By: Lane Slotin
Whew, the second to last day on our trip was as jam-packed as the first eight. We started out the day leaving our kibbutz to head toward the Southwestern border about 3 miles from Gaza and 3 miles from Egypt. Our first stop was the Salad Trail, a tourist farm built to explain the agricultural advancements of Israel to over 50,000 patrons annually.
We began our excursion learning about the advancements Israeli farmers have made with strawberries, in which they hang the plants from ceilings in order to keep them from rotting on the bottom, thus producing more edible fruit. Additionally, the farming techniques utilize special soil from Sri Lanka, made special for strawberries, as well as drain systems that conserve water and allow for the farmers to recycle ever scarce water.
We were then showed the many different developments in the world of tomatoes and we were informed that the popular cherry tomato was invented in Israel. We got our chance to walk around and taste the vast tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers that the Salad Trail grew. Next we were taken to the citrus trees where we tasted delectable lemons, cumquats, and oranges. We finished our salad trail with a lunch made from the various fruits and veggies grown on the complex.
We boarded our bus and left for the largest crater in the world, I never thought erosion could create something so serine. The tall ridge line created pictures that will last a lifetime and a view that photos will never be able to capture completely. From the peaks of the ridge we made our way down into the depths of the valley only to climb up another mountain in which we watched the sunset over the Negev.
Personally, I ran into some fellow Roll Tiders from Alabama and in that moment I was able to understand the magnitude of importance that this country has with Jews from all over the world and the minuscule size of a country where a seemingly random hill in the Negev could bring together individuals with the same taste for championships and Judaism.
As we left the ridge line for the Bedouin tents, the view from Raffi's bus was indescribable as the vibrant oranges, reds, yellows, and pinks streaked through the night sky. We finally reached our destination in the historical tents of the Bedouin people and were treated like family to the native people. We ate delicious authentic food and were lectured on the vast culture of these ancient people as well as their history. We were informed that the tents we would be sleeping in are made from the black fur of the goats that they keep and the pads we sat and slept on were made from the sheep wool of the goat's co-inhabiter.
Before we called it a night, the group wandered out into the desert to enjoy the darkness and quiet that one can only achieve in the desert. Under the billions of stars and the lights from Israeli fighter jets from the country's largest Air Force base, the group reflected on a trip's worth of information and our strengthened identities with Israel and our Jewish life. After that, we closed the night with stories and more comradory around a scorching fire made by our new Bedouin friends. All in all, the day and the trip as a whole was a great achievement by our group and we created memories for a lifetime.
Am Yisrael Chai!