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Published: March 4th 2011
Our day started out uneventfully. As I had been warned breakfast was pretty sketchy. Since so many soldiers leave the base for Shabbat, the food in the main dining room becomes scarce by Thursday. We had a short work morning and them went back to change into civilian clothes and pack. At 11:30 we regrouped in the warehouse for a departure ceremony. All the veterans commented that this was the first time they had ever participated in a departure ceremony of any type. The solders set up tables in the warehouse with tablecloths, fruit, cookies and small glasses of what I think was wine. The officer responsible for administration at the base came and gave a very touching speech thanking us for coming. He stressed that the soldiers on the base value our visits because it lets them know that there are people outside Israel, who care about Israel. He let us know that we had processed all 2,500 gas masks and 450 or 480 kits. It turns out that since everyone, except the super religious, is required to be in the service, the kids who don’t test well end up working in warehouses. These kids aren’t terribly motivated so
by comparison we were unbelievably productive. Then again you can be very productive doing repetitive physical work when you know that you are going to do it for 4 days as compared to 2 or 3 years.
At the ceremony we were each given a shoulder patch and a cap with the insignia of the Israeli Air Force. We also received a montage of photos including the group picture that had been taken with the base commander. When you look closely at the photo, you can see that the commander is holding the hat I knit for him and that his face is obscured for security reasons. It does strike me as ironic that the commander made time to have a group photo taken and then had to have his face obscured.
We had lunch in the officers’ dining room and are now on the bus heading back to Tel Aviv.
I’m really happy that I came and feel like the group made a contribution through the work we did and our presence.
On the bus ride we passed a Bedouin settlement that is really an industrialize town with multiple mosque spires visible. We also passed the Tent of Peace. It was built by a Bedouin who encourages one-to-one communication between Jewish Israelis and Bedouin Israelis to encourage greater understanding between the groups.
Tel Aviv was extremely chaotic. Fortunately, Renata, one of our Madrichot, was heading home to Haifa and all 4’10” of her took me under her wing to get me from the drop-off onto the train. We ran into a friend of hers who was also traveling home from the Army and was willing to carry my suitcase onto the train for me. While we were waiting to get on and immediately before my stop she encouraged me to be sure and push to make sure that I would make it on and off. The train was crowded but comfortable since I had a seat. It cost about $9 to go from Tel Aviv to Haifa which was less than the cab from the train to the hotel.
I arrived at the hotel before Jack and by the time I had unpacked, he showed up and we had to leave to meet people for dinner. The other people working on the project with Jack are really nice and have significant roles running large social service organizations or in academia. Dinner was great and I enjoyed have a protein other than cottage cheese for the first time in a week and a glass of wine.
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