Ken Ha Mifakedet! {Sar-El ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Day #18}

Ken Ha Mifakedet! {Sar-El ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Day #18} | Wednesday 27th July 2016 |

It’s the last day of our programme so I don’t think the managers really had anything useful for us to do. I was given the task of making 1000 bags. We didn’t need to pack anything- just make the bags- which seemed really pointless. I cut so many bags that the scissors ripped skin off my fingers – ouch! Yesterday a manager gave us some pre-made bags (but properly manufactured ones) to use when packing random pipe parts and I was thinking “why didn’t they give these to us 3 weeks ago so we wouldn’t have to slave away making them ourselves?!”

It was the warehouse commander’s birthday so the workers threw him a ‘surprise’ party, with loads of food etc. It was really nice that we were invited to celebrate with everyone. However, there was Bamba everywhere and I was so paranoid because my medication was back at the dorms.

In the afternoon, I was absolutely shattered so I went to sleep in the office for a good hour and a half. I felt really bad taking such a long break because we came here to work, but I really had no energy to do anything. When I’d recovered a bit, I helped the blonde German boy put stickers on a few boxes of hammers, which was an easy job for the end of the day. Everyone had helped to clean the warehouse (I started to sweep the floor but then someone blasted a hose so all the rubbish and dust got swept away in the water again and I gave up) and most of the palettes in the middle section of the space in which we worked had been taken away so the place looked strangely empty.

At 4pm we went to the flag raising spot to take some group photos and I think they turned out really well. After that, some crazy people decided to go back to work for a couple more hours!

This evening, we had a debrief session where we gave feedback about the programme and shared our reflections on the experience. Then we presented our madrichot with cards and t-shirts we made for them to say thank you, and they presented us with certificates.

Our main evening activity was very different tonight. Our Russian madricha became our commander and we had to do some simplified basic training drills outside. We had no idea what was going on, so we made jokes, but she was super severe and wouldn’t let us talk or move. After all our commands we had to say “Ken ha mifakedet!” (Yes, commander!) We had to stand in different formations like the letter “Chet” or in equal lines, and we only had a few seconds to run to the correct place and stand in position. When we got it wrong we had to do it all over again! It was hilarious because we’re friends with our madricha and we’d never seen her shout at anyone like this. At one point, she wanted to tell us to stand by a telephone pole but didn’t know the word for it in English and got really frustrated. The Candian boy made her crack up and break the straight face. She had to go off to “take a phone call” but we knew that she just needed a few seconds to have a giggle and gain composure again! It was hard for all of us not to laugh but if we did crack up, we would be kicked out. It was a cool activity to have on our last night.

Afterwards, we had a pizza party, played cards and listened as the funny quotes from the past few weeks were read out. It was great to reminisce and laugh about all the ridiculous, embarrassing, witty and inappropriate comments that we made. I’ve loved spending time with this group and because everyone was so quirky in their own way, I’m going to miss the group dynamics when I go home!

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Surprise: Siren! {Sar-El ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Day 17}

Surprise: Siren! {Sar-El ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Day 17} | Tuesday 26th July 2016 |

Have you ever counted sheep if you’ve found it hard to get to sleep? Well I have, and I only usually get to 50 before I’m out. So imagine having to count not only to 50 or 100 or even 150, but 9200 without falling asleep. Today my friends and I spent most of the morning packing 9200 tiny metal rings into nylon bags (and I thought the 1950 pieces I did in one go the other day was bad…) When I got to lunch, another friend told me she did it yesterday but weighed the pieces collectively in cups so it barely took any time or effort… so you can imagine how frustrated we were that nobody told us that was an option! Can I just emphasise again that we individually counted out 9200 pieces?! 

For our evening activity, we learned about different minority ethnic groups living in Israel (ie. the Druze, Beduoins, Ethiopians, Black Hebrews, Carcissians etc…). It was so funny because our madricha talked about the French population in Israel but called them “Frenches” (we’re always making fun of her English). At one point, a siren blared and we had to duck on the floor quickly for a head count. There’s a new commander on the base who’s really strict about rules, so we had to join in with this army drill and then sit on the floor (amongst the ants, of course) for the rest of our activity. 

Update on the ant situation by my bed: I spritzed them with my bug repellent and apart from the odd woozy ant crawling around, most of them disappeared (hooray!) 

The Best Feeling In The World {Sar-El ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Day 16}

The Best Feeling In The World {Sar-El ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Day 16} | Monday 25th July 2016 | 

To be totally honest, today was a bit rubbish. I was stuck putting small bags into bigger bags, then packing huge, heavy metallic screws into nylon. The 5 hour morning dragged on and on, and when it came to the afternoon I slipped off to the air-conditioned office to take a nap. I just had no energy to do anything so I was alternating between hiding from the managers behind the fan at my desk, visiting other volunteers at their stations, plaiting girls’ hair and helping Soulja Boy. The worst part was that I finished my tasks at 3pm and could have left early, but nobody told me that they got to leave early so I was there for an extra half an hour that I could have used to take a shower or eat Doritos! 

I didn’t mention it before but being able to take a cold shower here is such a luxury; even after I go for runs or it’s a whopping 22 degrees back in the UK, there’s no way I could face a cold shower… but here, after a day of sweating and slaving away, it’s the best feeling in the world. Today it was lucky I had a shower when I did because we found out a pipe had burst and the base had no water! 

For our evening activity, we had a guest speaker from Yad Vashem who came to talk to us about Jewish leadership, mainly in the Holocaust. I was shattered and barely took anything in. I was pretty sure I’d learned about the same people on the Genesis Poland trip, and she was not an engaging speaker either. All in all, the talk went on far too long and I didn’t find it interesting, unfortunately. Afterwards, I finally watched Harry Potter with some others. It wasn’t terrible (if you forget about the green screen) but it was really weird watching actors who I’ve seen in more recent films as tiny kids with posh British accents. At least now I’ve started my Harry Potter education, even if I am 10 years too late…

Oh and before bed I found a trail of ants by my bed. I am now itchy 99% of the time. I swear these ants are everywhere, even in my dreams…

Thrown In The Deep End {Sar-El ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Day #15}

Thrown In The Deep End {Sar-El ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Day #15} | Sunday 24th July 2016 |

Someone didn’t turn up at our meeting point this morning! One of the German boys had a return flight from Eilat but it got very delayed, so his taxi met us at the base entrance. A new boy (from Philadelphia) who had just finished Taglit joined our group today. 

We had a blissful few hours before we were needed at work but the Czech and Slovakian girls wanted to go to work straight away. I personally need all the time out that we get because it’s an exhausting and intense programme, so the fact that these volunteers start shifts early and stay on an extra 2 hours after the rest of us leave seems like madness to me! We already do 7.5 hours a day, so the thought of 9.5 is unbearable! 

This afternoon I packaged another 1200 or so of whatever it was I didn’t finish packing on Friday. I was trying to find (gal gal gal) Galatz on the radio and the sweet manager who gives jobs to the French boys came over to help. However, he kept putting on the same awful heavy metal radio station and telling me it was that one (nope!) He’s so funny but mainly because he doesn’t speak English so we communicate through the odd word and a lot of confusing gestures. Every morning, he gets off his bike and comes to turn on my light, check the radio is to my liking, and manages to make me laugh somehow. 

At dinner, everyone was really hyper. Some boys at my table were trying to land balls of scrunched up napkins into our cups and we were just giddy for some reason. I was worried we were scaring off the new guy because he seems nice and pretty normal, and he’s just been thrown in the deep end two weeks into our programme. 

Our evening activity was learning about Israel geography. We had a team exercise where we competed to stick names of famous cities on giant hand drawn maps. I’m honestly so impressed with the effort that goes into preparing our evening activities – the madrichot are fantastic. We also learned a bit about each place, like what you can find and do there. My geography is terrible so this activity definitely helped me clear a few things up. 

Later on, I ended up watching Harry Potter with some others. The posh British accents made everything over-the-top cheesy and I’m sure the more recent movies must have better green screen graphics, but overall it was quite entertaining and I can finally say I understand a little more about the Harry Potter world I missed out on in my childhood.  

๏ปฟClouds On Fire {Sar-El ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Day #14}

Clouds On Fire {Sar-El ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Day #14} | Saturday 23rd July 2016 |

Like last Shabbat, I took the opportunity to relax for as long as possible. My day consisted of swimming, noshing on Doritos, reading (I’ve almost finished my book now!) and sleeping in the shade by the rooftop pool in the hotel. The others went to the beach but I didn’t fancy getting all sandy, so I joined them later on when they brought the French guys to the hotel. We had a chill afternoon by the poolside, joking around and people-watching as Shabbat’s end was nearing. 

As the pool was closing, the friendly lifeguard let me stay up there to continue reading my book. He came to chat to me and we discussed Israel, my volunteering, intermarriage, and I taught him about the “friend zone”! He’s the kind of lifeguard who does his job but also goes the extra mile to schmooze with the guests and make them feel at home. So yes, I did make friends with a 50-something year old Israeli, but he offered to let all the volunteers use the pool whenever we’re next in Tel Aviv, which was really sweet of him. There was an artist yesterday at the market who also thought it was great that we were doing Sar-El; she said “I am so proud of you”, which really meant a lot to us. 

The sunset was extraordinary today. The sun was setting behind some clouds, so it made the outline of the clouds look neon or like they were on fire. Also, there were huge rays of golden light beaming through the clouds in all directions, which looked stunning both in the sky and reflected in the sea. 

After Shabbat, the whole group of us met up at the Namal and queued up at a restaurant for at least an hour whilst they were opening up. Some people refused to eat because of the bad service, but we were the first table to receive our orders and the pizza we’d all been craving was well worth the wait. 

Of course, we went for ice cream after the meal. But we had planned to go to the pop-up Magnum store where we could design our own Magnums, so this was an extra special ice cream treat. It was such a great idea and we all loved picking out our own unique topping combinations. I think they have something similar in Covent Garden but I’ve never been so this was a cool experience. One of the French boys had to leave us to back to the military hostel in time for the curfew, but the rest of us had a long walk (primarily in search of a rooftop bar but my room mates and I ended up returning to our hotel out of sheer exhaustion). 

Mooching In The Markets {Sar-El ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Day #13}

Mooching In The Markets {Sar-El ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Day #13} | Friday 22nd July 2016 |

Photo credit: Louise Aron |

Back to the Carmel market and then the artists’ market! We met up with the French guys and hung out with them whilst we all tried to bargain for gifts and souvenirs in the busy marketplaces. It always takes a lot of self restraint not to buy random bits and pieces at the shuk! This time we completed the artists’ market and I loved it. My New Yorkan friend and I took our time looking at all the interesting pieces of jewellery etc, but our Canadian friend was not impressed and kept reminding us that Aroma was waiting for us at the end! Naturally, iced drinks were much needed after all the mooching around in the sun, so we boarded a shared taxi shuttle with our Aroma refreshments and headed to the hotel, followed by the beach. (On the ride back, my friends wanted me to show them English currency so I explained all the coins and denominations.)

Our Australian friend met us at the beach with his GoPro, so we got to take some really cool action shots in the water as the immense waves crashed over us. We had much bigger waves today so it was really fun jumping into them or being carried off by them. The lifeguards kept shouting through their megaphones but we had no clue what they were trying to say!

My Shabbat meal consisted of some supermarket snacks, including pitta bread, humous, cold meats and an aloe vera drink that I was introduced to on Genesis. I love that I can just go into a supermarket here and pick up any meat I want, knowing that it’s Kosher- it’s such a privilege!

I went with my friends to the Namal area (the port) to take some  obligatory pre-Shabbat selfies (the Australian boy dropped his phone into a forbidden access construction site!) and I watched the sunset as they ate their dinner.  The busy week started to take its toll on me and I went back to get an early night, but it was a really great evening and I realised I would miss being in Tel Aviv next weekend! 

Blood, Sweat and Peers {Sar-El ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Day #12}

Blood, Sweat and Peers {Sar-El ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Day #12} | Thursday 21st July 2016 |

If you know me well, you’ll be aware that I’m extremely needle-phobic. So when we were asked if we wanted to donate blood this morning, I was the first to say no. I think it’s amazing that about half the group decided to do this, though- I really admire them for it whether they genuinely wanted to give blood or just wanted to escape work for the morning!

I went to work and packaged 600 pieces of something, not that I have any idea what they were. They looked like a cross between train tracks and Lego pieces. We didn’t even do half a day of work, only 1.5 hours. 

We got a while to freshen up and eat some lunch before leaving the base for Tel Aviv. My Pennsylvanian friend was feeling really ill because she wasn’t too well but donated blood anyway, so she didn’t get off the coach when we had a short field trip to Neve Tzedek (the first Jewish neighbourhood built outside Yafo back in the day). Our madricha took us on a short tour of the neighbourhood, including some famous dance schools and the old train station. Then half of the group was dropped off at the military hostel before the rest of us departed at our usual drop off point. It was really sad that we had to say goodbye to 2 of our lovely room mates, the Coloradan and Pennsylvanian girls. We will definitely miss them over the next week, but I guess they’re off to do more exciting things now…

There are four of us staying in the same hotel that I stayed in last weekend. I am sharing a room with my New Yorkan and Canadian friends, whilst the Australian boy has his own place. 

We went to Aroma (the Israeli Starbucks equivalent) for iced drinks (I had the iced cookie cream drink, which was delicious) and the barista almost bought an outdated 10NIS note from me because he was so excited to see old money. We then spent a while on the beach, messing around in the sea and catching waves. 

Dinner at sunset was really cool. We found a lovely Kosher milky restaurant at the port (I tried a chai latte for the first time) and then we went to an amazing ice cream shop where I almost made myself sick with dulce de leche, creme brรปlรฉe and marshmallow ice cream (probably the best flavour I’ve ever had). We sat outside overlooking the port, with our towers of ice cream melting all over our hands and legs. There was an amazing water and light show: fountains sprayed water in all directions in time to a music mashup, with neon LEDs making patterns and words on a display board behind. It was a really cool thing to watch and I wish I could have evenings like this all the time.