The purpose of dragging 45 jet-lagged ITF-ers into the sweltering desert in the middle of the Israeli summer you ask? Well, the word desert in hebrew is מדבר (meed-bar), the same root letters as the word מדבר (meh-da-bare), which means to speak. As an orientation program, it only seems fitting that our new ITF cohorts come to the desert in order to "get talking" and break the ice to get acquainted with one another before we collectively enter this new chapter in our lives. The desert is also a place where one comes to find solace or clarity, examples of which date back to biblical stories of King David and Moses. Reflecting on my decision to be a part of this experience, this metaphor truly resonates with me and the emotional/psychological/personal/professional crossroads I am at. Having the opportunity to understand the backgrounds and motivations of these other Fellows on a personal level, and make new friends along the way definitely cultivated a greater sense of community between us.
Among many traditional team building exercises (thankfully "Two Truths and a Lie" did not come up) and some more authentic and surprising ice-breakers like planning Kabbalat Shabbat and Havdalah programs, we also hiked in the oasis of Ein Gedi National Park. Our team stopped at the Ein Gedi Kibbutz, which is the only Botanical Garden in the world that humans actually live in, fun fact.
Ultimately, our MASA ITF orientation was eye-opening in more ways than one. I got the chance to learn about my new peers, friends, and my environment. We received our schedule for the next few weeks and a year-long calendar (eerily fit all onto one page), and I know more about the support we will receive in the coming weeks to improve our Hebrew and mold/solidify our teaching skills. More confident in myself after this retreat, I am ready now more than ever to get started and finally move to Petach Tikva and get settled in before the next ten months unfold!