Traveling around Israel

After my week of relaxation in Jerusalem, I spent a week and a half traveling around the country with my grad school program. We meet with various organizations and leaders and had many challenging, interesting, wonderful conversations. The trip started in Tel Aviv. I got to the hotel before the rest of the group, so I had a few hours before starting the busy trip itinerary. I checked in at the Hotel Metropolitan – it was comfortable and clean with rooms that slept two comfortably:

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I love the little things that indicate you’re in Israel…such as every hotel room having a mezuzah on the door:

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After checking into the hotel, I had a few hours to kill so I visited Shuk HaCarmel, Tel Aviv’s primary outdoor shuk (market):

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I also walked along the beach for a bit, enjoying the sights and sounds of the promenade:

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The Tel Aviv promenade along the beach is one of my all-time favorite places to run, and the next morning I had a great jog, pausing to take in the view towards Jaffa and back towards the Tel Aviv city center:

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I also loved this Ben Gurion statue along the beach, upside-down in his iconic headstand:

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As for the formal trip itself, some highlights included a visit to the Knesset where we talked with Michael Oren and Ksenia Svetlova:

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A Tel Aviv walking tour (pictures below were taken in Rabin Square):

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A tour of the security barrier, talking about the structure itself as well its purpose and challenges:

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A visit to the ruins of Yamit (a town forcibly evacuated of Jewish settlers in 1982) and a tour around the Gaza borders. The shattered tiles below are remains from a bulldozed bathroom wall:

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A visit to Nitzana, an educational youth village in Southern Israel in the Negev (the Hebrew translation of the phrase pictured below is “If you want to create a change, you need to live the change.”):

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A tour of the Old City in Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter on Christmas Day (pictures below are from inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre):

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And – the most memorable part of the trip – a visit to the Holot Detention Center, a manifestation of Israel’s attempts to manage its refugee crisis. From 2004-2012, tens of thousands of refugees entered Israel from Eritrea and Sudan. Most of the refugees do not have work permits and are not legal residents of Israel. Yet, Israel is unwilling to forcibly send them back to their countries of origin given the dangers there. Unprepared to handle the situation, one of Israel’s attempts to manage the crisis is Holot – a refugee detention center in the Negev. Holding thousands of male refugees, residents are expected to be at the camp from 10pm-6am each day (although they can leave outside of those times so long as they are present for twice-daily roll calls). Without work visas, the people at the detention center have very little to do each day, causing additional challenges.

These pictures are from a market outside of the detention center’s fences where many of the residents spend their days:

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And we also had some views towards the fences of the detention center itself:

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The last meeting of the trip that I’ll mention was an evening with a leadership youth program for Bedouin teens (the program only exists for boys right now, although they are planning to start one for girls soon). The program is called Stars of the Negev, and we had a fascinating evening meeting with them in a tent, drinking tea, and asking questions about their community:

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The educational part of the trip was fascinating, and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to be part of so many interesting conversations. Stay tuned soon for a quick recap of some of the more light-hearted parts of the trip!

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