Saturday morning we travelled from Jerusalem to the nearby town of Ein Rafa. We visited the local mosque and learned about the history of Islam and of Ein Rafa. Our guide, Yasmin, also shared her experience converting to Islam and moving to Ein Rafa. Yasmin’s talk gave me valuable insight into a beautiful culture that I previously knew very little about.

Ein Rafa is making efforts to return to its agricultural roots. Yasmin’s family specifically is doing this by growing grapes, citrus, and raising sheep, horses, and bees. We learned about their efforts by helping with their projects. I and a few others learned how to prune grape vines with the help of Yasmin’s kids and found a couple very cool praying mantids. Afterward we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Yasmin’s house, met more of her family, and had great conversation.

In the afternoon we enjoyed an immersive food tour of the Old City of Jerusalem. Our very engaging guide had us trying breads, pickles, falafels, and pastries. The highlight of the tour was visiting a local spice shop. We saw, smelled, and tasted many many spices and got to learn about their origins and connections to Middle Eastern cuisine. The shop owner was also familiar with the health benefits of many of the herbs and spices and our under the weather group members walked away with teas and cough remedies.