Communes, Caves and Cake in the Middle East

On Thursday night the OG Middle Easterners were plagued with bittersweet news. Our volunteer plans for the following morning were dampened by the announcement of Susyia as a Closed Military Zone. We were all devastated when Naomi told us this late Thursday night, but our blisters breathed a sigh of relief.

After much needed rest and relaxation (read: 13-18 hours of straight sleep) we spent the day chillin’ in Jerusalem. A group of us, still harboring disappointment (and some angst) towards the Dead Sea, adventured to a natural spring just outside of the city, which was recommended to us by our “trusty” Spirit Guide, Tzouli. We should have known that getting to the spring would require more effort and exertion than dear Tzouli let on.

A deja vu of our 13 hour hike, we had to climb down to the “natural spring”. It turned out to be not as natural as we imagined – yes, the water came from the ground, and yes, long ago you could have seen the bottom of the spring, but today it is murky, green, and next to a pit of trash. The girls were also outrageously outnumbered. And then we started a religious uproar….our shirtless-ness and lack of pants seemed to offend some of the religious men by the watering hole, enough so to be approached. We were told the spring was part of traditional cleansing on Sabbath (or something along those lines), and that we should just leave in peace and come on a less holy day. I can say this was my first encounter where religion trumped the public’s use of a municipal property. So we left begrudgingly. The natural spring was in the abandoned Palestinian town of Lifta, so we ended the day on a positive note and explored the remains of its houses.

Saturday was field trip day, starting with a two hour bus drive North, to the Kibbutz, Mishmar Haemeq. We were hosted and shown around by Daniel’s Aunt Davna. I think most of us were amazed by what a Kibbutz community and lifestyle really looked like. Imagine the best summer camp you’ve ever been to mixed with a suave Florida retirement community. Lush, quiet, scenic, safe, excellent food, and a broadened sense of family many of us may have not been familiar with in the West. The Kibbutz operates on a socialist lifestyle, where all income earned inside and outside of the Kibbutz is shared and divided up equally. Houses, pools, amenities, supplies, and even cars are all shared between its members. Needless to say, a lot of us were ready to sign up by the end of our time there. OH! And, they let us spend some time at their pool. Third time’s clearly a charm after the Dead Sea and the natural spring. On our way home, we had a short stop in Nazareth. Just enough time to walk around the Basilica of Annunciation, which was breathtaking.

It was rise and shine at 4 a.m. on Sunday for our first day of well digging with our friends from Rabbis for Human Rights. The village we were helping was in the West Bank, opposite one of the many illegal outposts. A man from the village met us on the dirt road, where we had been dropped off, and led us to a cave on the side of a mountain outside of their village.

We have been working with a man named Ishmel, and his children, helping dig out this cave that will collect rain water for the family throughout the winter months. Our manual labor includes pickaxing, shoveling dirt, and haulin’ it out. We were all tired by the end of the day.

No matter how often we’ve encountered it, we’re still amazed by the Palestinian hospitality as we work through Ramadan. The family brought us fresh sweet tea, despite their fasting. And yet again as we’ve experienced this trip, despite the language barrier, we have had no problems understanding what these people need from us, nor did we miss their gratitude as we headed out for the day.

And let us not forget our lovely OG’er Jill’s birthday! Jill celebrated her 22nd with us in OG fashion, down to the chocolate croissant cake, and honeyballs. Mmmmm!

Lechayim to digging wells!
OG Middle East