The Harris Post from Israel III - Tiberius
When travelling, I’m always fascinated by people’s different habits. Various trip members chose to start their days in very different ways in Tiberius – unfortunately, the divine-looking swimming pool was out of bounds until the lifeguard arrived at 9am which was far too late for us, but that didn’t stop people finding other things to do before breakfast. Some needed a sleep-in to start getting over their jetlag; others got up to photograph sunrise over the Sea of Galilee; others went for a walk to find new birds. My first yellow spectacled bulbuls and a Palestinian sunbird made an early morning walk with binoculars worthwhile.
Whatever you’d chosen to do, the spectacular breakfast spread at the Sofia Hotel made getting up worthwhile. Morah Benn and Mr Lawrence had tried to impress upon me at some length that the food in Israel would be quite something, and they weren’t exaggerating. Cheeses, salads, breads, shakshuka, fruits – I did a lap around the offerings before picking up a plate, just to make sure I made wise choices. If the food continues to be this good, your Principal fears she may be slightly larger when she arrives home in two weeks’ time.
The buses set off early and arrived at Hatzer Kinneret, where we heard about the wave of European immigrants making Aliyah and purchasing land from the Ottomans. The immigrants and their families were keen to establish agricultural practices; a further incentive was that the law stated that if the new landowners failed to farm the land successfully before three years were up, they must hand it back.
The Kinneret girls’ life, learning to milk cows and grow crops sounded very hard. The first kibbutzim were a challenge to imagine, too - working the land in harsh conditions and having to hand over your children for others to parent while you were out farming all day. Cultivating thriving farmland in such a dry and desolate place was impressive and as we drove through the area, we admired various fruits growing beautifully in the sunshine - lemons, avocadoes, mangoes, bananas and grapefruit …
At Naharayim, Gesher, we learnt about the technology involved in generating hydroelectric power (HEP) and stood next to the wire fence which forms the Israel boundary with Jordan. The HEP plant supplied 90% of electricity to all Israel until 1948 - the day the state was born, the power plant died, but Israel has enjoyed continuous electricity ever since. We enjoyed an interesting history lesson of Israelis defending themselves against the Jordanian and Iranian armies and the temporary existence of Trans-Jordan. Israelis seem to be particularly good at designing interactive exhibitions – the re-enactment of the storm which ruined the building of the hydroelectric power plant and put its construction back at least a year was fabulous.
Next on the itinerary was a visit to one of the 270 kibbutzim in the country - Sde Eliyahu. A speaker explained how members need to be elected into the community and we were able to witness the way the people live as well as hearing about how the kibbutz functions from a financial perspective, with members receiving a budget based on need, rather than a salary or wage. The kibbutz provides 15 years of school education to all the children, followed by three years’ tertiary education. It was interesting to find out that the members of the kibbutz live in outside society and are influenced by it – iPhones were in evidence and the community owns 50 communal cars; they are currently investigating the purchase of Teslas!
A fantastic variety of fruits and vegetables are grown by the community – carrots, onions, garlic, sweetcorn, dates, watermelons, grapes … We heard about the organic farming methods using compost from animal and food waste rather than chemical fertilisers and learnt of biological methods such as using bumble bees to increase pollination rates in the hothouses. Another income stream includes dehydrating spices for export. A brilliant lunch showcased the fresh produce and was enjoyed by all.
Our next stop was to a wind farm. Experimental wind turbines in 1986 had led to the current installation of 14 turbines, each 44 metres high and with blades 29m long and foundations 18m deep. Standing on the top of the hill playing with anemometers in the strong wind really brought home its power. It was an amazing opportunity for educators to learn more about such a relevant use of technology and reflected Israel’s progressive thinking, using renewable energy generation techniques. If you hadn’t previously considered all the uses of wind, the brief video we watched would probably have contributed to your list – it included winnowing, sailing, moving clouds, helping birds and butterflies migrate, spreading seeds, scattering leaves, flying kites and flags, windsurfing and ballooning. It concluded with the thought that “The rain is the wind’s tears” and stated that technology and nature, spirit and wind are working together for a better future.
The final stop of the day was to the KKL-JNF House of Excellence (Nof HaGalil), which offers extra assistance to Year 9-12 students outside school time, to help them achieve. In later years, the students who have gained from the opportunity then share their own knowledge by returning to be the teachers for the next round of students. It was fantastic to see how enriching the program has been for some of those students and wonderful to hear about how inclusive the program is, accepting students of any faith or background who want to learn leadership and life skills to better themselves.
Schlomo Benhaiem’s talk on the history of KKL-JNF ended our visit to Nazareth. It was a fascinating trip through time, and provided a lot of useful information particularly beneficial to those educators less familiar with the details of the birth of Israel. I was reminded of the JNF blue box that Mrs Leib gave me many months ago and which sits in my Carmel office! An amazing story to hear of Herzl’s 50-year vision coming to fruition.
After a dinner that was as impressive as the breakfast with which we’d started the day, it was time for another guest speaker. Arguably the last thing you’d want to do at a quarter to nine at night after a long day would be to sit and listen again, but Neil Lazarus (awesomeseminars.com) was well worth staying awake for. Funny, clever and thought-provoking, he provided educators with strategies to enhance discussions back in the classroom and it was hard to imagine a better end to a fabulous day.
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