Weekend in the South

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By: Talya Gordon, University of Maryland

The rush of cold air as I plopped onto the Nitzana-bound bus was a relief. Only a couple of hours earlier I had witnessed my friend’s end-of-course ceremony for the army, and was already anticipating an exhausting bus ride from zichron yaakov to the south. That bus ride was just the start of the transformative experience that took place this weekend. As I traveled through the vast landscape of Israel I peered through the window to observe the country transform from the bustling city to the mellow countryside to the desolate desert. With each bus stop the sun’s rays waned, and my whirring thoughts slowed to a relaxation and appreciation of the nature around me.

The fast-paced colors and sounds of Tel Aviv transformed into the serenity of the desert, the lights dimmed and the flashing stores were replaced by lone animals wandering in the sand dunes. The bus slowed to a stop and I looked around at the dazzling landscape of נצנה.

The tranquility of the vast mounds of nothingness and empty sand dunes immediately set my mind at ease in a way that the city couldn’t. Nitzana was a pivotal moment for my journey through TAMID as it was a reminder of Israel’s youthful roots. This country was built up a mere 69 years ago by the toiling hands of dedicated and ambitious people. Nitzana is a reminder that Tel Aviv’s start-up culture didn’t develop from nowhere; the country has flourished because of pioneers who toiled in the hot sun hoping to create a foundation for a complex, developed country. The same hands that planted crops in the desert created the foundation for a country that has now attracted countless brilliant minds worldwide. Those who believed in the blooming of the desert made it possible for vibrant cities to pop up throughout this small strip of a country.

The heart of Israel and of TAMID was rekindled in Nitzana. Over Shabbat the program participants connected through a moving Kabbalat Shabbat (a service that welcomes the Sabbath), singing and dancing late into the night, and holding sessions throughout both Friday and Saturday. Our session brought the desert to life with potential and passion that poured out of each fellow. As we all joined hands and sang together on Friday night, I felt an unbreakable bond forming. We admired the sunset’s radiant reds, yellows, and oranges blend into the sky’s palate as the sun descended behind the cliff–and I felt like the colors represented the diverse group surrounding me. We each brought a different story with us to TAMID, yet this program has allowed those stories to mold together and compliment one another. We splashed around in the pool together like excited five-year-olds, played cards together and allowed all the competitive juices to flow, bonding over what has brought us to this stage in the fellowship.

At this stage I’m beginning to gain perspective of how transformative this trip has been for my relationship with Israel, my personal and professional growth, and my relationship with each of the fellows surrounding me.

The insights, stories, passion, and ambition that each fellow contributes is ultimately what makes TAMID resemble the sunset that I watched late Friday evening as it sunk low in the horizon. Even as the summer begins to slip away like wet sand, I feel the memories staying. The sun may set–just as the fellowship will end–but it will rise again as I will always be reminded of the meaningful relationships I forged.