ribs and a broken sternum among many other serious injuries, Kay miraculously managed to not only survive - but to pick herself up and walk a mile uphill through the forest to seek help.
Kay's story was not only amazing, but inspiring too. Despite all odds, Kay found not only her physical strength, but also her inner mental strength to survive.
After Kay Wilson's awe-inspiring speech, we headed onto the busses to go to Eilat's famous Ice Mall - a large circular mall with an ice rink in the centre. Who could imagine an ice rink in the middle of the desert?
Every family group had a very nice dinner at 'Café Café' and all-in-all we had an amazing time skating, shopping and having fun at the mall. After finishing at the shopping centre, we headed back to our hotel for some much needed rest. So far, seeing the sunny city of Eilat has been a beautiful and fun experience!