Blogging so y'all can keep up with me in Israel! Here's what you've missed so far:
Settling into the Kibbutz. We're in temporary housing until the rest of the students get here. There are Russians in the dormitories right now.
Shabbat in the Holy Land. Friday night was beautiful. Saturday morning, quite different than what I'm used to. But I'm sure in four months I'll be able to figure things out.
Hikes and campfires in the desert around the kibbutz. Right now, only MASA students are here. That is, we've received a scholarship from a zionist organization to come to Israel two weeks ahead of everyone else and take a marine ecosystems class (I know, marine biology in the desert?! But we'll be going to Eilat to the Red Sea and going snorkeling and all, so it works, I swear). We've also had some orientation stuff, which was far less propaganda-filled than I expected. The group is about half and half, Israel supporters and not so much, but everyone is pretty moderate and reasonable and sensitive to each other's viewpoints. It's a really great group. Last night, we were talking about our upcoming field trip to Eilat, and one boy brought out his snorkel to see if the mask would fit over glasses. For a while, he was just wearing his mask and snorkel and trying to talk with it. That alone was pretty hilarious. Then, he began using it as a shofar (the ram's horn we blow on Rosh Hashana, which it currently is), blowing into the notmouthpiece end of it. Surprisingly, it made a pretty good noise. Then everyone broke out laughing so hard we couldn't breathe and everyone's ridiculous gasping noises made me laugh even harder. So, we love our student life activities. This afternoon's was canceled, so we're taking it upon ourselves to hike the mountain.
The Kibbutz is small, and quite American. There are date trees, pomegranites, olives, lemons, and other tasty things growing around us. Also, cows and camels and horses, but we don't eat those. There are Jewish volunteers from all over here, mostly British, but some South African, a Guatemalan, Australians, etc. And the Russians are here to learn Hebrew. But they leave in about a week, and the rest of the Arava students arrive. All the MASA students are American, so I'm excited for the Arab and Israelis to show up.
Our Marine Ecosystems class has started, but just barely, so I have nothing to say about that.
Peace and love.