Today we took an hour-and-a-half bus ride to Ashalim in the Negev and Galilee desert. We were in the middle of nowhere for a long time, but when we pulled up it looked like a little community had been built. The Ayalim Organization formed this community, which is a modern 21st century Zionist-style movement. When Israelis finish their service in the IDF many take a year or two off and travel to other parts of the world. However, some have decided to stay in Israel and be a part of the Ayalim Organization by helping to build villages in areas that are not as socially and economically established. Who would want to live in the middle of the desert when they can live in a community right outside of Tel Aviv or Haifa?
To bring more people to these villages these Israelis are sponsored by many philanthropic and government organizations that allow them to live on rent of a mere $100 per month. They then give them free educational seminars and in return they have to donate 500 hours of volunteer work per month. Over 5,000 Israelis apply every year and only 500 are accepted. They are hoping to be able to bring in 750 and then eventually 1000 to continue the work. Today we got to partake in some of the volunteer work that the Israelis do which mainly consists of building these villages from scratch. Here is a photo of some of the homes that have already been built:
Half of my group did gardening and the other half helped put tarp and gravel down to lay the work for sidewalks. It was a lot of physical labor but it was so much fun and great to see such an accomplishment in a short period of time.
The village we went to was beautiful. The flowers and herbs were great to look at and also great to smell. My friend Ariel even found mint leaves that I could put in my water. Such an organic taste of healthiness! Here is a picture of it:
The Israelis who were helping and guiding us with what to do were so thankful. Though everyone was a hard worker the vibe was laid-back. I suppose it should be given it is all Israelis in their twenties helping towards building communities for themselves and others. Music was playing out of the speakers ranging from Israeli techno to the Beatles. Below is a picture of my friends Ariel, Vanessa, and I when we were shoveling the gravel into buckets:
All in all it was a great experience and now I am off to go for a run and then get a glass of wine on the beach with some friends!