Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tikkun Olam Does the Desert

Alana is a 5 month Social Action track participant and University of Connecticut graduate. Here's an excerpt from her blog about the group's recent overnight trip!

This weekend marked our first group trip around Israel! Once a month we go on weekend camping trips through various regions. This weekend we drove down to the Negev (A huuuuge desert in southern Israel) for some hiking and farm tours. After a 2+ hour drive into the desert we found ourselves at an Alpaca farm down south. We learned all about the little critters and got to feed them too!

After learning about Alpacas (not to be confused with llamas…the farmer made that very clear) we took off for yet another farm tour. This time we found ourselves at a “Lone Farm” a few minutes south of the first farm. A Lone Farm is owned by one family in the middle of the Negev. There are quite a few lone farms in the area, which provides a nice community for trading, selling, etc…There is also quite a bit of tourism at Lone Farms, which is how these “middle of nowhere” vegetable/animal establishments survive.

The farm we arrived at was a goat farm, so of course we had to do a cheese and yogurt tasting. I’ve never had such great yogurt in my life! After that we learned more about the farm and why the farmer chose to live out in the Negev. The goats were fun too. We had a great time messing around, playing on farm equipment, and making friends with the animals.

Afterwards, we took off for Bedouin campgrounds in the area. We were off to spend a night in the great outdoors! The Bedouins are a nomadic Arab tribe that have lived in the desert for thousands of years. They generally work with livestock, but in the past few years that way of life has become increasingly more difficult. This is due to the tightening of zoning laws, the rise in Urban areas, land ownership rights, etc.

We arrived at the Bedouin camp and immediately set up our sleeping area. It was a little touristy, but still fun. We also drank some amazing tea that they were passing out at the camp.

The man on the right was the one providing the tea. After I finished my first glass I really wanted another so I went up to him and said, “Od-pa’am Bvachasha.” He looked at me kind of funny and my friends all laughed because I had said, “Another time, please.” In order to defend myself I turned back to him and said, “Ani ivrit lo tov.” This time he looked at me like I was seriously an idiot because I had said “I am Hebrew, not good.” After a few moments of contemplation I finally said it correctly (Ivrit sheli lo tov) and we had a good chuckle at my poor language skills.

Though embarrassing, I personally take no shame in this moment! Despite my lack of language knowledge I’ve totally put myself out there for the past few weeks. I say the words with confidence even if I don’t necessarily know that I’m correct. I may not always be right, but everything is a learning experience. One way or another I will figure out this wacky language!

After setting up our sleeping bags, a few of us hiked up the dunes to watch the sunset.

We then proceeded to cook up an incredible dinner. We made Poike (a type of vegetable concoction) and then finished up with chocolate covered bananas and marshmallows.

These homemade fire-baked pitas were also thrown into the mix. Oh my gracious, amazing.
After dinner we all sat around playing guitar, singing songs, and just plain chatting. We all went to bed together in the same tent area as one big happy Tikkun Olam family

The next morning we woke up bright and early to climb through the Ramon Crater (Mahktesh Ramon). The name “Crater” is actually quite misleading because technically it’s not really a crater (at least in the sense that a meteor did not hit the earth). Now, I’m no science whiz, but from what I understand millions of years ago the ocean sat in this specific area of the Negev. For various reasons the ocean eventually receded leaving behind this large eroded area.

The area is actually very cool, it looks like the Grand Canyon (at least what I imagine the Grand Canyon to look like).

Desert excitement! We proceeded to go on a 6+ hour hike (our toucas’s were on fiyah). We tackled this mountain/overlook, which had a killer view at the top.

Once we got to the top, we hiked around for a few hours and then made the descent back down. This is where things became a little dicey. The descent was almost entirely vertical and mostly sand/rock. There were a few boulders and footholds along the way, but for the most part it was a panicky trip to the bottom. Somehow I wound up in the front of my section of the pack and figuring everything out without someone helping was hard. When I’m nervous I give myself mini pep-talks, so I just kept saying things like, “This is great! I’m fine! We’re beasting this mountain! We are the alufs (champions!).” Behind me, my friend Davida was just as nervous so she kept laughing every time I fell on my booty/said something ridiculous. The trip down took almost 40 minutes and at the bottom we all kissed the ground with joy.

Afterwards, our guide Benji told us that middle school classes regularly come to do this hike. I don’t know what kind of mountain-goat kids they’re breeding in Israel, but I need to learn these secrets.

After a few more hours of hiking and a trip up another cliff we made our way back to TLV. We all took much needed showers and had a great time relaxing at the house.

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