Junior Journey: A Day in the Desert

Rabbi Dean Kertesz
Today was a day to explore the desert. The day was beautiful, a clear blue sky, temperature in the high 60's, and the desert still green and with wildflowers in bloom.
We began our day with a hike to the top of the Small Fin, next to the Makhesh Gadol (the Big Crater). From the top you can see the whole length and breadth of the crater. Students had time to take pictures and then headed down the other side. In a wide flat area we all sat together and our guide, Shaia,  led them in a discussion, exploring why they think the Torah was given to the Jewish people in the desert. It was a chance for students to explore the role of the desert in Jewish religious thought and history.
After the hike we boarded the bus and drove to Yerucham, a development town in the Northern Negev. Development towns were created in Israel in the 1950's to populate Israel's periphery, the Negev and the northern Gallil. We were hosted by Shosha Confi who made aliyah with her family in 1962 from Marakesh, Morocco. She was one of the early residents of Yerucham and she told our students about the history of the Moroccan Aliyah and the experience of Moroccan olim in Israel. It was an inspiring story of a strong woman overcomming many challenges and building a successful life. In addition, the home-cooked Moroccan food was delicious.
We drove from Yerucham to Rahat, a Bedouin city, near Beersheva. Here we met with Bedouin teens who participate in a social/educational project called "A New Dwan in the Negev." Israel's Bedouin population suffers from high rates of unemployment, poverty and a profound educational deficit. A New Dawn provides enrichment programs, Hebrew language instruction and social programs to help give Bedouin teens a better chance to succeed in Israeli society. We meet with these teens at their program center. They were nervous and so were we. While many of the boys spoke Hebrew, most of the girls did not and almost no one spoke English. Yet somehow we found a way to communicate as we made special greeting cards together, which will be shared with residents of Rahat. The students then taught us a traditional Bedouin wedding dance. Finally, we played soccer together.
We ended our day at the Kibbutz Kramim guest house, where we had dinner and a tribe meeting so students could spend some time processing our busy past 48 hours. Tomorrow morning we are off to Masada and the Dead Sea.
Jewish Community High School of the Bay
1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: 415.345.9777
The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) is a unique college preparatory high school committed to integrating deep learning, universal wisdom, and Jewish values. We empower each student to embrace her or his Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.