Journal Entry # 57 - Road Entry#47 (Dahab, Egypt – Club Vass - 2:18pm (Local) - February 1, 2011)

Shabbat morning had a relaxing and calm feeling to it. It is our fifth day in Israel together and there is not as much planned on the itinerary today. I ran for an hour this morning – getting up everyone and running throughout the park, the surrounding neighborhoods, and through the University Campus. It was a calm and peaceful run. Even though I was told not to leave the hotel for a run, I did so anyway because the Egyptian Marathon was 13 days away. I hadn’t had a run for over an hour since being in Los Angeles.

For the majority of the day, it felt as if we had a vacation from the continuous stream of data that was being uploaded to our minds. We all had breakfast together and I used the avocado I bought the day before in my breakfast. I made breakfast sandwiches with the provided hard-boiled eggs, challah, cucumber salad, and sauces along with my ripe fruit.

After breakfast, we all gathered in the lobby with Ran where he led us on a walking tour through the Knesset Rose Garden to the Knesset. The Knesset is the parliament building of Israel. We got a brief overview of the past 60 years of Israeli government and what political parties exist. There were questions raised by the group and Ran thoroughly answered each one of them. It was nice having the IDF soldiers there as well, because they represent a contemporary view of the political issues in Israel. Lee was the most vocal of group.

We walked back through the rose garden to a grassy area for a group game/activity. It was windy and overcast by this time, and some people looked to be a bit cold. We played a circular game called “Bang” – or pistols. We played this once and had some free time for 20 minutes to play other games. I taught some people the game “Ninja”, which I played most recently in Oregon.

We had lunch in the hotel after our free time and walk back. I forgot what I ate, but I was grateful it was complementary. A complementary break was included after lunch – all the way until 4:30PM. Most of us took the time to go to the indoor pool of the hotel and swim, and then use the Jacuzzi. I brought my camera down and we took underwater pictures together. It was great fun. I also shared a conversation in the sauna with Sarah.

The group met all together at 4:30PM upstairs on the 12th floor in the conference room. We sat together in 6 or 7 groups of 7 people. Ran then led us in conversational questions about the Holocaust and related topics. Ran told us that our next day would be somber, depressing, and conversationally much different from our previous days together. We were going to Yad Vashem, Israel’s holocaust memorial site and Mt. Herzl Military Cemetery. We talked for an hour together, sharing viewpoints and experiences in relationship to both the holocaust and any connection we have to soldiers that have fought for Israel. The conversation lasted all the way until sundown, where we concluded with Havdalla – the portion of prayer and song to close Shabbat.

We gathered on the patio deck of the hotel outside, with a beautiful evening view of stars and the city. Along with Noah, the Shabbat committee once again led the group in the prayer and song. Everyone embraced together to form a circle and enjoy each others company. You could feel the excitement building in anticipation for our “free night out” in Jerusalem on Ben Yehuda Street. Right before we all went downstairs to get ready, Ran recommended that we use good judgment in our activity as we had a long day ahead of us in going to the sites and then driving to the Negev Desert and the Bedouin Camp.

The evening began with everyone getting in the bus and being dropped off on the north side of Ben Yehuda Street. We were there to have dinner and fun on our own before 11pm, our curfew to be back on the bus and going back to the hotel.

My ‘free time’ began with Oria buying me a proper Kippot from a store. It is navy-blue with artful stitching. It is quite simple, basic, and nice. Marat, Oria, Roxy, Jackie, Becca, Michal and I then walked around looking for a dinner location. Roxy, Becca, Michal, and Jackie settle on the burger joint while Oria, Marat, and I chose to have a more authentic Israeli dinner at a restaurant. Marat got the kebab meat while I got unique Israeli chicken dish. I think it included the liver and other random parts of the chicken – not the traditional parts.

We then walked to a popular bar in the area where a majority of the group was sitting, eating, drinking, and smoking hookah. I had a couple beer-steins there before going with Jackie, Oria, and Roxy to a university-dive-bar further away from the majority of the nightlife activity on Yehuda. We all got a drink together and wanted the DJ to start spinning music. The problem was that Israeli night life doesn’t really get started until 11:30-Midnight. So we were out of luck on a good dance scene. We got back to the bus right before it left and made our own party on the 12th floor of the hotel again.

For a brief period, I went back downstairs to gather others. I found a group playing “Never have I ever” in a room with some cocktails. I joined in on the fun, making up a lot of stuff in order to fit in with the other Americans who might seem more promiscuous and salacious. I don’t care for sharing my own or anyone else’s sexual experiences publicly, so I will leave out everything that was said.

This game was transferred from the hotel room to the 12th floor where a ton of people played together. I was getting tired of the game and physically tired – so I joined Oria and Noah to go back down to our respective rooms. We went to bed before the majority of the group up top.