Ali Goldberg, a participant on the BINA MITF TLV + Bet Shean, writes about her first Yom Tiyul after all the lockdowns.
After months of lingering uncertainty and on and off lockdowns, the time had finally come for the group to come together for our first yom tiyul since November!
It was about 6 in the morning when the bus driver picked us up from the apartment in Beit Shean. We were undoubtedly tired, but were quickly energized when we realized we were about to embark on an adventure with our friends – some who we hadn’t even seen since our city switchover in January! We were going to the Negev Desert in the south, and specifically exploring the HaMakhtesh HaGadol nature reserve.
I hold southern Israel near and dear to my heart. At first glance it may seem like a vast wasteland, but in reality, it is a complex ecosystem home to breathtaking sand dunes, fascinating animals, and plenty of beautiful nature for us to enjoy.
After picking up friends from Nazareth, we finally arrived in the south at around noon. Welcomed with open arms and plenty of hugs, it was a rejoicing feeling to be reunited with the people who we moved across the globe with.
We were introduced to our guide on the trip, Yael, a cheerful and educated woman who was as eager as we were to start the adventure. She gave us some history about the big crater, expectations for the day, and some fun facts too. We even got to know her on a personal level. She ended up being from San Diego, which is where I went to college, thus proving to me how Israel never really feels too far away from home.
The hike itself lasted about 3 hours. It wasn’t too strenuous and the rolling hills laid a beautiful landscape to trek around. The best part of it all though, is how It felt sort of like a game of speed dating-walking, talking, and catching up with all our different friends along the hike. By the end, we were all pretty tired but there was a feeling of accomplishment and unity among the group.
Just before wrapping up the day, we were given small glass containers to collect colorful sand from the area. A fun activity that made the day even more sentimental and meaningful. Finally, we all sat in a circle and went over the day, how it impacted us, and then got on a bus to journey home to begin our Pesach break.
It was truly a day I won’t forget. Like mentioned before, the desert can seem like a vast wasteland, but during that hike, it felt so full of life. The energy the group brings to activities like this is not something felt on a day-to-day basis and cannot always be replicated. It’s moments like these where I am so thankful to be a part of something that allows me to be in the presence of such powerful nature alongside such motivating, energetic, and amazing people.
// Ali Goldberg: MITF TLV + Bet Shean