Arava Desert, Israel
It was a rather spontaneous idea to volunteer in Israel. I applied with GoEco, just 6 weeks before, to do the Long Term Wildlife Program. Regardless, GoEco made sure that the application process went quickly and smoothly. So on the 15th of January I found myself in Jerusalem at Abraham Hostel, already talking to other travelers. It was so easy to get to know other people, as a lot of them had also come by themselves.
In the evening we had our first falafel after a walk together through the streets of Jerusalem. The next morning, after we had an introduction, the GoEco volunteers took a tour around to discover Jerusalem. Some of us won the pub quiz at the Hostel with a 150 NIS price as team “we just met today”.
Finally on the 16th we got to our project, the Desert Wildlife Reserve at Hai-Bar Yotvata. I was very happy when I found myself placed among other volunteers from all over the world (Italy, Sweden, Finland, USA, Canada, Costa Rica, Germany), and into an open minded Hai-Bar team. As everyone could speak English, there weren’t too many problems with communication. After some time sitting and watching we figured out the most important tasks to do. Every volunteer could contribute to the Long Term Wildlife Program as much as they wanted to. I worked hard, becoming a part of the daily work. The tasks were various and ranged from looking after the animals to general maintenance. I was glad to do the given jobs and happy that the staff often let me find my own way to do it, but were always at hand to help when questions came up.
The work was interesting and the staff looked out for us, especially concerning drinking enough water. The staff was always nice and helpful. It was awesome to be welcomed with a barbecue on the first weekend, so that we had contact with the Israeli staff from the beginning. Through my time as a volunteer there were no major problems and anything that did come up was settled smoothly, also, the work volunteer schedule was very flexible so it was no problem to take a week off work for traveling. This made it easy for us volunteers to discover Israel from Mt. Hermon to Eilat in all its beauty.
We saw the sunrise from Masada, swam in all 4 big seas and partied in Tel Aviv, went to a wine tasting in the Golan heights and discovered various national parks (which is for free for volunteers at the Hai-Bar, just don´t forget a reference) to only name a few of our experiences.
As if this wasn´t enough we also traveled to Egypt (Pyramids, Camels, Diving) and Petra in Jordan. It was awesome to live in a kibbutz on the top of a hill in the middle of the desert. In the morning, the sun rises over the mountains in Jordan and later sets behind the Israeli mountains, leaving us sitting impressed by this beauty on the balcony of our little apartment.
And it really became “our” apartment as we rearranged, decorated and built stuff for it. I guess you have to get used to living together with the same guys in a small apartment without much privacy, but it worked out fine for our group. We could buy everything we needed in the shop in the kibbutz; we had WLAN and a GoEco-computer in the apartment, a nice bathroom and a big fridge. On the Kibbutz ground there was also a soccer, basketball, and tennis court.
No wonder that you call Israel the holy land. All in all it was an unforgettable experience for me. I saw so much and met so many nice people I couldn´t imagine having a better time.