What an exciting first week it’s been here on Sulam! After a plane ride filled with both sleep and excitement, we landed in Israel safely late Monday night. We arrived at our hotel in the Bayit Vegan section of Yerushalayim and enjoyed the hot pizza, pasta, and cold drinks awaiting us.
Tuesday began with a sense of excitement as we headed out in the morning to the City of David, the archaeological site of David Hamelech’s palace and the famous water tunnels of Chizkiyahu. This exciting and splashing adventure got some people more wet than they expected, but it was all in great fun. Some daring campers even had a “blackout” tunnel experience, making their way through the dark and wet tunnels without any flashlights. After spending some time in the Old City for lunch of their choice, we headed back to our accommodations and a nearby park for some ice breakers. A “speed meeting” game allowed the campers to get to know the staff, and a game of Human Bingo allowed the campers to get to know each other. We then headed back to the Old City for a fascinating and educational tour through the Kotel Tunnels.
As we exited the tunnels, we made our way to the Kotel where the group broke out into a beautiful and powerful kumzitz that got the attention of all the onlookers. We ended off our first day with dinner at Ben Yehuda.
Wednesday started with a long bus ride down south to Shvil Hasalat, where we walked through vegetable fields, learning all about how southern Israel farms thrive despite the dry and hot weather. The campers enjoyed picking tomatoes, cucumbers, passion fruit, and a multitude of herbs, and made their own pita. We enjoyed some of these fresh foods and teas provided by Shvil Hasalat for lunch.
In preparation for our two day Midbar excursion, we stopped for an educational lesson at Ben Gurion’s grave, which overlooked the very Negev desert that we would be trekking. Our Midbar experience began with a small hike that led to our first campsite where we set up camp and had our first famous Keshet BBQ for dinner. Thursday morning we woke up at the crack of dawn to get a head start on our hike through the desert. We took a few stops along the way for water breaks and some time to cool down, including a much anticipated and needed stop at a pool area to jump into the water to cool off. The heat made it challenging but the kids pushed each other and encouraged each other all the way to the end. The views were magnificent and the sense of accomplishment was almost tangible. At around sunset we stopped hiking for the day, had a delicious dinner and went to bed early so we were well rested for our last day of the Midbar.
Friday morning we woke up for special sunrise minyanim, where small groups of 10 found their own private area of the mountain and experienced a powerful and transcendent davening in the very footsteps of Moshe and Bnei Yisrael when they traveled through the desert. As we finished the last part of our hike, the buses pulled up to meet us. We were all very excited to finally be on an air conditioned bus where we got to relax for a few hours as we drove up North to beautiful Kibbutz Lavi, where the kids got a chance to swim and play basketball. After a challenging, exhausting, but powerful two days hiking, all the kids can talk about is how excited they are for Shabbos!
The kids had a blast their first week here in Israel and are looking forward to welcoming in the very first Shabbos of Sulam 2015! As always, photos are available at www.campmorasha.com/sulam.
R’ Aaron Fleksher & the Sulam Team