Our friends in the North on a three-day trip to Israel's South
By: Frankie Cronin and Joy Kahan
Our first 3-day trip from the North of Israel was most successful, in spite of the long distances and the hot weather. Thanks to our excellent guide Yulia, the considerate driving of our bus driver, and the good spirits of the participants, we all had a great time, visiting places that most of us had never been to before.
Soon after dawn, the bus started in Nahariya, picking up other members of our group at various points on the way.
Our first stop was the Cochin Heritage Center in Moshav Nevatim, where we learned about the rich community life enjoyed by Jews from Southern India, and about their decision to move to Israel soon after the establishment of the State. The museum displays examples of household artefacts and clothes that were worn by the Cochin Jews as well as light fixtures used in the synagogue and many photographs showing the daily life in Cochin. We visited the Moshav Synagogue where each decorative item has significance. Particularly impressive were the presence of two bimot. The first aliyot are read downstairs then the Sefer Torah is taken upstairs to continue the Torah reading from there. Traditionally women in the community have always been respected and educated and they try to maintain their traditions.
After lunch in a large, cool Beer Sheva Mall, we visited the Mishkan Techelet factory where they make talitot and tefillin according to halachah. We watched a movie of the detailed manufacturing process and were led on a tour of the factory.
Because of the heat, we only spent a short time at the old Beer Sheva Train Station (to see Engine 70414) and the Allenby Garden and drove past the British cemetery.
Our accommodation in Yeruham was the Desert Iris Hotel, a pleasant place to stay in the desert with comfortable rooms and a good choice of food.
Early the following morning before the heat of the day, we visited Mamshit National Park and learned about the Nabateans and the spice trade which flourished from around the 1st century CE. Mamshit appears in the ancient mosaic floor of Madaba, Jordan which depicts the Land of Israel in the Byzantine period. We saw water storage cisterns, a market area, private houses on the hill, and a Byzantine church from the 5th century.
At the Dead Sea Works, we watched a film about the history of the company and the manufacturing site. The company guide took us into the sea along an evaporation pool dam and explained about the extraction processes and the trade in potash, bromine and chlorine as well as the purpose of the pools and how the level of water in the Southern section of the Dead Sea is maintained … and much more.
After a late lunch in the new Dimona Mall we returned to the hotel for a break. In the balmy early evening weather, we drove to the lake in Yeruham Park which is formed from dammed flood waters and attracts many birds.
At Har Avnon we were able to enjoy a wonderful (windy) view across the Great Crater (HaMakhtesh Hagadol) and its multi-colored rocks.
On the final day, we visited Tel Arad National Park, encompassing the remains of a Canaanite fortress from the 9th century BCE with a commanding view of the eastern Negev. We saw the unique Judahite temple with an altar for animal sacrifices and cultic room with a standing stone and incense altars (the originals are in the Israel Museum). We descended into a huge plastered water cistern where water from winter rains was stored.
The surprise visit of the trip was to the Arad Racing Track. Gidi Cronin, son of Mike and Frankie who led the trip, explained about the work of Pro Drive, a company that teaches people the techniques of safe driving, relevant for both driving safely on Israel’s roads, and on the racing track. Motor sport in Israel is in its infancy, mainly because of government bureaucracy, but is now becoming more popular. Pro Drive has found that people who have trained on their racing courses have also become better drivers on the roads. The bus was taken onto the track and the features explained as we drove around.
We dropped by Kiryat Gat to visit Beit Chana, a children's village, and heard from the principal about how they look after 120 children from dysfunctional families. The children have an opportunity to work in the bakery on site to teach them the value of earning money and using it wisely.
After a tasty lunch laid on for us in Kibbutz Ein Tzurim, we travelled back home, weary but satisfied.
Frankie Cronin and Joy Kahan are joint co-chairs of ESRA Karmiel – Misgav.