Thursday, June 13, 2013

Math Retreat - Part 1

I finished my last entry with a cliffhanger. Why would I even try to get up at 6:30 when I had just come back from Jerusalem at midnight? Well, it just so happens that the Math and Computer Science Department (because that is one department here) at the Weizmann organized a retreat for the 12th and 13th of June.

So there I was, bag in hand, at the meeting point at 7:20. To my surprise, a lot of people were there on time. Everyone also got a nice t-shirt, a hat and a backpack with the logo of the Weizmann. We left somewhere around 7:45 and as soon as the bus moved, I fell asleep. According to my dad, I fall asleep in cars all the time, so this was rather expected: I needed to catch up on some lost sleep.

After a refreshing nap and a quick breakfast stop, we went to Mekorot, the Israel water supply system. We didn't really do much there, except walk around a small memorial they had there and hear the story of water in Israel.

Shortly after we drove to Peki'in, a Druze town/village in the north of the country. The Druze are a religion of their own that originated from Islam. They are spread across the world and their religion is a secret only known by members of their community. There is a small cave by the entrance of the city that is rumored to be the place where Rabbi Shimeon Bar Yochai (Rashi, for Torah scholars like me) hid for 13 years with his son. It did not look like a comfortable cave. We also visited the synagogue in that city, which is secretly pictured in the 100 Shekel bill (~25 dollars).

A view of the town of Peki'in

We then went back to the bus and headed for lunch at Kibbutz Cabri, a kibbutz not far from Peki'in. After lunch, we made our way to Acre, a very old port city located far up north. The city was once controlled by two groups: the Hospitallers and the Templar Knights. The first of these groups had as a mission helping the sick and wounded that arrived to the port of Acre. The Templar Knights were a Christian Military Order that was committed to protect Christian pilgrims.

Part of the Old City in Acre. These are some of the Hospitallers' buildings. 

The architecture of the buildings was very interesting. It was clear that throughout time they figured out better ways of making buildings, and this was reflected on the way they did their ceilings. The underground tunnels were pretty interesting as well and tell a story I can't tell in this blog. At night we had a short tour of the Old City at night. From the coast we could see the lights of Haifa and what appeared to be the Bahai Gardens.

Yes. The entire Math Department spent the night playing these weird drums and drinking beer. It was awesome.
Stay tuned for what happens in Day 2.

EDIT: I forgot to add this. This was like the weirdest "I feel insulted and complimented at the same time" conversation I had in a while:

(Visiting) PhD Student: So, are you a doctoral student at Weizmann?
Me: No, I'm an undergraduate at MIT.
(Visiting) PhD Student: Oh, wow. You're the first undergrad I met during my stay.
Me: Yes, I must be the only one on this excursion.
(Visiting) PhD Student: Wait, what year are you?
Me: I just finished my sophomore year.
(Visiting) PhD Student: Oh, you are very young.
Me: What?
(Visiting) PhD: I said you must be very young.
Me: Thanks (!?).

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