While it’s hard to believe my time in Israel has come to an end, my adventures of the recent weeks continue to be surreal in my mind. My past few weekends included a trip to southern Israel, a family visit in Skiathos, Greece, and a return home that included almost missing my flight. It seems like most of my plans included a different turn of direction but every minute in Israel, was time well spent.
Besides one small downfall of having my phone stolen, I still managed to recover lost photos from friends and make great new memories on the remainder of my trip. The first part to reflect on was my time in southern Israel. As part of my program, we traveled to the Negev for a a few activities with a highlight on a special hike and visit to the Dead Sea. We left early in the morning and made it to our first overlook of the craters of the Negev within a few hours. We then moved to Ben Gurion’s Grave, and later were given a tour of the Ein Gedi Kibbutz, the only kibbutz to have its land entirely considered a botanical garden.
The desert in Israel is actually much different than the desert portrayed in movies. Its rocky terrain makes for great hiking paths and the mountainous views it offers are incomparable. On this return trip to Israel, I found myself focusing less on the physical nature of the desert, however, and more on how calm I felt. When you’re standing in a spot like Ben Gurion’s grave and see only the vast expanse of the desert, the worries of the real world seem far away and it’s easier to reconnect with yourself.
This is a photo of us standing in front of the craters of the Negev. The view from that overlook is spectacular and allows for you to truly take in the peace and space for thought the Negev provides.
Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of the state of Israel, spent his final years in the Negev. He chose this area as his resting spot rather than Jerusalem like the other influential leaders, proving the impact the Negev can have on its inhabitants.
The following day of the south trip, we conquered a four- hour hiking trail and were rewarded with a visit to the dead sea. Hiking is a pastime enjoyed by Israeli’s and Israeli tourists alike. Our hike consisted of walking time through a stream, alongside cliffs and ravines, and finally ended at a beautiful waterfall and swimming area. After feeling accomplished but tired, we made our way to the Dead Sea where I swam in the lowest point on earth for the third time in my life. The water has no movement or current and can reach such high temperatures that entering it can feel much like a Jacuzzi at first. The edges of the water wash salt crystals and clumps ashore from the high salt concentration in the water.
This photo was taken from behind our group as we began our hiking journey.
The guys in this picture took some convincing to cover themselves in the mud but once they gave it a try, they loved it.
Fact: You can’t drown in the Dead Sea
You can’t visit the Dead Sea and be too afraid to cover yourself in mud taken straight from its depths. One fact about the Dead Sea is that it is predicted to be completely dried up in 40 years so if you want to visit, its time to stop making excuses!
That weekend was an incredible highlight of my program at Tel Aviv University. The following weekend I was fortunate enough to take advantage of the close proximity of the Mediterranean countries and I visited family in Greece. I’ve known about the group of cousins living there my whole life but traveling there was always out of reach because of distance and expense. Finally meeting my family was the most positive addition to my trip. They showed me the island of Skiathos like a local, I visited the top beach of the island, Koukounaries, enjoyed the nightlife of the town, and allowed myself to melt into the relaxing atmosphere that envelopes the island. There is never a sense of urgency or feeling of being stressed.
The first night I arrived, my cousin Stavros (pictured to the right of me) took us out to the town where we found a rooftop bar with live music and a great view of the town below us.
A panorama of the view from the house of one of my cousins. It seemed like everywhere you looked on this island, there was a picture waiting to be taken.
After an emotional four days, it was time to return to Tel Aviv and finish my coursework and take my final exams and head back to America. My last week was uneventful and filled with sad goodbyes and difficulty facing the reality of leaving. My birthday fell during that final week and spending it in Israel was the best possible present I could have asked for.
To anyone who studies abroad the future, the summer is over before you know it and you’re catching your plane back to the United States. Remember every moment and live to enjoy, not too look forward.