Into The Desert

It has been a 48-hour desert whirlwind in a serious heat wave for the tireless CDS Class of 2016 (plus Yoav!), with temperatures topping out at least in the high 90s. But have no fear…We don’t leave the bus without our hats, sunscreen, 1.5-liter bottles of water—and Zionist rapping tour guide (video to come!).

Here are some highlights  from yesterday’s adventures, soon to be followed by updates from our experience today on Masada and at the Dead Sea.

We began yesterday at the Ayalon Institute near Rehovot. Here, right under the nose of the British, a factory was created for the production of 9mm bullets for the Sten submachine gun, which was the personal weapon of Palmach fighters. Forty-five young men and women operated the site under complete secrecy (disguised by a delicious-smelling bakery and a noisy laundry) from 1945 until 1948, producing more than 4 million bullets. Class of 2016 parents, ask your kids about what they learned about “corrugated metal” if they haven’t told you already!

It was onto a short climb to Tel Azekah, an archeological mound high above the Valley of Elah, where the epic battle between David and Goliath took place in the time of the Philistines. We reenacted the battle from the Book of Samuel—and then had our own “Rock, Paper, Scissors!” battle at this historic stronghold of the Kingdom of Judah.

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Our next stop (yes, this all happens in one day!) was at Tel Maresha, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in an area known as the “Land of a Thousand Caves,” where we got our hands dirty as amateur archeologists. The man-made chalk caves at Maresha were used for quarries, burial grounds, animal shelters, workshops, and spaces for raising doves and pigeons. We learned that ancient inscriptions discovered at the site provide archeological credibility for the story of Hanukkah and the Second Book of Maccabees. How cool!

While digging and sifting through rock and dirt in the caves, Dylan G. and Justin unearthed a part of a stairway that probably hadn’t been stepped upon in 2,000 years! Eli and Josh found large shards of pottery (perhaps used by Judah Maccabee!). And the entire class took an exciting (and very narrow) crawl through a candlelit cave system.

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At last it was on to Kfar Hanokdim, for our long-awaited camel ride and night spent sleeping Bedouin tents in the Judean desert. Our Bedouin host invited us to relax around a fire and sip tea spiced with desert herbs, and then he performed an ancient coffee-making ceremony while answering our questions about desert life. We enjoyed a traditional Bedouin dinner served on large trays with handmade pita.

The evening ended with a bonfire complete with s’mores and singing thanks to Liora’s guitar … and then it was early to bed in anticipation of our 4 a.m. wake-up call to climb Masada!



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