While her peers jetted off to sunny beaches or mountain ranges for spring break, one Florida Atlantic University student spent her vacation week playing with dirt.
Instead of following the crowd, Meira Kreuter and a group of eight other students in Florida spent a week in Israel, where they built mud benches, hung out with Ethiopians, and learned more about the Jewish culture.
The Juice: What did you do in Israel?
For most of the week, we were in the Negev, which is the desert in Israel. The first day,
we painted a housing project where a lot of Ethiopian immigrants stay.
Tuesday was my favorite day. We did this project called "Earth's Promise," which was an absorption center for Ethiopians who came to Israel. We made benches out of mud, along with fire pits, and we cleaned up the place.
Then Wednesday, we went to this rehabilitation center called Aleh Negev that's government-funded. We walked around with the people in the wheelchairs and planted over 200 plants.
Thursday we were outside Jerusalum at this place called Table-to-Table, where they harvest food, and we picked grapefruits for people that needed food.
Friday we went to this empty field that had garbage everywhere. People go there to hike and have picnics, but they leave all their trash. We cleaned up the garbage and made benches out of mud again.
We came back on Saturday night. Saturday is the day of rest in the Jewish religion, so we had a day to reflect and discuss.
A lot of people think Israel is dangerous. Do you see any of that?
No, actually Israel is my home. I'm moving there after graduation. I go three times a year. I feel safer in Israel than I do in Florida. The news overdramatizes everything. You only hear the bad. There are soldiers everywhere carrying big guns, but you're not scared when you see it because you know they're there to protect you.
Was anyone in your group surprised to see soldiers carrying guns?
Most were pretty much Israel veterans, but the ones that weren't had been around people that had been to Israel and seen lots of pictures.
What did your peers think about your going there instead of a popular spring break spot?
My friends know me and know I'm obsessed with Israel, so they weren't surprised because that's the only place I go. I've never had a problem with anyone not liking where I'm going. It's something that means a lot to me.
What was the worst thing you experienced while in Israel?
There's never anything bad when I'm in Israel, ever. The only thing is that I'm just not the biggest fan of getting dirty, so making mud benches was a new experience for me.