By Rabbi David Wilfond, Director of Education
On Sunday the teens visited the Orcam labs in Jerusalem, where they got to test out their next generation product. Orcam develops cameras that attach to glasses in subtle and sleek way in order to help people with visual impairments read, recognize faces, and tell time. Following Orcam, the teens took a culinary tour of Jerusalem’s largest open-air food market known as Macheneh Yehuda, and participated in a food science workshop with the startup Stellarnova. Here the teens got to see and smell mountains of colorful and aromatic spices unique to the middle east and both taste and make their own kanafe, a Middle Eastern delicacy. After a delicious lunch at the market, the bus descended in to the desert to the Bedouin encampment of Kfar HaNokdim for camel rides and Bedouin hospitality. The teens got to meet and talk with some leaders of this fascinating nomadic people and how they subsist in the harsh desert environment.
During their first night in the desert, the group ventured out under the stars to observe the vast amount of stars visible in the desert sky and take time for reflection in the peaceful silence of the desert.
Monday, they teens woke before sunrise, so they could witness the beauty of dawn in the Judean desert. Together, they saw the ball of the sun crest over the Mountains of Moab, overlooking the waters of the Dead Sea, in one of nature’s most breathtaking spectacles. The teens then explored the dramatic and controversial dilemma of the defenders of Masada who struggled to live as Jews in an unpluralistic, unaccepting, and inhospitable Roman world. Through the amazing preservation of these ancient ruins, they also learned about the innovative building technologies of the time, including their methods of transporting and storing water.
After Masada, the group toured The Dead Sea Works, the world’s fourth largest supplier and producer of Potash products an essential ingredient of plant fertilizer. It is ironic that from the “Dead” Sea goes forth one of the most important ingredients for botanical life! After touring the plants and learning about the wide variety of industries are supported by the minerals extract from the Dead Sea, the teens were then challenged to think about the some challenges with the plants, which have great environmental impacts in the area. The teens next got a chance to float and play in the water of the Dead Sea – which is the lowest place on planet earth! Monday night was spent at Kibbutz Yahel the Reform Movement’s first kibbutz in Israel.
Tuesday morning began with a visit to Kibbutz Lotan, the youngest reform movement kibbutz in Israel. This kibbutz is a member of the Global Ecovillage network. The teens go to get their hands dirty making molding mud bricks and touring their sustainable agricultural area while learning how Jewish values can influence environmental conservation efforts. One of the highlights of Tuesday was the visit to the beach of Eilat where the teens got to go snorkeling in the cooling waters of the Red Sea. Here they got to see hundreds of species of colorful fish that inhabit Eilat’s coral reef. Following Eilat, the group headed to Kibbutz Keturah to visit their Off-Grid Village, where engineers test out products such as solar cookers, water filtration, electricity production, and so much more, for communities that are not connected to the electrical grid. The visit to Ketura finished at Israel’s largest solar fields, where they arrived just in time to watch the 100 robots begin their daily task of cleaning every panel.
Today, Wednesday, the group visited Park Timna to learn about desert geology. Park Timna is home to a really ancient cooper mine (at least 4,000 years old!) Many scientists claim that this was the first place that humans ever mined copper on the planet earth! This site represents the embrace of technology as core to human history and the development of human society. After a warm day in the desert, the group finished at Kibbutz Yotvata, where they enjoyed unlimited fresh cholocalte milk from their dairy farm, learned about renewable energy efforts of the kibbutz, explored the history of Yotvata, and indulged in delicious pre-dinner ice cream.