Mar 13, 2014  By Emma Levich  Category: Education,

More alternative-break reporting from the Negev

Sitting here back here in my room at the wonderful Kibbutz Kramim, I can't believe our second day has already flown by; we have done so much, yet have many more amazing stories to hear and sights to see.

Yesterday was our first day of volunteering, and we worked with an organization called Earth's Promise, an organization that strives to assist Ethiopian immigrants adjust to life in Israel, culturally and socially. One specific project they have is growing a community garden where Ethiopian families can grow various crops and vegetables to be used in their daily life. The purpose of this garden is to give something to the families who are new to the land of Israel, something that they can call their own. This also provides them with a certain comfort, by growing crops they are familiar with.

I was so impressed by this organization and their various projects, especially by the passion that encompassed everyone who worked there. Throughout spending the day there, it was obvious to see how the presence of this community garden brought people together, in the most positive ways. The fact that I can say that I was personally a part of this mission is extremely rewarding, and something that I will cherish forever.
As the sunrise welcomed the second day of the trip, I woke up eager (and hungry) for another day of learning, volunteering, and experiencing new things. After a delicious breakfast, we were off to our next destination in the Negev to volunteer on a farm owned by Yossi, who makes organic olive oil. Throughout the early afternoon, we helped Yossi clean up shrub and small bushes from the strips of land where the crops grow. Hearing his story about his farm and the various difficulties of owning a farm in the middle of the desert was truly eye opening; I had no idea the Negev had farms, let alone whole communities dedicated to cultivating the land. Yossi talked about how he farms *with* nature and goes with the natural flow of the environment versus against it -- this is how his farm survives.

Learning about his farm and the amounts of intensive work and effort he has to put in to maintain his crops was very interesting and I only wish him the best; he is a prime example of a dedicated farmer proving to the world that it really is possible to survive in the desert. After one of the most amazing lunches I've ever had, we headed back out on the road to our next destinations: the Ramon Crater, Ben Gurion's gravesite, and the city of Arad.

The Ramon Crater was absolutely breathtaking. It was my first time hiking along the path that lead to what is known as Earth's Window, and no picture could do justice to the beauty of this view. Layers, upon glorious, colorful layers of rock lay out across the horizon, never seeming to end. Besides the geographical beauty that lay beneath my feet, the Ramon Crater is special in the sense that it took me back to the time of our ancestors, who once roamed the same land. Before heading back to the kibbutz, we made a quick stop at Ben Gurion's grave, and again I was brought back to the time of our older generations; hearing about the first prime minister's dreams and hopes for Israel was touching, and I couldn't be more proud to be a part of his vision and watch it come to fruition.
Last but not least we arrived in Arad, where we had the opportunity of meeting a few individuals who were currently residing there, and hear their unique stories. The three young adults we talked to were part of new experience that included helping the community in Arad becoming more involved and escape the stereotype as the "Hole in the Desert" city of the south. All three of them had made Aliyah at one point or another, and were now in Arad with the goal of creating an intentional community of young adults through creating various projects, one of which was offering free English classes to people of the community. They also had a consensus about living in the south, versus in the central part of Israel where most Israeli citizens live; they all wanted to escape the crazy and hectic city lifestyle of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and have an opportunity to give back to their communities. With the help of Nefesh B'nefesh, they are able to live our their dream in Israel, through this intentional community. Hearing their experiences was again, very eye opening as it made me realize that there is much more to Israel than the big cities, and that there really are thriving communities in the Negev region.
Overall, the past two days have been nothing short of amazing. I'm ecstatic for the rest of the week to unfold  and see what is in store. After only a few short days I have learned so much about Israel's southern region, and gained much respect for the communities that are striving to become thriving environments. As it was Ben Gurion's vision for the land of Israel, seeing first hand how the Negev region is progressing is truly amazing, and volunteering with these organizations is just the cherry on top of a once in a lifetime volunteer experience. This trip is already exceeding my expectations and unfolding to be an amazing time- I welcome day three with open arms, my work gloves, and a huge smile.