On Friday evening, we arrived at Kibbutz Urim, a small kibbutz in the south of Israel, where we spent our Shabbat. If you’re not familiar with the term, Shabbat is the Jewish day of rest, spanning from Friday at sundown to Saturday sundown. Basically, it’s the Jewish weekend. Depending on how observant you are, you keep Shabbat in different ways; some people don’t observe Shabbat at all, others might go to a Kabbalat Shabbat service, light candles and have a nice dinner, while the most observant will do no work at all, including no driving, turning on lights, or writing.
Our Shabbat wasn’t particularly observant, but it was a nice break from our normal activity- and travel-packed days; we got to relax and spend time getting to know some of the other people on our trip. We explored the kibbutz a little bit, where we saw a cactus garden and made a few animal friends.
A rather friendly emu
On Saturday evening, we had a guest lecturer give a seminar on Israeli politics. Israel’s electoral system is much different than America’s–they have one house of Congress, called the Knesset, and the have a multiparty system with proportional representation. That means if your party gets 5% of the vote, you get 5% of the seats in the Knesset. And since there are so many parties, a party’s platform might not be all-encompassing; there is one party, for instance, solely devoted to the legalization of marijuana. So, even if your party obtains the greatest number of seats in the Knesset, you generally must still form coalitions with other parties in order to possess a majority of the 120 seats. We had an interesting discussion on how people view different parties (what "right-leaning" and "left-leaning" mean in Israel as compared to in the US), and we heard from our Israeli soldiers about some of their political opinions.
After Shabbat had ended, we went to the city of Be’er Sheba, the captial of the Negev (which means "desert" in Hebrew). We had dinner and some free time at an outdoor mall. Honestly, it was pretty similar to a mall you’d find in the US. We even found plenty of US brand names, like Abercrombie and Fitch (although the clothes were significantly cheaper).
Jeff and Eric at the mall.
That was about it for the day. Next we’re off to the Bedouin tents, camel riding, and Masada!