Tuesday 1st January 2019
Arthur Phillip High School
What a way to start the New Year!
A beautiful, sunny day greeted us this morning as we made our way to Arlozorov Bus Station in Tel Aviv. It was easy to tell who the educators were as we pulled into the station – they were the ones with grins of excitement and eager anticipation on their faces! Soon we were joined by those who had only flown into Ben Gurion airport earlier that morning, and before long there was a crowd buzzing with anticipation ready to load luggage and board the two awaiting buses.
Having boarded “BUS 2”, we listened as our guide Zeev explained our itinerary for the day. Our first stop was to be the Rosh Tzippor Birdwatching Centre in Tel Aviv, a short trip from our pick-up point. An unexpected treat was witnessing the skill in which our bus driver navigated Tel Aviv’s narrow streets and picked his way through the busy traffic, as well as an active construction site that looked at first to be impassable – it was reassuring to know we were in experienced and safe hands!
As we arrived at the Rosh Tzippor Birdwatching Centre we were delighted to be greeted by a trio of musicians playing traditional Israeli music, and before we knew it, found ourselves dancing hand in hand, as if we had all been friends for years. We soon learned that the park had been created by JNF-KKL as a wetland, and that Israel is a terrestrial bridge between Africa, Asia & Europe for migratory birds – one of the few places in the region that they are able to safely stop and refuel on their biannual migrations. We observed a demonstration of how indigenous and migratory birds are studied, tagged and then released, in order to better understand their life cycles. We were then treated to a delicious morning tea and generously supplied with a backpack full of useful gifts for our journey through Israel.
in arm and to the sound of more music, we were welcomed by Yigal and members of JNF-KKl. We had a brief introduction to the history and work of JNF-KKL and purpose and aim of the Educators Study Tour. I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of gratitude that I had been chosen to be a part of such an important project, that clearly meant so much to these dedicated people. It was obvious to me their profound love for Israel and their desire to educate the world about their country and its people.
We made for the buses and headed north to our next destination. Zeev pointed out significant sights such as Mt Carmel and the Menashe Heights, as we made our way through the Jezreel Valley. He explained that in this area JNF-KKL had played an important part in the establishment of Jewish settlements such as the Nahalal Moshav and in purchasing and improving land for agricultural development during the 1920’s. We passed many forests that had been planted by JNF-KKL thanks to the many donations from people around the world, and the role that imported Australian Eucalypts had played in reclaiming swamps and ridding the area of Malaria!
Our next destination was the Tzipori Field and Forest Education Centre, located in a forest of green hills. Here students and their teachers from around Israel learned about the natural environment of the area as well as its historical significance. We were shown the camp sites where students were able to experience nature by living in it for a period of time, something many of them might otherwise never have the opportunity to experience. We were told that many of the surrounding forests that had been planted by JNF-KKL were pine, but that now these were slowly being supplanted with trees native to the area. The teachers from each school represented on the Educator’s tour were then asked to plant a native to the area. I planted an Alon Tabor on behalf of Arthur Phillip High School and this was one of the many highlights of the day for me. We were treated to a generous lunch and some entertaining “ice-breaker activities before boarding the bus for our final destination of the day.
Arriving at the Jordan River Village we were astonished by the mesmerizing views of the Lower Galilee. What a beautiful place for such a worthwhile enterprise. This facility was established as part of Paul Newman’s SeriousFun Children’s Network, and is the only one of its kind in the Middle East. It serves as a respite camp, free for children with serious illnesses and life-threatening conditions, who are able to camp overnight for a week at a time. Children who are ill come from Israel, as well as the Palestinian Territories, to experience activities that they can do nowhere else and achieve things they never expected. Expert medical care is provided and students are fully supervised by counselling staff on a ratio of at least one carer to every two students. The facilities were amazing; to our great pleasure we were able to test out the sensory playground, and then view some of the available activity areas such as archery, rock climbing, animal petting, basketball, gymnasium, art & crafts and wheelchair accessible. It was wonderful to see what the donations of generous Australians could achieve through the work of JNF-KKL.
To top off the day we were checked in at the fabulous Galilion Hotel, where we were treated to the most delicious and sumptuous dinner you could imagine! If this first day is anything to go by, we are in for one amazing journey through the Holy Land, and things bode well for 2019!! Thank you JNF-KKL!