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

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