Submitted by Nicole Savage, Class of 2015
This morning, we woke up early, sad that it was the last day of our trip but excited to see what exciting adventures the day held in store for us. We took the bus to Moshav Netiv Ha'asarah, an area on Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. There, we heard Glenn Eilon speak about security in Israel and other interesting facts regarding the conflict with Gaza and the history of the area. She told us about the carrier pigeons, which were once used to send and receive important messages. She even let some of the students hold the pigeons and release them, and we all watched as they flew off to their next destination.
After another quick bus ride, we arrived at a farm in the Northern Negev, where we went on the Salad Trail, a tour around the farm led by Uri Alon. The farm was a lot of fun for the students - we uprooted fresh carrots and radishes (and ate them!), and explored a green house that was full of fresh plants and herbs, including basil, lavender, mint, and edible flowers! Then we had a quick snack break, where we flattened dough and cooked it on a fire to make homemade pita, and used a yummy pesto spread, which had just been made at the farm. Then we went to an area filled with vines growing tomatoes and cucumbers, and a few daring students tried the dangerously hot pepper that was growing! We concluded the tour with tea and some delicious strawberries.
For lunch, we were free to eat on our own in the town of Sderot. Some of us went to a Mediterranean restaurant and tried the sandwiches and pizza bagels, while others took advantage of their last opportunity to have native Israeli falafel and schwarma. After lunch, we all stood in a circle and had a conversation with our mifgash, who spoke about their experience on Taglit. We ended our talk with a giant, 50-person cinnamon roll hug!
On the way back to the hotel after lunch, we had to say goodbye to the first of our seven Israeli soldiers, who was dropped off at the bus station to go back home for the weekend. When we arrived back at the hotel in Ashkelon, we had free time to hang out. Some students stayed at the hotel to nap or enjoy the pool, and many of us walked in a big group over to the beach. The beach was lots of fun, as students enjoyed the warm water, laid out in the sun, or hacky-sacked on the sand. Unfortunately, at the beach we had to part with the rest of the soldiers. Saying goodbye to our new friends was hard, but we all promised to come back and visit them one day!
We ended our stay in Israel with dinner at the hotel and a wrap-up conversation, where we discussed our experience on Taglit. The students talked about what they got out of the trip, how their visit to Israel changed their perception of Judaism or of Israel, and what they will do differently when they return to the United States. We talked about how we've learned so much on the trip and bonded as a group, and how we hope that bond remains even after we've left Israel. After our wrap-up chat, we had free time to sleep, hang out, and pack our bags before leaving for the airport at 12:30am. We said goodbye to our guard, bus driver, and tour guide, Doron, at the airport, then boarded the long flight to Zurich and then to New York. What an amazing 10 days this has been! We will all look back on our birthright trip with Taglit Bus #997 and remember it as one of the most rewarding, wonderful experiences of our lives.