Waking up at 6:15 in the morning is not easy for anyone, but when you are told that your first activity of the day would be going to an Ethiopian absorption center, suddenly you no longer feel tired and your energy and excitement is raised to the next level. The concept of an Ethiopian absorption center is to help Jews from Ethiopia make Aliyah to Israel, learn life skills, and integrate into society. We started off with a brief discussion about their daily lives at the absorption center as well as their lives before and after their journey to Israel. The next part is what we all patiently anticipated most, the day care. At first it was overwhelming both for us and the children. We didn’t know what to expect from them and the kids had all these strangers they had never seen before asking them questions and interacting with them. Within minutes the scene was filled with smiling children playing, dancing, and laughing with people they felt they had known forever. We did arts and crafts with the children, then made our way outside where we played soccer and danced while they were hoisted on our shoulders. The contentment on these children’s faces was priceless. When it was time to leave we all wished we could stay there all day. We said goodbye to the children and exchanged hugs. At that very moment everyone knew that we did not just make their day, but they made ours.
With a great start to the day, we loaded the bus for yet another adventure. We traveled to Mount Meiron and did a nature walk along the Pisga Trail. We stopped to look at the beautiful view along the trail and returned to have a picnic lunch.
Our next stop was to the village of Prekiin and experienced the unique way of traditional Druze hospitality. We were welcomed with an array of assorted drinks and delicious Baklava (a sweet traditional pastry). The room was covered in lavish tapestries and we comfortably sat while we listened to the rich history of the Druze people. Spices could be purchased as well as hand made jewelry. Leaving Pekiin was yet another challenge but we knew we had to make our way to the next location.
The beautiful sea side city of Akko was next on our list. We began with an informational video about the city’s heritage, culture, and history. Following the video we made our way to the underground tunnels. The ruins of an ancient bathroom were visible and I think we all now appreciate the bathrooms we have today. On our way to the bus, we strolled the streets of Akko and marveled at the different stores and the goods that were sold. As we loaded the bus for the last time of the day, excitement was in the air because we knew that our next destination would be the holiest city in the world, Jerusalem.