Posted by: heatherlehrman | December 20, 2011

Eilat with OSP!

My trip to Eilat with my group (OSP – overseas program) left at 7:30 AM on Friday morning. There were two big buses full of students. We drove about an hour and a half and then stopped at a mall for lunch.

After lunch, we drove about an hour further to a place called Dimona where we visited the African Hebrew Israelite community of Jerusalem. This was such an interesting place. Their name represents different things.

– They are African

– The word Hebrew refers to the Bible – Old Testament

– The word Israelite refers to the descendent of 12 tribes

The first group of Africans from America came to Israel in 1969 and were accepted into Israel right away. The second group was rejected by immigrant control so the Africans decided to come as “tourists” and they just stayed in Israel without permission. Israel saw them as a problem because these people weren’t technically Jewish and they kept coming in big groups. The people of Israel didn’t understand their purpose. Israel wanted them to convert to Judaism but these people felt they were Jews already (historically). This group of people was finally accepted by the state of Israel after many attempts of coming in.  They do not exactly have permanent residence but they are citizens of Israel. They serve in the army and can vote but cannot be elected into any type of political status. Before 1971 it was easier to make Aliya and become permanent residents of Israel but the law changed and therefore some of them are permanent residents and some are not.

Some interesting things about this community:

– There are 2,500 people living in this community (it is a Kibbutz)

– There are 5 generations there

– It is a community in that it is not closed – they allow anyone to join

– There is no religion, as they believe religion is a problem on the earth

– They are completely vegan and they fast once a week to clear their systems

– They own businesses to make money and they live a very simple life

– They keep Shabbat in that they rest on the 7th day of the week

– They practice polygamy.

– There is a hospital in the community so they only go to the ER if it is a serious emergency

– The school is in the community

While we were there, a man spoke to us and told us all about the community. Afterwards, they had him sing to/with us (I think to kill time – they said it was for our entertainment). On the bright side, this guy was really fun! He sang fun songs that we all knew and had a really nice gospel-type voice. I was obviously in heaven.  Lets just say my inner sista came out for a good 30 minutes. After “song-session” we went on a tour of the Kibbutz. It was really cool to see how these people live. They mostly stay on the Kibbutz but they do leave to do certain things such as work, grocery shop (although they make most of their food on the kibbutz – they still need ingredients) and for the Army. I spoke to a woman and she said that after the Army, people decide whether or not to return. They can move away from this type of lifestyle.

After we left the Kibbutz we had about an hour and fifteen minutes left until we got to Eilat. The hotel we stayed at was nice. It was called the “C-hotel”. We had to divide into groups of three (there were only 3 beds) so my friends Shayna, Rina and I were in a room together. I was so glad the hotel was clean! After we settled in, it was time for dinner. It was a really nice buffet in the hotel – there were all kinds of meat and salads.

That night, OSP took us on a boat cruise on the Red Sea. It was really fun! There was music and dancing. The boat was pretty cool too – there was a hot tub on the boat and people were ready to jump in but they soon realized that it was a “cold tub”. Sad day. The madrachim (counselors) surprised us with belly dancers on the boat.

The next day we woke up around 8AM and ate breakfast in the hotel. At around 9AM we got on the buses and went to the middle of nowhere, Eilat (near where my mom and I rode camels a few weeks before), to go on a 5-hour hike in the Tzfachot Mountains. It was awesome! I was happily surprised that the hike was hard! The views were absolutely amazing! There was nothing around us – all you could see was nature. Speaking of nature, nature peeing is not my favorite thing to do – it’s pretty hard for us ladies – guys have it so much easier. The hike down the mountains was my least favorite part. I had some knee trouble but it was fine in the end.

After the hike we got back on the buses and headed back to the hotel where most of the group showered and napped. Some swam in the pool but I unintentionally passed out. Shayna, Rina and I woke up from our nap at around 6:45PM – dinner was at 7PM. After dinner we were given some free time in Eilat. A bunch of us went to a bar called the Three Monkey Bar. I got a Mojito Campari – yum! There was a band playing at the bar (the main singer looked and sounded like Seal but it wasn’t Seal) and a lot of people from OSP were there so we all danced and had a good time.

The next morning we woke up at the same time (8AM to leave by 9AM). As I was coming out of the steps I wiped out (first wipe out of many). We left the hotel (for good) by 9AM to go on another hike in the Red Canyons. It was about 3-hours long. It was a much easier hike than the previous hike the day before.  Throughout the day the group was playing a giant game of Assasins (Everyone gets a name on a piece of paper and you have to say “you’re dead” to that person and if you succeed, they give you the name that they had – the point is to collect as many names as possible and be the only one alive in the end). My friend and I ended up having each other’s names at the same time and so we decided to join forces and get someone to give us their person. In the end, we won. WOO.

After the hike we got back on the bus to go to the Ink Flag Statue, which was where Eilat was declared back in the day. It wasn’t anything special. After that we were going to a Dolphin Reef.  This was the best part of the day – the Dolphins were SO cute!! We got to see a feeding which was really cool. There was also a big tree house looking thing at the reef, which I went up into. I actually watched the feeding from up there. Part of the tree house is a lab for the dolphins.

After the Dolphins, we headed back towards Tel Aviv. I killed a fly on the bus – I was so proud of myself. A few hours in we stopped at the same mall to get dinner and just as everyone ordered their food, the power went off and we had to wait. It was kind of fun/creepy to be in a mall with no lights. They weren’t completely off though (emergency lights).

We got back to the dorms at around 10:30 PM. It was a great trip! My next stop: Bethlehem on Christmas!

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