Friday, April 15, 2016

BaMidbar - A Process of Transformation

The last part of the journey was dedicated to the desert, specifically the area around Makhtesh Ramon. Before Shacharit on our first morning in the Makhtesh area, we talked about the meaning of Midbar (desert) in our tradition as well as in "nature". Without going too much into the whole drash, we learned that the Midbar has the potential for being a place for transformation, a time of reflection, a process of change, as it was for Bnei Yisrael on their way to Eretz Yisrael. 

One of the most poignant moments of this week was our visit to the Makhtesh Ramon crater (mammash!) With dark clouds to the north, and slivers of blue sky to the south, we experienced rain and sunshine within the world's largest crater. There we davenned mincha, and wrote in our journals. There we also had the zchut of saying the bracha for when we see a rainbow: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֶלוֹ-ינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם זוֹכֵר הַבְּרִית, וְנֶאֱמָן בִּבְרִיתוֹ, וְקַיָם בְּמַאֲמָרוֹ. There I also witnessed the joy the students in this class experience when able to just be with each other - the definition of Chedva - חדבה (the blessing of being happy together). It was sheer Chedva! 

There are three aspects of a journey like the one we have just undertaken. There is the collective discovery of the environment, of its people and of its land. There is also the personal relationship between each one of the participants and the Land; and lastly, there is the relationship among each member of the group. 

We talked about the first two aspects of the trip on Wednesday evening, on our last gathering with our amazingly sweet and upbeat tour guide, Shlomtzion Baum. Shlomtzion asked the students to create short skits of meaningful parts of their trip, in the North, South, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. In joy and laughter, they were able to revisit their experiences during their time in Israel. The second half of the evening, students were given a range of pictures to choose from, which might best describe or illustrate their personal experience in Israel. One student chose feet clothed in colorful socks to talk about their walking around the country; another student chose a picture of two people on the bus to reflect on the experience of travelling from North to South, while spending time with friends; another student choose the picture of a turtle, to explain how the trip allowed them to emerge from their shells, and so on. We had to "cut the evening short (at around 10:30!) for students insisted on going to sleep "early" on Wednesday, so that they could wake up early enough to stream the Warriors' game at 6:00 AM on Thursday! Too important a game to miss! :)

(They did wake up, and they did stream the game... impressive!)

For our closing circle last night, at Park HaYarkon, we focused on the discovery and transformation that occurred within the group. After a beautifully set and deliciously prepared dinner catered especially for the group, and after saying hello to Elishav and Maayan and their four daughters, we settled into our last circle of the trip. Here, we were able to acknowledge each other, to appreciate how we got to better know each other, to deepen our relationship, to discover new facets of each other's personality, and how it all contributed to strengthening old friendships and exploring new ones. 

It is my blessing to this class that they continue to enjoy each other's company, that they continue to laugh and cry together, that they continue to learn and discover, that they continue to travel distances to be with each other. 

I also want to publicly thank all who made the trip the amazing experience it was. Starting with Tania Schweig and Dave Jackson, who took the students to Israel and gave them an awesome experience in Israel. Shlomtzion Baum, the sweetest, most radiant tour guide we could have hoped for. (Thank you!) Sapir, our security person and all times hang out companion. (Zoe insisted Sapir needed to move to Oakland with us!) Hassan, our driver, who with a big smile and always a good word dodged flash floods, put up with our delays and was able to change plans on the spot! Michelle Naftali and Mickey Katzburg who partnered with us in creating a trip that reflected each one of the students in this class. Orli and Raanana, Michal and Naama (banot sherut), the Twitos and the Rabinovichs who made time to visit us, host us and say "hi". To Tifferet Dardik, Shoshana Fendel and Naama Furstenberg, who joined our class and made the experience that much more engaging. To Danielle Blyudin, for keeping up with the blog and being our connection to you, parents, friends and teachers. And of course, the 8th grade class, for being such positive, good hearted, friendly, responsible, cohesive and cooperative group!

Shlomtzion and Hassan,
as we wait for the flash flood (behind us) to subside.
We ended up taking a detour instead

Shabbat Shalom! 
Bat Sheva

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Yad Vashem by Didi Miller and Josue Miranda

April 12, 2016
By: Didi Miller and Josue Miranda

Today was an early day. We woke up at 6:30 so we would be ready for the three hour tour of Yad Vashem. We learned how Nazi Germany worked and how some Jews managed to survive. Although it was touching, it was a good experience to re-learn about the Holocaust and how the Jews lived in an anti-Semitic country and how the Nazis persecuted the Jews. 

Before we embarked on our one hour long drive to the Ayalon Bullet Museum, we consumed five teen sized pizzas and a few bottles of juice. We then set off and after more pizza on the bus, we arrived at the Kibbutz Museum. We started off the tour by watching a short film summarizing what we were about to see. After the movie, we went to the laundry room where there was the first entrance to the underground bullet factory. The trapdoor was located under a revolving washing machine, to hide it from detection. Then we walked to the bakery where the entrance for tourists was. Our guide showed us the various machines and mechanisms for making the bullets, as well as the testing room and the ultra violet light room for tanning the workers in the factory, because they were never exposed to the sun.
After that, we headed to Shiri and Motti Twito's house for a pleasant reunion and had a tasty barbecue. We went to a nearby park and met some boys our age from the moshav and hung out. For the next few nights, we are staying in a Kibbutz called Mashabae Sade, in the Southern part of the country. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Jerusalem, by Zoe Moskowitz

April 11, 2016
By: Zoe Moskowitz

Today we explored the Old City of Jerusalem. First, we visited a school in Jerusalem, called Resheet. We met with 5th and 6th graders, they made a presentation, in English, about their huge greenhouse. Together we did some activities that had to do with their garden, and we got to converse with them about ourselves. We had a delicious lunch of falafel or meat. Then we were off the the Old City. We rushed into the the Western Wall for a tour of the underground tunnels. There we learned about the architecture of the Temple Mount and the historical timeline. We got to travel along the part of the the wall that was built all around, so it wasn't visible from the outside. While traveling through these tunnels we learned about the placement of the Beit HaMikdash, and we got to go to the place that was closest the the Holy of Holies. After the conclusion of our tour, we got to the walk around the Western Wall for a bit, and connect with G-D. 

In the afternoon, we walked to the City of David. We were overcome with energy, and we bought some ice cream. Before going on our tour, we watched a 3D movie about the City of David which explained the timeline of the city,  After the movie, Shlom Tzoin took us on a short tour of the Ancient City. We then entered the water tunnels and walked through a tiny tunnel, in the dark, filled with water. Even though if was scary at first, we soon forgot all of our fears because it was so cool. After departing from the tunnels, we went to dinner at Big Apple Pizza. There we got to see our Benot Sherut from last year, Naama and Michal. As we walked though the hotel, we were already dreaming.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mt. Hertzel and the Knesset, by Zoe Moskowitz

April 10, 2016
By: Zoe Moskowitz

Today we had an exciting start to the new week. We were sad to say goodbye to Morah Tania, because we enjoyed her so much, however, we were excited to welcome Hamorah Bat Sheva onto our journey. We also welcomed Tiferet Dardik and Naama Furstenburg to our outing today. We started off with a great breakfast, then we headed off to Har Herzel. There, we moved through a video museum about Herzel, and what his dream was. We got to see his real office with all the real artifacts that were inside! After, we followed Shalm-Tzeon through Har Herzel and the graves of famous figures, and fallen soldiers. We got some time to just walk around and look at each memorial site. I believe that each and every one of us connected to at least some of the memorials, even in the most basic level. We then headed to a park, where we got some time to reflect in our journals and have lunch. 

After that we headed to the Knesset, the Jewish parliament. There we got to go on a tour of building and its many historical aspects. Event though the Knesset was on recess, we still got to get a feel of daily life. We first looked at the three Chagall tapestries that are hung in entrance of the building, and some motifs are are present. We also looked at the proclamation of independence. Then we went to the entrance of the offices, and looked at the screen that showed what members were present. We talked about the government system that Israel uses. After we finished our tour, we headed back to the hotel for an hour of down time. After, a poet named Eliaz Cohen came and we examined his poems. It was interesting to hear everybody's different explanations of the same poem. After some more down time (as you can imagine everybody is exhausted, all the time), we walked to the shuk for dinner. It was very yummy! We then meet with a street artist named Solomon Souz and his friend, who showed us all around the shuk where he painted and spray painted murals of heroic figures. Overall, it was an action packed day and so much fun!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Tzfat, by Eliel Safran

April 7, 2016
By: Eliel Safran

Today, we followed our class voyage to the blue alleyways of Tzfat. We started by going to see David Friedman

He showed us of his amazing art pieces, and the intricate cabalistic meanings behind all his pieces.  We learned about how gematria, shapes, colors, letters, space, and time all overlap in his spiritual masterpieces. 

Then we hit the Jerusalem stone roads and with arms full, popped a few doors down into Steven's garden that our blessed teacher Morah Tamar created. This garden now reminds us not only Steven but also, Morah Tamar. We enjoyed much pizza, falafel, and even some ice cream, before walking around this ancient city to see important shuls, see local stores, and hear some tales.

At Sofer Stam, where we learned about Hebrew caligraphy (Tzfat)

Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, by Josh Singer

April 6, 2016
By: Josh Singer

Today we visited kibbutz Sde Eliyahu and got a tour of their campus and organic crop fields. We were briefly told about kibbutz life and were very interested about how much people share. Our guide gave us a short tour of the dining hall and kitchens, and other buildings and then brought us out on the fields. We drove by fields of dates and other delicious foods, and were explained some of the different farming systems they used to maximize efficiency. We later helped prepare delicious home grown kibbutz food and had a mini meal. After this we drove off and continued our journey through Israel.

More pictures from the Golan