Deborah, Julie, Rick and Rob
After the emotion of yesterday at Yad Vashem, it was fitting to wake up to a sunrise filled with deep pinks and reds. Journeying further south into the Negev, we were struck by the distinct change in the landscape, with its sweeping plains and low lying vegetation. In this area, JNF recognised the necessity to plant drought tolerant trees, such as Acacia, to prevent soil erosion and to develop new ecosystems. Farmers take advantage of the sandy soil, perfect for growing root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots.
First stop for the day was the Nir Am observation point. Reading the names of the many Australian donor families who assisted JNF Australia to establish a water purification system’ vital for local agriculture, conveyed a real sense of pride for many on the tour.
On route to KIbbutz Nahal Oz, some felt nervous in anticipation of the looming Gaza strip border. Yael, a key member of the kibbutz, shared her personal story of living in a war zone and how the community had grown in the face of adversity. She described the location as one of the most dangerous areas in which to live in Israel. With the assistance of JNF, lush gardens and a colourful landscape. successfully attracted new families, reinvigorating this community.
When visiting the Sha’ar Hanegev High and Elementary school we were inspired by the staff and student’s resilience, and the school spirit. Passionate staff gave us an insight into the curriculum and the culture of this pioneering school. In the Primary area, the children learn in spaces that focus on student choice, the outdoors and the well-being of all. The Principal explained that the school supports ‘relationship building’ between the kibbutzim by bringing the children together in a welcoming environment.
Upon arriving at the Desert Stars school, located in the heart of the la hav forest in the Negev, we were again, welcomed by a team of passionate and forward-thinking educators, coming from both Jewish and Arab backgrounds. An inspiring address from the school’s female Bedouin principal provided a platform for further discussion with the staff and students in our focus groups.
At the recently opened Beer Sheva Anzac memorial Center, our Aussie guide Colin proudly recounted the battle, reminding us of Australia’s deep connection to Israel. Emerging from a cinematic re-enactment of the battle, the commemorative field of war graves opened before our eyes, rows and rows of white headstones standing silently in the dark. Concluding with personal stories from members of our group, we remembered the fallen. This was a truly appropriate way to end the day before returning for more food, laughter and learning.
We are sure to sleep well tonight.
Deb, Julie, Rick and Rob