Just an FYI for further reading on this post: “tiyul” is Hebrew for “field trip”, and “tiyulim” is the plural, as in “field trips”.  And another FYI, because I’m late (as usual), I’m combining the third and fourth week into one post.  Hope you enjoy reading about the insane amount of tiyulim I had during these weeks!

Jerusalem & Masada: We started off the third week with a big overnight tiyul!  On day one, we drove up to Jerusalem and spent the day learning about the Second Temple period and King Herod.  Among many interesting things, we visited the Temple Mount, and had some great shawarma in the Jewish quarter.  After our morning and afternoon spent in a city that is quickly becoming one of my favorites in the world, we got back on the bus and headed to our second location for the tiyul: Masada.  We spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening in our hostel, during which I had to spend several hours studying.  {Ironically, my AP US History test was two days later.  It was slightly frustrating to spend precious time in Israel studying American history, but now I’m one of six people in the world who can say they hiked up Masada before sunrise, and then took a lengthy exam the next morning.} Anyway, we ended our night by having a moment for meditation in the desert as the sun was going down, and we went to sleep soon afterwards.  However, sleep was slim to none that night, because the next morning we had to wake up at 3am to get out the door for our next big adventure. We hiked up Masada, a trading fort and palace built by King Herod.  It was a hard hike, but it wasn’t extremely long, and we managed to make it to the top before the sun went up.  We had a beautiful service as the sun was rising, and then stayed on top and toured around for several hours.  After a while we hiked down and got some much deserved ice cream.  Hiking Masada is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and it was such a rewarding experience.  We ended our trip with a stop for lunch and time to swim in the Dead Sea.  Contrary to popular belief, the Dead Sea wasn’t entirely pleasant, but floating in the water is definitely memorable. These two days were so packed but so much fun, and might be my favorite on the trip so far.

Open Shabbat: The third weekend was also an open Shabbat, but I didn’t have plans so I stayed on campus with a bunch of friends.  It was so relaxing, especially after the AP exam.  We went out for sushi, had a Cinco de Mayo party (including guac and quesadillas that we figured out how to make in the dorm), we went strawberry picking, and ordered in burgers.  (Yes, we take every chance we can get to not eat dining hall food.). Open Shabbats are such a nice break from the never-ending schedule of HSI, and any opportunity to sleep in is a golden opportunity.

Bar Kochba: Right after Shabbat we hit the road again for another tiyul.  On this day, we visited underground caves that were used during the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans.  We crawled through tiny caves, which further proved to me how smart the ancient Jews were – these caves were intricate underground paths made for hiding in during the revolt, and obviously they had no battery-powered machines to dig them.  Anyway, my favorite part of this tiyul was when we all turned off or flashlights and sang in the dark.

Belvoir & Tzfat: Our first tiyul of week four had three main stops.  First, we spent the morning at an old Crusader fort.  We had a lesson about Christian and Muslim rule of Israel during the Middle Ages, and we discussed what it would’ve been like to live as a Jew in either of those empires.  Next, we had lunch and took a swim in the Sea of Galilee, which was refreshing because this day was one of the hottest so far.  We ended our super long day in Tzfat, where we learned about Kabbalism, went shopping in the Artist colony, and I may or may not have gotten a third ear piercing. I can’t confirm or deny anything.

Kehillah Day: Kehillah means “community” in Hebrew, and Kehillah Day was a tiyul dedicated to giving back to Israel.  In the morning we went to a place for the elderly in Jerusalem who still need to support themselves by working.  The people working there, most of whom turned out to be Russian immigrants, all made various types of intricate crafts and Judaica.  Everything was impressively handcrafted and beautiful.  Next, we stopped at a factory where we helped pack food for Israeli families who can’t adequately feed themselves.  And our final stop for the day was to the Israel Museum, where we explored the different art collections and took pictures by the famous Ahava sign.  Kehilla Day was very chill and a great way to give back to Israel, which has given and will continue to give so much to us while we’re here.

Bedouin Tent Shabbat: Our final tiyul of week four was over Shabbat.  We spent the night at the Bedouin tents, which some people in my group compared to “glamping.”  I wouldn’t have called it glamorous, but it was incredibly fun to have a huge bonfire with s’mores, and sleep in a big tent with sixteen of my really great friends.  The next morning we rode camels at the tents, which was wild.  The Bedouin tents aren’t necessarily authentic, but I’m guessing tourism is a big source of income them.  Plus, having a giant tent sleepover provided us with some great bonding opportunities.  After we left the tents, we spent a while of the afternoon in a place called iJump, which is an indoor trampoline park.  It’s exactly what it sounds like: we literally jumped on trampolines and listened to Israeli pop for an hour.  After that interesting experience, we finished our fun Shabbat at Sirona Market in Tel Aviv (the equivalent to Chelsea Market in New York).  We had some delicious pasta and Indian food and ice cream, and did a little shopping.  After two open Shabbats apart, spending this Shabbat with my whole group was so entertaining, and it was nice to forget about school and go on a trip that had no learning involved.

Weeks three and four have been some of the best and most fun weeks I’ve experienced in all the weeks of my life.  Israel is incredible and I never want to leave.

Thanks for reading!