University of Haifa International School Student Blog
I woke again in the Negev, but this time to the comforts of air conditioning and not a camel in sight. Sde Boker, the field school we stayed overnight at, was adorable. The evening before, some study tour students and I hung out at the pub and experienced a taste of laid-back life in the Negev. In the morning, I saw little children riding around on tricycles with only diapers on, calling after each other during a race. The place was too cute for words.
Visiting Ben-Gurion’s home and gravesite enhanced my experience in the Negev. To see this area of arid terrain and unbearable heat thrive as a result of his wish for it to be a place of innovation is inspiring. Ben-Gurion’s home reminded me of my grandmother’s. There were books of every topic lining the shelves of the library, and the scent was exactly the same. Oh, Jewish decorating. It seems to be universal.
It was interesting to observe Ben-Gurion’s writings to both common people and popular figures in his day. One of my friends of the study tour described him as being an “asshole,” while others thought his brusque attitude was funny. I suppose his way of relating to others shaped his style of leadership and the visions he had for Israel. His insistence on being buried in the Negev rather than on Mt. Herzl, like so many of his compatriots is also a large marker of the type of individualist he was.
The hike in Ein Avdat was a beautiful way of taking in the Negev from inside of its gorges and rocky outcroppings. The heat coupled with exercise made me sweat more than ever before, but it was worth the perspiration. Climbing made me feel like a female version of Indiana Jones, and there was always the threat of falling from the tiny stairs chiseled into the side of the rock. When we reached the hermit’s cave at the top of the path, I felt accomplished with my ascent, and was more than grateful to see the bus waiting for our group at the end of the hike, like a nicely coordinated ride at Disney World.
My single most moving experience of the Study Tour took place in the Bar Kokhova Hiding Caves. I have always loved exploring underground, so being able to crawl in the dark and find secret passageways was like living the dream for me. I was amazed that people were able to create a place for themselves, much like in Masada, where they could practice their religions and customs and sacrifice all other aspects of their lifestyles. It is in visiting these locations that my identity as a Jew becomes all the more significant to me. I often feel so spoiled and wasteful with my freedom to practice my religion, and for the most part, I stray from the traditions many died to preserve. After getting my adventurous kick out of my system, and almost having a bat fly directly into my face, the Study Tour students and I crowded into a small room of the cave and turned off our lights. This darkness was all the Bar Kokhvas had to live by. I could not see the face of my friend sitting beside me, but I could hear the breaths of all of us sitting together on the rocks, the oxygen in the room growing thinner with each inhale. How can a person live life in permanent night? I thought back to a more modern instance, when those fleeing the horrors of the Holocaust had to find refuge in darkened sewers and cisterns. How much their lives depended on silence and the absence of light. When I emerged from the cave, the sun blinded my eyes, and clean air circulated in my lungs once more. I tried to keep the memory of the cave with me when I walked into the day