Tel Aviv, Israel--- We are on the last leg of our journey in Israel, and man is the time going fast! After saying goodbye to the Lowengrubs, we hopped on the train southeast to Be'er Sheva, home of Ben Gurion Medical School, and Deb Bloch, one of my best friends from Barnard. It was both Ben's and my first time in Be'er Sheva besides a bus transfer, and you can see from the link just how much of a desert oasis the city is. Deb was an excellent hostess and guide, and explained that Be'er Sheva has a huge immigrant community (Russians, Africans) as well as a large Bedouin population. We trekked all around the city in the hot, dry climate, and I think really got a flavor of this interesting, extensive area.
Besides catching up with Deb and getting a tour of her life, another highlight of our visit was our day at the Be'er Sheva Zoological Park. Located on the outskirts of town, the zoo was very informal but really awesome, with animals ranging from guinea pigs, seagulls, and the "common cat," to leopards, falcons, and even some that we had never seen before (coati and nandus). The zoo had a surprising abundance of animals, most in chain-link fence enclosures, but some behind little more than a wooden fence. We ignored the cautionary signs on the cages and pet and fed some of the tame animals, but only with our left hands just to be safe, haha. My favorite moment of the day was watching a hyrax escape from his enclosure. He carefully crept out of a hole in the chain-link, looked both ways, and then made a run for it into the bushes across the path! We eventually notified an employee (not wearing a uniform, just riding his bike around the place), but he assured us that somebody already knew about it and that he was sure the hyrax would return home when he got hungry.
The next day we headed to Tel Aviv, and though I was a little under the weather managed to have a nice walk all over the city that evening. Our hostel is just ok--a far cry from the 94% approval rating we saw online--and is in a neighborhood to the south of the city center. The downside is that it is a little far from the beach, but the upside is that we are discovering different, less-touristy areas of the city. Last night we got a drink in Neve Tzedek, an artsy/boutiquey/hip neighborhood that reminded me of Lawrenceville in Pittsburgh (sorry to those of you who won't get that reference). In any case, it was a lot of fun, and echoed a feeling I had in Jerusalem of appreciating these places in a different, more mature way nearly three years after our Birthright trip in 2007. Today we just lounged on the beach, though, which we did plenty last time and I hope to do many times in the future as well!
Thanks for reading and pictures coming soon!