We spent our second volunteer assignment with a carpenter / beekeeper / gardener on a privatized kibbutz near Tel Aviv. Under the name Ivry-B, Eran and his team produce round wooden beehives. Thanks to a transparent cover, the bees can be observed without disturbance.

Eran was inspired by the excavation of the world’s oldest beehives near Tel Rehov: according to this, bees were kept in clay pipes around 3000 years ago. We liked the hives of Ivry-B very much and think that they would have potential in Switzerland as well (e.g. for educational purposes). If anyone is interested, you can contact Eran directly. And yes, we still run an independent travel blog with no sponsorship or advertising contracts😉.

We spent most of our time not beekeeping but in the wood workshop where the hives are made. David was able to make himself useful both in the workshop and with other projects. Because my skills were often only enough to fetch and carry and the kitchen duty was taken over by another volunteer, I often felt useless and unneeded. Nevertheless, the volunteer assignment was very instructive and enriching for both of us. Apart from many practical tips from the carpentry workshop, we found Eran’s life experience and attitude very inspiring! His door was always open and he has an open heart, an understanding and a tolerance for everyone. During our short stay we met his first and second ex-wives, girlfriend, daughters, friends, etc. and were part of the family.

Aktiviere Karte Deaktiviere Karte

We also experienced very liberal, fashion conscious and hip Tel Aviv on a weekend trip. We were particularly impressed by the Bauhaus architecture with its clear forms and the seeing and being seen on the beach promenade. Without Birkenstocks, leggings, matching top and yoga mat on the carrier, I admittedly fell off a bit in the lively city and David was also missing skintight jeans, muscle shirt and the matching dog.😉

In Jerusalem, only 100km away, the picture has changed… The city is a tangle of religions, ethnicities and mindsets. In the quarter of the Orthodox Jews, posters drew attention to the fact that the women should dress modestly.
Because accommodation in Jerusalem was too expensive for us, we spent the night in Palestinian Bethlehem, on the other side of the famous wall. In Bethlehem, there is no trace of the idyllic stable with Mary and Joseph, donkey, ox and nativity scene. Only the Christmas tree in front of the Church of the Nativity reminds us of the Christmas story. Nowadays, the most direct route from Nazareth to Bethlehem passes through three checkpoints. Whether Mary and Joseph would be allowed to pass would be decided by the Israeli army (IDF). For our “journey to Jerusalem” we crossed the same checkpoint as the Palestinian population – unlike them we do not need a special permit.

Another mind stirring experience was the guided tour of “Breaking the Silence” through the Old City of Hebron.

Breaking the Silence

The NGO “Breaking the silence” describes itself as follows:

Breaking the Silence is an organization of veteran soldiers who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. We endeavor to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that population’s everyday life. Our work aims to bring an end to the occupation.

The NGO is largely financed by state actors, including the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). The testimonies of veteran soldiers are freely available on the NGO website: www.breakingthesilence.org.il

The organization conducts monthly tours to Hebron to raise awareness of the settlement issue and the extremely difficult role of the soldiers. Since the NGO is controversial in Israel, we went on the tour with a decidedly critical eye… and experienced a very impressive and professional tour.

Hebron is one of the four holiest cities for both Jews and Muslims and is located in the Palestinian West Bank. In response to the assassination of Palestinians by Baruch Goldstein in 1994, the city was divided into H1 and H2 zones (H2 = city center) in the Oslo Agreement. The H2 zone, controlled by the IDF, is home to some 30,000 Palestinians and 800 Jewish settlers. About 650 soldiers protect both sides from attacks. A security zone of houses was created and the freedom of movement of Palestinians in H2 was massively restricted (general ban on driving, zone ban, permits for visits, etc.). During the tour Breaking the Silence showed us the consequence of the current settlement policy (= the center is a ghost town) and the different treatment of the population groups (= civil law for settlers, military law for Palestinians, …).
A militant settler shadowed the tour with camera and shouting and took every opportunity to disrupt. Friendly but bewildered soldiers tried unsuccessfully to turn him away.

After these disturbing impressions, we were all the more grateful for the many wonderful encounters and experiences we were able to make while staying with our Warmshowers hosts, during the volunteer assignments and with people on the road!
Just one example of how things work differently in this country was when we crossed the border into Jordan. Instead of a visa fee, an exit fee was charged and for the border crossing we had to load ourselves and the bikes into a bus for only 200m. The tickets we paid with the last shekels😉