Dear Start South Israel Family, Friends and Colleagues,
So much transpired this week and we're thankful for this opportunity to now pause - and reflect. It has been an amazing journey during which connections boomed and creativity blossomed.
Let's take a look back, starting from Tuesday morning when we toured along Shvil HaSalat (the Salad Trail): We visited greenhouses in the Northern Negev where we learned about agriculture and tasted the fruits and vegetables - the tomatoes were delicious, as were the lemons, kumquats and oranges! Next, Kol HaOt gave a workshop called "Mapping the Journey" where we depicted our personal journeys this past week in collage art. This was an important reflective time where we were able to share our unique experience of our trip. We then headed back to our Kibbutzim to prepare ourselves for Daroma, the big festival in Sderot!!!!!
The festival was even better than we had hoped; it was a highlight for us all. There were many white tents set up for the various different workshops we had been preparing throughout this unbelievable week. There was a rhythm therapy tent where the participants and festival attendees came together in a drum-and-dance circle; an imagination tent full of colorful puppets and set designs for the kids to play with; a street theater tent where children could build their confidence while learning how to walk on stilts; and, our carnival artists roamed the large grounds with their huge puppets, engaging with festival-comers throughout the night. Out in the open, attendees participated in beautifying a graffiti wall, creating tie dye t-shirts, eating flavorsome dishes from the various food stands and more.
By about 8pm, the music had begun! We were privileged to hear many famous Israeli artists play live, including Sarit Hadad, Hadag Nachash and Barry Sacharoff. But perhaps most exciting for us, was when our very own Start South band took the stage and when the documentary films created by our film team were screened for everyone to enjoy. It was truly a magical night!
At about 11:30pm the music ended and we gathered onto the buses, heading back to our lodging for a good sleep. The festival showed the power of art; how it brings people together and truly proves to be a universal language. Not only does art build community but it also blurs the boundaries that otherwise separate people.
Gal Fridman, one of the band members, when asked how he felt during the festival, said, “Can I just use one word? Unreal. It was unreal.”
Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to our Israeli participants at that point (but we would see many of them again at the New Year celebrations Wednesday night).
We kicked off a little later than usual on Wednesday, checked out of the Kibbutz Guesthouses and drove to Jerusalem for a tour with Idan Pink and David Kay. Our discussions on security and various social issues gave us all a deeper understanding of the complexities in Jerusalem and Israel in general.
Following lunch in the Old City, we enjoyed a scavenger hunt in the Jewish Quarter. The tour uncovered the layers of Jewish history from the time of the First Temple until present day. We discovered some of the stories, traditions and legends the stones of this ancient city behold.
The day was topped off with an extraordinary dinner at Eucalyptus Restaurant and we then drove to Tel Aviv, freshened up at our hotel and headed out for the New Year celebrations. We spent the night with WUJS students and some of our Israeli participants who regrouped with us at Valium, a club in the city.
Today began with a wholesome breakfast and our morning ritual in which individuals took the opportunity to express their gratitude and appreciation for one another. It was a beautiful sunny day and we drove into the city to explore Tel Aviv through food and art! The Tasters Tour of Shuk Levinsky gave us an opportunity to both meet local shop keepers and taste some interesting foods. The Central Bus Station tour was a little more surprising. We started off walking through the main areas, and then we were taken into the abandoned areas of this gigantic building, learning about its history and complex situation as well as discovering some interesting art that attempts at bringing new life to this area.
Following free time for lunch and for exploring Tel Aviv a bit more, we gathered back together to share our thoughts and parting words at our final dinner together. It is hard to say goodbye. Participant Yana Brook wrote to all the other participants before her flight back to Russia, “I want to tell you that you are more then new friends to me. This is more like a family. What an amazing community of creative, openhearted and sweet people you are! I hope to see you all again… Much love & thank you.”
It’s hard to believe the program has come to a close and it's difficult to say goodbye after such an amazing experience together so, as they say in Israel, we're just wishing each other Lihetraot ("see you soon")!
Shabbat Shalom and happy 2015,
Elyssa on behalf of the Start South staff