Dear Servas friends in Israel and all over the world
Our dream came true after months of planning and preparations. We all arrived in Sde Boker: 80 Servas friends from 21 countries met for 5 days in the Negev.
Our goal was to enable Servas members to experience Israeli life, culture and the unique desert environment.
We had a full agenda, still allowing time to get to know one another and to share our feelings.
Every morning began with physical activities like Tchi Gong, gym or meditation. Afternoon workshops included folk dancing, Indian Rangoli drawing, games, photography, music and singing, all lead by the participants. In the evenings there were presentations of the different countries with slideshows, folklore, singing, dancing, food and drink sampling. We ended each evening with a poem of the day or a bedtime story.
During the meeting we all together created a mosaic of Peace Words in our different languages.
Our days included both field trips and enriching lectures on solar energy research, water and desert agriculture.
Day 1 – was dedicated to registration and formalities, meeting, greeting and "breaking the ice" activities. There were also informal meetings with Servas Israel members, who could not attend the whole meeting, but joined the first afternoon and evening activities.
Day 2 – we learned about the kibbutz, Ben Gurion heritage, and solar energy in the Desert Research Institute. Also some of us visited the energy-saving house of Jerome and Drora in Midreshet Ben Gurion.
Day 3 – we took a guided tour by bus and visited the agricultural center of Ramat HaNegev to learn about experiments in desert agriculture. We met a young farmer in Kadesh Barnea, and had lunch in a Bedouin-style tent in Ezuz Beerotaym. We ended the tour with a visit to the Nitzana youth village and learned about their inspiring educational activities for special youth communities.
Following a discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the quest for peace there was a talk with Naim and Rana - Palestinian Servas friends by Skype video conferencing.
Day 4 – we took a guided tour by bus visiting Mitzpe Ramon, taking in the breathtaking desert landscape while waking above Makhtesh Ramon, a unique natural phenomenon found almost only in Israel. We enjoyed lunch at Salman's Bedouin tent and learning about the changing Bedouin lifestyle. On the way back to the kibbutz, we saw ancient rock drawings and observed from afar the old Nabatean city at Ein Avdat, hearing about their way of life.
Later the kibbutz members invited us to join their Kabalat Shabbat (traditional singing, prayer and reading in honor of the Shabbat) and communal Friday night dinner, after which we learned Israeli folk dances in the gym.
Day 5 – we participated in invigorating group trips – walking or biking – across the plateau overlooking the Zin valley, and surrounded by majestic mountains. The evening began with an enlightening lecture sampling Israeli music "Between East and West" given by the Israeli composer and teacher Michael Volpe. Followed by the farewell party - the "cherry on top of the cream" of the meeting – full of love and excitement – dancing and singing, presentations and improvisations – a huge embrace between nations, leading to better understanding between cultures.
Servas Israel wishes to thank all the friends who made the effort to come and participate so lively in all activities of the meeting.
Many thanks to volunteers from all the countries who assisted with the meals in the kibbutz dining hall and in the club (moadon).
Special thanks of appreciation to Servas Israel organizers, who worked on the preparations since October 2012 – Zvi and Nitzhona from Kibbutz Sde Boker, Lesley and Meir from Jerusalem, Nirit from Sde Warburg, Reut from Jerusalem, Shlomi and Claudia from Hertzlia.
Special thanks to Israeli participants who assisted during the meeting – Yossi and Guy from Sde Warburg, Beni from Arad, and Meira from Jerusalem who volunteered as a nurse.
Many thanks to the participants who lead the physical activities and the workshops.
Here are some impressions written by participants:
Peter, Germany – Exciting ! You offer a simple gameshop, some easy interactive games, and you find a dozen amazingly active participants, who create a fascinating flair of work & fun & fantasy. I love Servas people. …. This country - we experience just a segment of a small region, getting however, already a good idea about the great diversity of Israel.
Vibeke, Denmark – A new world – the world of the desert reveals itself to me. Vast spaces, a strong sun, shimmering light. Reveals to me the smallness of man and the greatness of creation. And a respect to the Israelis who built an existence out here – planting everything, harvesting and providing enough water. Thank you for this experience.
Pisit & Pantuda, Thailand – Early morning in the Midrasha where we spent the night is really extraordinary….. Food served is healthy food, make me younger every mouthful (I hope). Visiting the Kibbutz, dream of Ben Gurion is another extra bonus… Such an inspiration to those following his path….. Bit by bit, the Israel culture / belief / way of living/ way of thought, have been exposed through enjoyable trips into the world of the Negev…..
Jerina, Croatia - "If you don't dream, you will never realize" – so that is contribution of Ben Gurion to this desert among many other….. Some people made nice deeds of gentleness.. – I noticed Sunita's stocking where one finger is separated from the others and she took her stocking off and gave to me !
Ulhas, India – The desert to me was a dead place. But now I have realized there is life. Desert is alive because of people like Ben Gurion. With peace & Love to everybody.
Marijke, Belgium – I am very surprised to see so much advanced technology, respecting the ecological way of living in the Kibbutz and in the villages, and also the cooperation within people can be an example for the very individualistic way of living in Western Europe…
Till & Gerlinde, Austria – The open discussions with Israeli Servas helped a lot to get a better understanding of the life in Israel including economic, social, religious, developmental and even (to some extent) political aspects.. Being a retired International Civil Servant, … these discussions helped to substantially narrow a long felt "knowledge gap"…. The communication via Skype with a Servas member in Hebron, who couldn't come, was a great proof of what "Servas" stands for.
Stefano, Italy – Magnifico. These 5 days have been amazing. It was my first international (and not EU) experience, and 3rd Servas travelling one. I didn't know what to expect, but everything was just perfect. I came here to find myself again, looking for time to think about my life. I didn't find me, nor I had any thought. It was better than that. I met many people, nice Israeli guys, crazy people from Americas, good people from India, strange Germans, kind Polish, friendly Spanish. And in this meeting , with the others, I discovered what's to be Servas, what's to be human, but, especially, what's worth living for.
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With Love and Warm Greetings from Israel
Servas Israel National Secretary