It took us a while to get here, but since arriving in Israel we’ve been incredibly busy! We landed around 8 p.m. last night after our short layover in Brussels, and started making our way through customs, money exchange, and getting our Israeli phones. We met Orna, our Israeli tour guide, and our two security guides (affectionately known as Hot Guy 1 and Hot Guy 2). From the airport we drove straight to Itay’s kibbutz, Ginosaur, on the Sea of Galilee. Totally beaten after 36+ hours of on-and-off travel, we immediately went to bed.
This morning, we miraculously managed to revive ourselves and schlep over to the chadar ochel, the dining room of the kibbutz. There we had a wonderful Israeli breakfast of local veggies, cheeses, and pastries. Afterwards, Itay showed us the gymnasium where he grew to love basketball, and in turn brought him to us in Chapel Hill! He introduced us to his parents, who along with Orna and Rabbi Ari told us about the history of kibbutzim and the way of life centered around the collective rather than the individual. We also enjoyed seeing the wild cats wandering around the kibbutz! They are like squirrels here.
We then all loaded back on the bus to pick up five of our (ultimately) eight soldiers who would join us on a hike around Mt. Carob, a cliff that overlooks the Sea of Galilee and the Golan in the distance. It was one of the locations in which our ancient ancestors hid in the cliffs to escape the attack of the Romans, and we actually got to see many of the caves! It was amazing to be so close to our people’s history in such a tangible way.
Following the hike, we got lunch in a mall in Tiberius, one of the four holiest Jewish cities, before heading over to hear a talk by Lydia Aisenberg, a journalist and grassroots peace activist who taught us about the conflict while we sat at a scenic overlook of Netanya (an Israeli city) and the Palestinian village of East Baga'a. She gave us a thorough history lesson on the region and focused on the complexity of Israeli-Arab identity in their divided allegiance to nationality versus ethnicity, and how they can be looked down upon by both. It was a very informative, thought-provoking talk.
Then we left for Jerusalem, where we will be having dinner tonight and doing a group activity!
Averyl Edwards is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill.