Getting bogged down with the blog

Trip Start Mar 07, 2011
Trip End Jun 03, 2011

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Flag of Israel  , Southern District,
Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Gail's entry: 
Clearly there are some issues with maintenance of this blog. Hard to be writing about what you've done when you are DOING so much at the same time. So, we will experiment with a new format. We will open the entry with where we are currently,(or almost currently) to give you the up to the minute, family-on-the-scene scenario.

Then we will refer back to the chronological story we left behind, possibly weeks ago. (likely ALWAYS weeks ago.) Our map showing our travels will not necessarily coincide with where we are writing from, but will still track our general route. 
On that note, our first photo is from Nice where we just spent two days. We arrived in Provence yesterday. Since you last heard from us we were in Santorini (more on that to come), Athens (our updated Author Profile photo verifies that, taken at the Acropolis) and Rome for two days (yes, the same weekend as the beatification of Pope JP II ...who knew?). Yes it's confusing but imagine how difficult it is for us to keep track of this. In fact, when we showed up at the airport to catch our flight to Nice I had misread the departure time as the "arrival" time and were just lucky to get on that flight rather than have to wait till the following day to catch the next flight. Whew. And to top it off, our luggage was left in Rome (THAT one wasn't my fault) and we waited more than a day to get it back. We were a little smelly, but still happy. The rest of the story take us pack to Israel, way back, in ancient times, like about 3 weeks ago!! There will be a test on all of the above next week, so pay attention!

Our first Top 5 Best Experiences in Israel – entries by Gail
except #3 Featuring: Kibbutz Lotan: by Lena

1. Tel Aviv 
Arrived from Delhi and headed straight for Cafe Masada on the shore of the Mediterranean, where we ate our first meal here last year, when we visited for Lena's cousin Aaron's wedding. Felt like coming home.

Loved visiting the Nechalat Beyamin outdoor art fair full of awesome artisans, which always operates on Friday mornings in Tel Aviv. Bought some great stuff.  (small, portable enough for transporting for a few more months...sort of). Took a long walk back through the Carmel market, busy on a Friday, prior to the Sabbath closing. Love how easy it is to walk around Tel Aviv to various sites and neighourhoods, no cabs or buses required.

Ate sweets from the best bakeries ever. Hung out at the  Mediterranean Sea on the beach at Tel Aviv – lovely and blue. Lena and I enjoyed a fantastic professional modern dance performance at the acclaimed Suzanne Dellal dance theatre, called Mongrel. 

Another dinner was "conveyor belt sushi" which made us all happy. 
Accompanied Lena to the JB film "Never say Never" (yes it was her second time)  at a cinema located in Dizengoff Square. There were a total of about 5 girls in the audience, plus Bill and I, and in between the sighs, gasps, and muffled screams, we got to see the Bieb at his finest. Dizengoff was a real blast from the past for me, as the square was a favourite youth hang out when I used to travel in Israel as a teen. Anyone you knew who might be travelling in Israel could either be found there, or in Zion Square in Jerusalem after the Sabbath on a Saturday night, back in those days. 
More pastry, more cappucino, more ice cream...what can I say?

2. To the Desert
Hopped in a rental car, with our personal chauffeur, Guillermo Ford, and traversed the country through to the Arava Desert. Made a stopover en route at the former home of Ben Gurion who was the first Prime MInister of Israel and believed that the desert could bloom and be developed against all odds. He made the unusual decision to move to a simple hut in the desert at Kibbutz Sde Boker, with his wife and lived there till he died. 
When we arrived at Kibbutz Lotan, on a one week volunteer program, it was as if we were having an early Passover reenactment – the environmental elements were rather bizarre. In fact, we encountered several of the 10 plagues referred to in the Passover Seder (ceremonial meal) during our stay: hail, flooding, darkness, the occasional frog or two...and just as Moses did, we ourselves "parted (from) the Red Sea", after a day of snorkeling and ice cream. We know that the situation for Moses in the desert was a lot less enjoyable, but nonetheless, our first hand experience of the the Passover plagues was rather remarkable.  

We didn't quite fit into the average volunteer profile...mostly students and younger adults from all over the world. Lena was younger, we were older, yet it all balanced out as we were accepted and included into both the volunteer circles and the kibbutz families. We met two young women from Sweden and Norway, Sarah and Chloe, who were wonderful company as we toiled in the gardens and played in the mud to help with the Eco building aspects of the kibbutz. Alex and Inda, a long term kibbutz family, invited us to their lovely home where Lena got to spend some kid time with their children. Israeli folk dancing, kibbutz communal dining, Sabbath services and by coincidence the kibbutz birthday party (28) all occurred while we were there. 

Lena learned a lot about solar energy and environmental issues, which happened to be the curriculum focus of her class at the same time in Toronto. She reports below with her experience and also created a video to share with the kids back home. 
3. Lena's entry: 
Learning in Lotan

We arrived in Kibbutz Lotan not really being sure what to expect. We weren't sure if it was going to be mud floors or Italian marble. It turns out it was somewhere in the middle. A kibbutz is kind of like a little neighborhood where everyone knows everyone. This specific kibbutz is an ecological kibbutz running mainly on solar energy and they are very big on not wasting anything. We came here to volunteer and to help out whether it was learning about composting or building mud houses. (I'd prefer mud houses!) There are people who live here and people who come here for a few months to a year. 1 week is the minimum to stay here. 

Today was our first work day. We were supposed to get up at 6:00 a.m. for doing morning stretches (?) We decided exercising at 6 a.m. wasn't really our speed so we woke up at 7 a.m. instead. (doesn't really make a difference when you are supposed to be on holiday!) We went to a little playground where we met up with 2 guys who work on the kibbutz. So basically our job was to help them build a big lizard out of mud and tires for their playground. We put rocks all around the base of the tires to fill in the gaps. Then we used cement to stick the rocks to the ground and to the tires. 

On Friday the entire kibbutz will be helping to finish off the lizard by putting mud/clay/cement/sand all across the lizard so the tires and rocks are covered so it looks like a giant lizard. Time for breakfast! A simple breakfast of eggs and toast didn't seem to be enough food to last me the day because I kept on getting hungry throughout working. 

Next we got a tour of the main parts of the kibbutz by a staff member who grew up there. We got to see where the GAs (green apprentices) slept. They are mainly young adults who go there for a couple months to take a course on the ecological part of the kibbutz. They live in large domes about the size of any room and the rooms were made out of what the lizard was made out of tires, mud and clay. Usually 2 or 3 people live in one. Then we got to learn about an Israeli invention called a composting toilet. Kind of like an out house but the you-know-what goes down a tube and into a compost bin and they wait about 6 months or more and it turns into earth and they put it right back into the ground. 
We went after this to an area that I was looking forward to to getting my hands dirty at. We got to build bricks out of mud, clay, cement and straw. What everything here is made out of as you can see. We mixed all the things together and there were molds that we put them together in and let them dry after. They will eventually use the bricks that we made for a house or something like that. Then we got a chance to go back to our room and change into clothes we didn't mind getting dirty in. Then we returned to the garden. There was a little spot to put on puppet shows in the playground and there was paint on the benches that they constructed for watching the puppet shows. But apparently the don't really do very many shows anymore. Can you guess what the benches were made out of? If you guessed tires, mud, sand, and cement then you guessed right
So anyway to get back on track, there were some designs and little drawings on the benches and the paint was fading so they asked us to go over the paint in the same color. I spent most of the time re-drawing a bird and my parents spent their whole time re-drawing polka dots. We had a massive lunch which included 3 different types of pasta and lots of salad. They explained to us that breakfast and dinner will be smaller meals and lunch will be larger since we would have just finished working for a while. We got to meet a man during lunch who lives in the kibbutz and he kind of explained to us what life is like living on a kibbutz. Then we spent the rest of the day resting, checking e-mail and eating crackers.
Here are a couple more interesting facts about our stay at the kibbutz!
It just so happens that we were on the kibbutz on the day of its 28th birthday so we had a few celebrations throughout the week. This kibbutz also makes money from dates that they grow there and from cow and goat milk cheese that they have on their own farm. This is also the only kibbutz in Israel to use solar energy to help with daily living.

To watch Lena's educational video, go the end of all the photos in this entry, and click on the video entitled: Lena's Eco Experience – Kibbutz Lotan. If it is not a clear version, you may also view it by going to, sign in as "glattfords" with password "331122bf". Navigate to MyVideos to see it.

4. Snorkelling and Eating in Eilat
At the Red Sea, snorkelling is a treat. The colours are stupendous, the coral amazing. Facing the sea, you see Egypt on your right and Jordan on your left. We went to a favourite cafe in Eilat, Cafecafe, and enjoyed yummy food on cushioned sofa chairs. Sarah and Chloe hung out with us on our visit to Eilat, we picked up some supplies for the kibbutz, and headed back "home".

5. When do we ride into Jerusalem?...What's the buzz??
Hard not to think of the 70's musical: "Jesus Christ Superstar " when driving through the Negev desert. Drove past the Avdat site where this number from the film was shot, which to our amusement had a Macdonald's AND an Aroma Cafe Bar (Israel's answer to Starbucks) directly below it. Just thought you might like to know that fascinating fact. We stayed for the coffee, skipped the ruins. Seen it in the movie.

Stay tuned for the next entry for our final five top experiences in Israel.


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Paula on

Just love Lena's entry!!! I think you've just been nominated to for the eco team at fern as an expert!
keep having fun and enjoying each other....keep writing and tell Guillermo that i love the new beard!
best description ever: "somewhere between a mud floor and Italian tiles" there's a kid who's travelled!
Miss you - have fun

John on

Fantastic pix guys. Thanks so much. I'm so heppy 4 U!!

Julie on

Love all the pictures, especially the desert and the red sea.

What an amazing experience at the Kibbutz--thanks for telling us about it

miss you all,

Julie, Phillip and Dexter

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