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Greetings From the Negev Desert

Dear Friends,

Sorry for the delay….but we are literally in the middle of the Negev Desert…with no internet access! I found the only Cafe Aroma in the area (like Starbucks!!)…that has WiFi…and rather than drinking coffee, I decided to write and let you know that we are all doing great!

There was a sad goodbye yesterday afternoon in Haifa. Tears and hugs all around. We feel good about what we accomplished in Haifa, and there were many promises made between the students for return visits - both to the US and to Israel.

Puzzle Israel is guiding us as we head to Tel Aviv. The bus ride was a bit more muted than it had been with the Israelis, but we were able to rest and reflect on the past few days in Haifa. The change between Haifa and Tel Aviv was immediately apparent to everyone as we entered this major cosmopolitan center of Israel. We walked a bit around Tel Aviv University - the largest university in Israel, and heard many, many different languages spoken all around us. The campus is enormous and is continuing to spread through the area. We began to learn about the birth of the State of Israel at a new interactive "museum" dedicated to the Palmach (the special unit of fighters who, in large measure, helped plan and execute the capture of this area from the British), the proclamation of the Jewish State, and the subsequent War for Independence that followed. It was really moving and introduced our students to the foundation of what is now the IDF -- the Israel Defense Forces.

We got back onto the bus, and within a short amount of time, the landscape changed from the traffic and congestion and tall buildings of Tel Aviv to the wilderness of the Negev. We arrived at our destination -- a Bedouin Village. Following a delicious traditional Bedouin meal, our guides took us on a night hike in the desert. We hiked without flashlights, maps, or technology! Our students learned how the IDF navigates the desert wilderness in the dark with the help of only the moon and the stars.

It was a late night…and our students retired for the evening in a large tent. We woke up to breakfast and camel rides!

We are now at the ancient city of Avdat…where the group is learning about the Nabateans who lived in this place many, many years ago. From here, we go to Sde Boker - the home and burial place of David Ben Gurion. Tonight we will be staying close to Masada so that we can be prepared for the sunrise climb up the mountain.

More later, I hope. But if not, you will know that I couldn't find another coffee shop with WiFi in the desert wilderness!

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