Monday, November 18, 2013

Cohort 5's First Shabbaton!

The Diller Teen Fellows of Cohort 5 have reflected on their first Shabbaton, which took place from November 8th-10th, 2013 at Camp Ramah in Palmer, MA. To see a full album of photos from the retreat, please click here.

Rachel Goodman (Needham): As I boarded the bus to go to Camp Ramah I felt a bit nervous.  Although I had met the fellows twice before, I was still unfamiliar with everyone’s names.   I hoped to learn a bit more each fellow and their personalities throughout the weekend.  Luckily, the wonderful staff was able to put together some programs that helped me to get to know everyone.  Our first program was called “The Jelly Bean Activity” which was lead by the JCs.  This exercise focused on our views and beliefs on personal, social, political, and religious issues.  Each fellow was given a bag containing three different colors of jellybeans and a plastic cup with a prompt.  Under the prompt, there were three possible answers to the question, which were color-coded based upon the jellybeans.  Fellows read aloud their prompts, which included: “What are your study habits?” and “How often do you go to synagogue” and even “what are your thoughts on gay marriage?”  As the cup was passed around each person put a jellybean in which corresponded with his or her answer.  After, we assessed the results and had a discussion.  It was interesting to hear what the other fellows had to say about their opinions, as well as how they defended their statement.  One discussion that stood out to me was about how often we attended synagogue.  The answers ranged from “only on high holidays” to “every Shabbat.”  This made me realize what a diverse group of Jews we have in our cohort.  This also excited me because I was eager to learn about my peers’ ways of observing Judaism. 
Our next program was “The Diller Lens” and was lead by Liana.  We were handed two pictures: one with two older people holding an Israeli Flag on an airplane, and the other that illustrated a woman and two boys laying flat on the ground looking petrified.  The fellows were asked to list the objective and subjective qualities of the pictures.  While writing my observations down, I realized how quickly people could draw conclusions.  I looked at the picture of the older couple, and saw that they were smiling.  I immediately thought: “Oh, they’re happy,” but then realized that was a subjective quality of the picture; although they were smiling, I did not have the information to conclude that these people were truly happy.  The group reconvened and discussed our observations of the photos.  We noticed that many of our notes were the same, in which we used our prior knowledge about Israel and Judaism.  We then talked about how a non-Jewish person would look at them, and wondered what conclusions they might draw.  We then transitioned into the next part of “The Lens.”  We watched an award-winning short film called The Tribe which described the making of Barbie and then the modern Jewish culture and people.  After the movie, all of the fellows were speechless and confused: we had no idea what we had just watched!  The movie seemed to jump from theme to theme, having no concrete plot.  We tried to decode the message of the film, but were still confused.  Eventually, we concluded that the maker of the film was trying to get the point across that the Jewish people have changed and adapted to modern day.
Our final program was led by the Leaders of the Day, Hannah and Hillel.  They educated us on Haifa, and taught us about the famous sights, places, and culture of the city.  The reason they focused on Haifa was because our sister cohort is located there.  After the lesson, we played a trivia game and used all of the knowledge we had just learned about the city to answer the questions.  This program was extremely helpful for me because I have never been to Haifa, and was curious about the places and culture in the area.  After, we made a video for our sister cohort to introduce ourselves.  In our movie, we creatively introduced ourselves through a silly song. We all had a fantastic time making the video, and all agreed that we are super excited to meet our friends in Haifa.  All in all, I feel that these programs helped us to get to know each other and bond as a group.  From sharing our opinions to singing about our names and qualities, this weekend could not have been any better.  I am looking forward to seeing the rest of the fellows at our next workshop, and cannot wait until the next Shabbaton in February!

David Grossman (Nashua): Although all of us are Jewish, our levels of commitment and ideologies differ greatly. So, it was very interesting to celebrate a Shabbat together. Shabbos began right as we got to Camp Ramah and we quickly changed into our Shabbos clothes to light candles. With us during this Shabbaton was the wonderful and “rad” Rabbi Shmaya Friedman and his wife Aleza and two daughters. Shmaya and the staff then lead a reflective Kabbalat Shabbat where we took time to think about our past week and think about the Jewish aspects of our lives. After dinner, we got our Parsha on and learned about that week’s Parsha in style. We split into groups and adapted parts of the Parsha to modern day stories. Not to reveal everything, but the results were hilarious. #ParshaVa'yeitzi.
After a rejuvenating night’s sleep, we were all in Shabbos Mode and ready to Daven. Shmaya led an open and upbeat service, including everyone and allowing time for personal meditation. There was a mechitza because it was a traditional service, so Shmaya explained the origins of its meaning. This made us think about the ways in which gender seperation still does and does not apply to different groups of Jews today, according to their beliefs.  At the end, we broke out in song and dance, chanting David Melech Yisrael. To conclude Shabbat, we broke into small groups to meditate and then grouped together again for Havdalah. No matter what our Jewish upbringings were, our commonalities and Jewish cores united us all during this Shabbaton. It was a lot of fun and especially unique with the presence of Shmaya and his family. Thanks Rabbi Shmaya!

Sarah Gladstone (Brookline): Time flies when you are having fun.  Never once has that saying meant more to me than this past weekend on our first Diller retreat.  Who would have thought that one could say “bunny” so many times when playing a silly game, or that we would watch a crazy movie that challenged us to think outside the box just to decipher its meaning all in just one night?   And that was only a small portion of the crazy weekend that we had together.
On Saturday night, our wonderful leaders of the trip, Hannah and Hillel, led an activity.  We were to send a video to our Sister City Haifa to welcome them and to introduce ourselves.  After learning a little bit about Haifa, we decided to do a role call chant. Each one of us found a way to introduce ourselves in a rhyme (with a little bit of poetic license, of course).  It was filled with clapping and fun.  After that role call, we all chose an animal noise so that we could enact the video “what does the fox say?”  We had elephant noises and monkeys, wolves, snakes, and even a human noise.  Even the staff joined the fun by making the crazy noises of the fox along with the crazy dance moves.  It was a blast -- hopefully our fellows in Haifa enjoy watching it just as much as we enjoyed filming it!
But this weekend was about more than just having fun and going crazy.  It was about learning about each other and breaking down boundaries.  An activity on the last night commenced with each of us reflecting individually on all that we had done leading up to that night and what we hoped to keep gaining from it. Following our reflections, we were given blindfolds and were led in a line holding hands through the woods.  The fear of bumping into a tree or tripping over a root was overpowered by the sense of trust I had for the two people on either side of me who caught me when I stumbled. We were then led to a dark stage, and were told we should say one of our fears.  I do not know who the brave one was who spoke first, but after one person said their fear, we all dug deep down and threw out one of those fears that keep us up at night.  And they were all so genuine -- fear of one’s self or expectations or failure or sick loved ones.  We were then told to shout out something important and positive about ourselves while breaking a glow stick. We ended that activity with everyone giving each other a hug.  We had just made ourselves vulnerable, and we were now lending each other our support. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Last Day! ReJEWvenation in Tel Aviv

Wednesday, August 7th
Written by Liza Sherman

Tuesday, August 7
After what seemed to feel very late in comparison to our previous day's wakeup at 4 am, the fellows all met downstairs in our hotel with our fully packed bags and all ate breakfast together at 9 am. We then departed for Tel Aviv to play an interactive game to get to know the city, called "In our Streets". This was no regular tour. We were split up into six groups each with Haifa and Boston fellows and a JC to assist us. We were all given a preliminary clue to bring us to our first destination. The aim of the hunt was to get to know the city by navigating from place to place with the use of clues, and tasks to complete along the way. We were encouraged to ask people around us for help when we needed it, whether it be how to get from place to place, or a question about history to help us answer a question (this was a big change for us who are used to just typing every question we have into google). The clues brought us all around to parks, monuments, and other important landmarks in Tel Aviv. We were also given challenges to complete along the way for bonus points. For example, one challenge was to make a petition for a cause we believed in and get 10 signatures from real people. This pushed all of us go out of comfort zones and helped us start thinking about what causes are important to us! After roughly 2 hours, we met back and the scores were tallied. The winning group was given ice cream (everybody's favorite!) as a prize. We then had some downtime to eat lunch and relax after our active morning of walking (and sometimes running) around the city.

 We then crossed the street to go meet up with Ron Gura, the head of Ebay's Israel Innovation Center, and one of Liana's friends. He spoke to us about his business, a group gift giving website that creates an easier process for buying gifts with a group of people. He also gave us advice on working in groups, and other life tips. I personally really enjoyed listening to him speak! Then, since we had a little free time (and some very low energy levels that needed to be boosted) we went over to a park area and did some of our favorite things, played games and sang songs! We played a new style of one of everyone's favorites, Wah. However, this time we played it using compliments! This was a great way to help us all get energized, and boost everyone's moods as well!

We then all got together to discuss our preliminary ideas for our community service projects (in air conditioning!). We got together in small groups (mixed Boston- Haifa) to learn about each others ideas. Following that, we drove to the port for our final hours together We got into a huge circle with all of us and people shared their project ideas with the larger group. Then, we split into maagals with our corresponding cities. Us from Boston gave feedback to our wonderful staff. Then, we joined into one final maagal with all of the Boston- Haifa fellows. This moment was so bittersweet. We all got into one last maagal where we all passed around a sheet of paper with each fellows name and as it traveled around the circle, the fellow holding it would write down the answer to a prompt read aloud. For example, a few prompts were "You helped me when..", "I love you because...", "My advice for you..." and various others. At the end of the activity, we were told that these were the same prompts that were given to us in our Postman activity on the last night of NAS. Through comparing the answers we were given, we could see how we have grown since NAS. We then sang one last song together, took a group photo, and split off to have dinner on the boardwalk.

An hour later, after doing one of our last rollcalls, we boarded the bus for the dreaded journey to the airport. Our last hashkivenu was sung, and we were forced to give our goodbyes. I had been dreading this moment since we first met the Israelis in March. We all began to tear up, but personally, I began to sob. However, one of the Haifa fellows said to me "Don't cry. This isn't goodbye, just see you later". I then realized that no, this wasn't the end of our connection and we will always have the amazing bonds that Diller created and brought us together with. Finally, the moment came and we were forced to walk back into the airport for our long journey home. Thank you for the last three weeks, words can't even describe the outstanding experiences we all had.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Joint Travel Days Boston/Haifa: Desert to Tel Aviv- Heroism Day

August 6th
Written by Lexi Scheer
Tuesday, August 6th- Heroism Day

 On Tuesday August 6th at 4 a.m. sounds of 36 teenagers waking up and hurriedly packing could be heard among the camel noises at the Bedouin tents. We had woken up very early in order to see the sunrise from the top of Masada. After quickly downing some biscuits and sipping energizing tea we loaded the bus and started our race against the sun. Our hike was short but tiring and thankfully we reached the top just in time to sit there for a while before the sun rose. We sat admiring the beauty of the mountains, dead sea, and sky all molding into one, and as soon as the first rays of light were glimpsed peaking over the tall mountains music started blasting and the group suddenly felt more energized. Watching the sun rise over Masada with our best friends by our sides was a completely new and amazing experience for many, if not all of us.

 At only 7 a.m. after finishing taking pictures all over the peak of Masada we started our walking tour by our wonderful guide Arava. The ancient landmarks like the old temple still in use, and the beautiful landscape in daylight was breathtaking. We were helped in learning the story of Masada by some ancient figures coming to talk to us and sharing their unique perspective. (Diller fellows dressed up.) First King Herod told us how he was forced into being King and wasn’t accepted by Jews or Romans, therefore becoming paranoid and building Masada as a safehouse and killing his children (Trevor). Next we learned about the Jews who fled from the Romans and hid from them on Masada. We “heard” from the instigator of the famous plan in which the Jews killed themselves instead of being captured and enslaved (Yarden I), and the other side of the story from a woman who saved herself and children from the mass suicide (Julia S.). One of the last places on our tour was an ancient water cistern in which the leader of the day Eytan and Lihi lead in a discussion on who we thought were the heros in the Masada story and if the Jews were right to do what they did. We then yelled messages into the mountains and heard them “speak” (echo) back to us very clearly.

Hiking down the mountain was a much more relaxed task although we were all eager to fill our rumbling stomachs. We rode the bus back to the Bedouins and ate a plentiful breakfast, then it was back on the bus for our final long bus ride. We drove 2 ½ almost silent hours to Tel-Aviv as we all caught up on some much needed sleep. The bus stopped in the heart of Tel-Aviv at an art gallery-market alongside a typical Israeli market. We were let off, given sandwiches for lunch, and allowed to shop for an hour and half.

At 3 we reconvened in front of the markets, boarded the bus, and went to our hotel. We had a little while to freshen up after our 2 days in the desert but had to be in the lobby shortly for our panel with the members of The Parent Circle, an organization for those who have lost loved ones because of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We heard from a Palestinian woman named Moira whose husband was shot in Jerusalem a few years ago, and an Israeli man named Aharon who lost his son in the Second Lebanon War. This panel was eyeopening and showed us a perspective that you don’t see very often.

We barely had any time to debrief from the intense speakers because we were off to a tour of lower Tel-Aviv and Levinsky Park led by Jean-Marc from the JDC. This tour taught us all (Israelis included), a bit about refugees and asylum seekers in Israel. We saw the Bialik-Rogozin School from the outside, and saw sight-proof of issues within the Israeli economy and social classes that we would never have known or been exposed to otherwise. After our tour we went to a building that is used as the local community center and heard 3 Darfur refugees speak of the horrors that they had gone through and the challenges they had to overcome. We broke up into three smaller groups and had a short, more personal question and answer session. We were all sad when the time came to leave because we knew there was so much more to learn from these strong, interesting people.

Back at the hotel Eytan and Lihi wrapped up the day with a discussion of our theme, heroism, what we had learned that day, and who we deemed a hero. I know my definition of a hero changed that day. We gave feedback to our leaders of the day then broke up into Boston-Haifa for our maagal lila, Boston’s maagal was on the beautiful beach of Tel-Aviv. Although this was irrefutably one of the busiest and most educational days it was also one of the most powerful and intense. I’m sure everyone questioned themselves and their beliefs at least once that day but came out a better, stronger leader for it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Joint Travel Days Boston/Haifa- Journey of the Water Part II

Monday, August 5th Written by Julia Habbe We woke up Monday morning exhausted after a night of dancing in the final goodbye party at congress. We packed our bags and met with our tribes for one last feedback session. After saying goodbye to all our new friends, the Boston-Haifa cohort piled on the bus for some long awaited nap time on the way to the Dead Sea. When we arrived, the heat was crazily intense. We did the usual routine of drenching ourselves in sunscreen, and then headed for the water. We had so much fun floating in the water and rolling around. There was a mud bath right on the shore so we covered ourselves in mud (and did a quick photo shoot) and then ran back into the sea. Once we couldn’t stand the heat and the stinging anymore, most of us were lucky enough to hitch rides on a golf cart driven by the area’s staff to and from the sulfur pool/spa area, changing rooms, and store. (It’s a rough life in the desert ;) ) Then we were on route to the Bedouin tents! The moment we stepped off the bus the Bedouin’s led us to a pack of camels and the famous camel rides began! As someone who has never been to Israel before, I had been waiting for this tourist attraction the entire trip. With two people on each camel, we were led around in a circle in the desert. There were a lot of screams and laughs, a fun experience all around! We then met with a Bedouin man in a tent, where he told us about his culture and we had the opportunity to ask him questions. He told us that he had three wives, and a separate tent for each family. He also said that the women’s role in the Bedouin culture is to take orders from the man. After we got over that initial shock, we learned about how Bedouin culture is being influenced by modern technology, and that many children choose to leave their homes to get an education in the city. Many Israelis were curious as to whether the Bedouins serve in the army and pay taxes (they do both). We then had dinner in a huge tent with all of the other groups staying there. The meal was served without utensils, and we laughed eating rice and salad with our hands. Then the Boston-Haifa cohort went to our tent (split down the middle to divide genders when sleeping) and had a program about the 6th leg of Judaism. We talked about parts of Judaism that were important to us other than memory, family, covenant, Israel and Hebrew. Even though we were extremely exhausted at this point, the JCs then insisted on leading a Boston maagal. The maagal was modeled after our first maagal Lila in the fall. (The rumor is that it was put together very last-minute). We were all instructed to wear a blindfold. I put my neck pillow around my head. Then we were arranged in a line and our hands were put together. We were led in a blind trust walk, not knowing who was ahead of us, who was behind us, or where we were going. After what felt like ages, we finally stopped. The JCs separated us and had us lie down on our backs. Then- remove the blindfolds. We were staring straight at a sky filled with endless amounts of stars. There was no moon or clouds, so it was one of those fantastic skies that appears impossibly more full than the one at home. We lay individually in silence, taking in the beauty around us. This experience is what many fellows have referred to as their real “Israel moment”. We were filled with peace and love for both each other and the country. We came together to talk and everyone was happy. A few of us stayed out later than others. Some crowded around AJ’s fancy camera, trying to adjust the exposure time to capture the sky on film. Others of us lay in a heap together on our backs, opened our palms to the sky and literally tried to inhale the energy of the stars. We wanted to capture the beauty and awesomeness of that sky and that moment. There was an indescribable sense of unity between us, the specks of dust lying on a tiny planet looking through the window to the vast universe around us. It was difficult to get rid of that “energy”. I personally could not fall asleep and ended up staying outside the tent and laughing and talking with other hyper people. We finally went to sleep around 2. We would be hiking Masada around 4:30 am. This day was so full of happiness and new experiences, and we felt more awake than ever.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Diller International Congress!

Written by Kineret Grant-Sasson Congress: The Exploration of Jewish Peoplehood After a brief intermission of exclusively American (and Canadian) programming, 160 Israelis from across descended upon us to kick of what would be the intense five day experience of Congress. This week brings together every single Diller fellow from America, Canada and Israel to represent his or her respective community in discussions of Jewish identity, leadership, Tikun Olam (reparation of the world) and her or his relationship to Israel. All 400 teens were split into thirteen tribes which would serve as their "homeroom" for the week. Throughout the week, the tribes met two to three times every day for a couple of hours, each time with breaks in between the sessions. Each session focused on one of the Five Legs of Avram Infeld's lecture: Family, memory, Brit (covenant), language and State of Israel- Land of Israel. We participated in programing to develop and explore our relationship to each of these topics. One of the goals of Congress Week is to force the fellows out of their comfort zones. I saw this play out in numerous ways. The first, is that living with 400 teens from all over North America and Israel who all speak different combinations of English, Hebrew and even French is not easy. However, this was one of the most fruitful aspects of Congress for me because I learned to "put myself out there" in ways I have never had the opportunity to do before as well as learn to connect to teens all over the world over the simple fact that we are Jewish teenagers. The second challenge of Congress week was the daunting task of confronting my innermost thoughts, values and internal ways of life with teens from all over the world that I have never met before. What did we have in common? We are all Jewish. From this commonality stems the idea of Jewish peoplehood. Although we all have different ways of approaching our Jewish identities, if each Jewish person in the world would chose three legs to relate too, every Jew would share one aspect of Judaism in common. In this way we will ensure the continuation of Jewish peoplehood. - Kineret Grant-Sasson/ KMONEY ps. Hi Mommy hi Daddy hi Ari hi Asher hi Frodo! Love you guyz. Peace Love Israel.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

North American Kennes

North American Kennes by Hannah Elbaum Welcome to North American Kennes! (Actually it was a few days ago, but that's ok!) We left Haifa on Tuesday morning with lots of "see you later's" to the Israelis for Kennes, a two day seminar with all the North American cohorts before being joined by the Israeli cohorts for Congress. When we arrived it was slightly chaotic, but in a totally good way! The other North American cohorts were arriving at the same time, and we had previously met a few of them on Ben Yehuda Street, so we tried to find familiar faces. After finding out our roommates and settling in a little, we met in the auditorium for the official opening ceremony! There was so much yelling and screaming and cheering for respective cities that it took the JCs a while to quiet everyone down. When they finally did, they began a skit of an airplane trip to Israel that managed to stop at every N.A. Diller city along the way. That must have been an awfully long trip, and I thought JFK to Ben Gurion was long! As they reached each city, the cohort came up on stage for a ninety second skit/song/intro to who they are. If you are interested, our skit is posted on the JCC Boston Diller Teen Fellows page on Facebook! The rest of the day was pretty low key, mostly about rules and finding our way around Givat Haviva, and doing a program to preface our learning for the next day. All the programs are done in our tribe groups, each named for one of the tribes of Israel. I'm in the Reuben tribe, and I have to say, I think I have the best N.A. JC ever--Liat! Each of the tribes is also led by a coordinator, an Israeli JC, and another member of the Junior Staff. In our first program we talked about the history of the Jewish people over time. Three thousand years ago we were One Nation, but over time have divided and moved until there are Jewish communities all over the world. The patterns of exiles and expulsions left us wondering what's next for the Jews. My coordinator, Daniel from the Toronto cohort told us some other scary news. On July 18, the day we all landed in Israel, Poland passed a law deeming it illegal for kosher meat to be produced, or distributed in the country. It was a huge shock for all of us and most of my tribe had a really hard time comprehending why a country whose main economic income is Holocaust survivor tourism would take this action. Seeing as it is an incredibly recent issue, and we have limited access to the outside world, I do not know the progression of this law since it passed, and do not know what actions are being taken. After the tough topics we had dinner, and then the night became more relaxed and chill. That night we had our first White Tent! I would like to now fix the picture you have in your mind of this white tent. It is simply a white sheet stretched over a few poles and tied to nearby trees. It is also too small for all 360 of us to fit under it. But, the fun of White Tent isn't the tent itself. Usually, White Tent is a hang out time with snacks and music, but as it was the first night, we did things a little differently. There was a competition between cohorts to prove once and for all which was the best. I am proud to say that although Boston came in second place, we were the only cohort with full representation and we all had a great time dancing and laughing with each other. (But really, who are we kidding, we know we are the best cohort. We don't need a competition for that assurance :D) The next day we began to look more at where these Jewish communities are, and how large they are. Not surprisingly, Israel has the largest population, with the US following close behind, but after that, the numbers drop significantly until we reached the last on our list, with only 21,000 Jews in the entirety of Chile. We continued to learn about the Jewish communities, focusing in on North America. It is shocking to hear that in most of these cities, the population of Jews is falling. We discussed possible reasons for the drops. Our generation is fighting apathy, the struggles of technology, and assimilation in ways that our parents are grandparents never saw. Later that day we heard from Avraham Infeld. Since our first meeting we have heard about Avraham Infeld and his idea of Jewish Peoplehood in a Five-Legged Table, so I have been looking forward to this for quite some time. His speech outlined three stories about his life, four reactions and the five legs. the concept is one that changed the way I think about Judaism. Infeld told us, vehemently, that Judaism is not a religion. He did not say what it was, but the idea that we discussed is Peoplehood. Later, in my tribe, we decided that Judaism is not only a religion, but rather, a people that encompasses a religion. I don't think there is any way for me to do justice to his speech, so here are the legs and my understanding of them. 1. Memory- The Jewish People share a collective and individual memory that is different than history. Infeld said that "history is his story and memory is my story." The experiences of the Jewish People and the way we remember that, even that we remember them, defines us differently than other people in the world. 2. Covenant- At Mount Sinai we received the covenant from G-d that we would fulfill his commandments and in exchange "he shall never sleep, he shall never slumber, the protector of Israel" (That's from somewhere in the Tanakh, but I do not remember where. Probably Exodus.) This covenant defined us as the chosen people and we agreed to be witnesses to the fact that there is one G-d and he is our G-d. 3. Family- Every Jew is connected to each other. A Jew who has converted to become a Jew is a Jew, and a Jew who has converted away from Judaism is still a Jew. We argue and disagree with each other, but Jews stand by each other. 4. The Land of Israel/The State of Israel- This one made the least sense to me, but the difference is that the Land is the historical land given to us by G-d in biblical times, and the State is the Jewish Nation that exists here today. They are connected, but also different, so it is possible to believe in one part, but not the other. 5. Language (Hebrew)- This is the language of our forefathers. It has been passed down and connects us back to the time of Moshe. It is the language that we pray in, but (for those who speak Hebrew) it is also part of life as a Jew. The final idea behind the table is that a table does not need all five legs. If each Jew finds three of the five that he connects to in some way, the individual table will stand. Also, as long as each person connects to three of the legs, there is a guarantee that there will always be at least one in common on which to build a relationship. The entire concept of the table has continued in our programming throughout Congress. In my tribe at least, the discussions we have held have changed our views on ourselves, on Judaism and on life. I have struggled, been confused, angry, confident and realized a lot about myself. But, that's what this Diller experience is all about. We are all learning and growing together. That's all for now! Sorry it's so long, it is truly amazing the amount you can learn in a 36-hour time period! Until next time, Hannah P.S. Hi, Mom and Dad! Love you! Also, I know I didn't do the best job explaining the 5-legged table, so if you want to learn more, check out!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Haifa Community Week: Community Service Day

Haifa Community Week- Community Service Day July 29th by Emily Wood A couple days ago the theme of the day was community service. As one of the leaders of the day i had to lead the group through a very serious day where we were all pushed to experience something out of all of our comfort zones. As the leader this made things especially difficult. The first program involved all of us going to a hospital. Some of us were able to visit the sick children with cancer there while the others fellows were given bags of goodies and crafts to give to the other sick children. At the hospital Liana, Trevor and I sat down with an Islamic mother and daughter. As we drew pictures with the little girl who didn't speak english nor Hebrew, the mom explained to us what she does for Ramadan which happens to be this month. Later on in the day the group was faced with a much harder service project. We all volunteered at a home for people with disabilities. There were three different service projects to do there. One was taking care of their garden, the other was playing with disabled children in a padded room inside and the third was hanging out with the disabled adults and children in an outside area. I was part of the group that stayed outside. This was one of the most striking moments i had during service week. i played catch with a couple high functioning disabled people. However, many were confined to chairs for many different reasons. If i wasn't playing catch with some of the more high functioning ones i don't think i could of handled being around all the confined ones. It was still an fascinating experience that i would be willing to do again. All the fellows who volunteered that day were faced with many different obstacles that pushed their limits and their comfort zones. Even so, we all had new experiences and made a difference here in Haifa.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Haifa Community Week: Current Issues Day

Haifa Community Week: Current Issues Day July 28th by Steven Conti The theme of Sunday was Social issues in Israel. The day started off with thirty minutes of discussing hypothetical situations in small groups. Within the groups each fellow represented a different people such as orthodox jews, secular jews, and gay people. Each person was forced to argue from that perspective, which for many forced them a little outside their comfort zone. This allowed them to try and understand the other perspectives. After finishing this activity there was an LGBTQ panel with a lesbian, a bisexual woman, and a gay man from Haifa. We were split into 3 groups and to start, each group sat with one of the panel members. They each told their story to the group and about the hardships that went with it. In my group we were told that the girl lost her best friends when she told them about her sexuality, and she is still scared to tell her grandfather because she feels he will not accept her. The group was then given the opportunity to ask questions in an effort to gain knowledge about the hardships of being gay in the current day society. We learned that she is comfortable with her sexuality and open about it, but has been in situations where she has felt uncomfortable with he way she was treated. After the question session the entire group came back together and listened to a poem about how uncomfortable it is to be stuck in the closet with people, but how the decision to step outside is a difficult one to make. The group then discussed their thoughts about the poem, and one fellow brought up an interesting point. For many it is comfortable the be in the closet, and it is the outside world that is uncomfortable. After further discussion we moved on and watched a movie about a straight girl in a gay world. It was similar to current day society, but it was considered wrong to be straight, and all of the derogatory words were switched to derogatory words for being straight. It was a very moving and emotional movie as it showed the extremes of actions taken against gays in our society, such as being beaten, but was easier to connect to because the outcast is a straight girl which for us is considered "normal". After about a half-hour of debriefing and speaking about people's reactions we learned that many of the fellows had stronger or changed opinions about gay rights, which concluded our section dedicated to LGBTQ and gay rights. We then went and met with the public relations representative of the Haifa Municipality named Eido Minkovski who talked to us about the impact of young people on society and how they can bring in more diversity, which is Haifa's goal because many young people had been moving to Tel-Aviv for new opportunities. We learned how young people create growth, but will move to societies with more options for work. He then explained Haifa's methods of attracting these kinds of people who they have losing in the past few years. We moved on from speaking with him and moved on to Haifa University to speak with one of Liana's previous professors about Israeli politics. He gave short lectures on Israeli youth, politics, and social issues. He provided us with a realistic perspective on internal and external struggles of Israel and how they connect and form the future of the country. Many of the Fellows were blown away by his explanation of politics, including when he gave us a really comprehensive update of the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To end the day we had a calm Maagal where everyone did a compliment line by lighting the candle of the person we complimented, and then passing the flame. Finally we spelled out Diller with the candles and sang Hashkeveinu to end the day.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Haifa Community Week: National Service Day

July 26th National Service Day Written by Andrew Jacobson The day commenced with a simple agree-disagree game. The leaders of the day read a statement and if one agreed, he moved to one side of the room, if he didn't he moved to the other side. There was a spectrum in between the two extremes for those who felt like they didn't belong on either side. Most of the questions regarded the future. Some dealt with people's opinions on enrolling in the army, while others were general statements of whether people are more excited or more nervous about their future. This maagal was one of the most current maagals for many of us. It scares me to think that in a mere two years, I will be moving out of my parent's house. It is truly a bittersweet time in our lives. After the discussion concluded, we loaded the bus to be taken to the Haifa navy base, the largest navy base in Israel. Personally, this was without doubt the most interesting program on the trip thus far. As soon as we reached the security checkpoint, we met Adar. This was a treat because just several months ago we Americans had met Adar during one of our workshops, along with two other Israeli soldiers during their delegation to the US through the CJP Hatikvah Mission. He then led a tour of the navy's biggest combat ship. This was especially COOL because active ships are rarely allowed to be toured. From the modern missles that can fly seventy miles, to the four-foot tall kitchen, it was a genuine experience that not many get to participate in. After the usual woosh clap, we headed back to the Abba Chushi Community Center. There Elad, an Israeli fellow and leader of the day, led a panel with four young people related to the army in one way or another. It included a volunteer in the intelligence department of the IDF, an major in the navy, a religous captain that takes care of combat soldiers, and a national service participant who is involved in B'nai Akiva, an Israeli orthodox youth movement, much like NCSY. A popular topic was whether or not Charedim (orthodox jews who study and yeshivas and are therefore eligible to opt out of the mandatory army enlistment) should be permitted to study instead of being in the army. Many enjoyed this discussion because of the conflicting views of the panel participants. Next was shnitzal lunch (fried chicken-but ten times better than anything you can find in America). This led into the planning of the final ceremony (which is kind of a secret until the cermony on Tuesday). Last was maagal tzohoraim, only because it was Friday and shabbat was slowing creeping up. Everyone formed a circle, holding hands. Each person then put on a blindfold (not the leaders of the day of course). We silently lead about five people to each corner of the room. (De ja vu back to our very first shabbaton in which we did something very similar) This was when the discussion began, mostly regarding topics like the maagal boker, or the future. I think it's really funny that people are literally ten times more open when they can't see, probably because they can't see other's negative (or postitive) reactions. Overall, I thought our day went exceptionally well. There were definitelly small things that we could have done more efficiently--counting people, quieting people down, et cetera. Them staff mentioned during our feedback session today that they were very impressed that we followed through on Adar's offer to see the navy boat all the way back in March. I can't wait for my next leadership oppurtunity so I can act on what I was told I can improve on.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Community Week Haifa: Coexistence Day

July 25th- Coexistence Day Written by Arianna Dines We woke up at Yemin Orde on Thursday and after breakfast and a brief maagal boker borded the bus and headed into Haifa towards the Bahai gardens. Upon arrival, we all held hands facing backwards and turned around to look at the gardens at the same time. It was breathtaking and immediately everyone started taking pictures. We found our tourguide and began our journey down the 700 steps through the amazing landscaping of palm trees, flowers, and fountains. We also learned the basics of the Bahai'i faith which was new to many, especially the Americans. One of the most interesting things was that children born to Bahai'i parents choose if they too would like to be Bahai'i at the age of 15 rather than being born into it. The information was interesting but the group seemed to enjoy more the beautiful view and trying to snap the perfect Instagram picture. I wish we could have spent hours there but it was soon time to travel to the next destination: an Ahmad's mosque. Ahmadiyya is an Islamic reformist movement which has different views than the Muslims that we usually hear about, especially in the news. A missionary from India told us about Ahmadiyya and and answer questions about how they condemn terrorism and preach for peace and coexistence. It was slightly difficult to understand what he said because of his accent but also he never directly answered the question. It didn't really take away from the experience but just required more attention which for me was a challenge that kept me engaged. We then viewed the actual mosque which looked very different from a synagogue because it only had a carpet and minimal decorations. After a quick snack we headed to Isfiya, a village near Haifa, and went into a Druze home. We sat on built-in-benches lining the wall and man told us about being Druze. He told us about daily life and their beliefs but something that was surprising to many was that if you choose to be secular, you are not allowed to pray or anything else religious, so it is simply cultural. They also are loyal to the land they live in which means they have a high rate of people serving in the IDF. Learning from the Druze man was so interesting and his passionate speaking kept everyone awake. After we enjoyed a typical Druze meal with pita with za'atar, rice, vegetables, tea, and meat (I didn't eat it because I was too full from the other things before I even realized there was meat.) It was so delicious and afterwards we enjoyed some fun time to relax. A small miscommunication of the timing of the Druze home led us to make a last minute decision to go to a nearby market which turned out to be one of the highlights of the day. This experience stretched many of us out of our comfort zones but it was very fun. . Each store was similar to the next and we bought funny pants, ethnic hats, and gifts for others. To asses the legitimacy of the sales and stores, Debbie and Arianna would talk in Spanish so the workers would not understand. The invigorating part was haggling. Although some mastered the skill more than others, it was a new Israeli experience for many. Eytan used his strong Hebrew and English skills to threaten a store that we would all leave after being cheated for his money. It was a big affair but Eytans strength and confidence showed and we commend him for it. I haggled for a bag from 40 shekels to 25, but since they cheated Eytan I only gave 24 shekels in revenge. This was a moment of Glory for me and Lihi said I was becoming Israeli!! Liana bought the cohort traditional desserts (thanks Liana!!) and we got on the bus in the busy street. We drove to Beit Miller where the Haifa cohort usually has their meetings. Hannah lead us in an amazing and well-written program about Jewish identity, the differences between Judaism and Israel and America, and how Judaism fits into our lives. This lead us to talk about how this makes Diller pluralistic and experience new things but coexist together to make this (amazing) cohort. After dinner we had a maagal Lila. We discussed what coexistence is like in Haifa and Israel and what the ideal would be. We also talked about the extent one should go to to learn about and interact with other religions and also within Judaism. One of the most amazing parts of this maagal was seeing people step up and talk who usually refrain from speaking in front of the group. We concluded by singing "Imagine", a great way to wrap up and be together. It turned out to be hilarious because barely anybody knew the words. We all just looked around and laughed and ended with hugs. I'm not sure if I am supposed to write about this because it was not part of official programming but after, most of the fellows got ice cream and pizza then walked on the Louis Promenade to Lihi's house. Along the way were AMAZING views of Haifa at night and we stopped to take pictures. Lihi's house is gorgeous and we also saw all of her talented paintings. We hung out on her balcony singing songs. Her little brother Gal put on a fabulous magic show that we all watched together. It was one of the most fun nights and I won't forget. The time flew and before we knew it, curfew was approaching fast! We tried to arrange rides as quickly as we could but almost everyone got home late (oops?). Even though we got a short lecture, it was very worth the memories made. Thursday was one of the longest days in community week (so is this blog post) and was extremely memorable. Time to go to the beach. Thankfully for us the jellyfish are now in Syria. Written 6 hours later: we all got stung. Shalom chaverim. #haggleteam2013

Community Week Haifa: Immigration Day

July 24th- Immigration Written by Bramm Watkin The day began with a maagal boker that I led at Beit Miller. We split up into groups and discussed the importance of immigration and the impact it has on us today. This discussion helped to outline the ideas that we would touch upon in the following day. Then we left to go visit a day camp where we played with little children aged 5-6. Although we were expecting Ethiopian kids, a mix up in communication with the camp resulted in us spending our time with Russian immigrant kids instead, but all kids are adorable so no one seemed to care! After many hugs and pictures we took a fifteen minute bus ride to mapilim camp that housed immigrants who came to Israel while it was still under British rule. Here many holocaust survivors stayed on their journey to their homeland. This was their last stop before returning to Israel, a trek very few had succeeded at. At this camp the British held prisoners for up to a year because they had illegally traveled to Israel, yet there was no harm done to them. After an hour tour with an informational movie, we ate lunch outside and mingled with other programs that happen to be touring the same day. Then we made our way to Yemin Orde which was a youth village which stands as a boarding school for immigrants to Israel whose parents cannot afford schooling for them. We then toured the campus and got to hear Worko's story of his immigration to Israel from Ethiopia. Worko is one of our fellows from Yemin Orde. Next our tour guide brought us down to a grassy area and made us Ethiopian coffee. This was an example of the traditions immigrants bring along with them when they go to a new country. Next our maagal lila took place outside and it was a continuation of the discussion in the morning. We touched upon the implications of the feelings and characteristics specific to immigration and how they can be applied to our life. This discussion helped to open our eyes to the implications of what we learn from immigration. Next we had dinner and following our meal at Yemin Orde's dining hall Liana and Nitsan led a text analysis program. This program helped us understand the importance of being a guest or a host and what the Torah has to say about it. During this day we experienced both the physical aspects of immigration that are seen in our daily lives as well as the morals we learn from day to day experiences.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Haifa Community Week: Getting to Know Haifa Day

Getting to Know Haifa- July 23 Written by Hannah Elbaum First full day with the Israelis! Today was a complete whirlwind of sights and experiences. As part of the Diller program, the fellows plan an entire week of activities and programs in the city of their Israeli cohort. Lucky us, Haifa is beautiful and has so much to do! it is frightening though, to have so much responsibility in a city you know very little about. The first group did an amazing job helping us get to know Haifa and be tourists, but also to get to know the community of Haifa on a deeper level. We began the day at Beit Miller, the meeting place of the Haifa cohort. I am lucky to be staying at a home near to Beit Miller, so we walked and stopped on the way for Shoko B'saqit. (Sp?) I have never tasted something so delicious that came from a bag! After the initial good morning hugs-even though we just saw each other 10 hours ago- we made our way to an gan ha'em. Our Maagal Boker (morning circle) took the form of water games! Despite the shock of cold water being dumped on my head, it was a refreshing, fun way to start off the day. Then we walked to the Carmelit, a subway that is known for being the steepest, and shortest, in the world. We took it all the way from the top to the very bottom, by the German colony of Haifa. From there, we walked around and learned a little about the unique architecture of the Haifa skyline. After a short free time, filled with iced coffee, we went to the Carmel center for a scavenger hunt! Acting out scenes from Twilight and taking pictures with eggplants actually helped us learn our way around, and was really fun bonding after such a long time apart. Plus, seeing lipstick on the boys was really funny! Lunch was more free time in Gan Ha'em, and then we took a bus to the rachbal, a cable car that takes you down the mountain and drops you off right on the beach! It was more than a little frightening, but the view was spectacular. The beach provided the perfect background for some artsy pictures! Next came my favorite part of the day. We walked along the beach until we came to a grassy area that had some blankets laid out with drums in a circle all around the edge. It was a drumming circle! We learned real rhythms and drummed along to call and response and real songs! The entire group was so happy and some people got up to dance in the middle. Before long, other beach goers came to check out the ruckus we were making. A bunch of little kids joined in on the fun, and even though it was difficult for them to keep up with the patterns, they were super adorable! Dinner was in the same place with a beautiful outlook over the Mediterranean Sea. We spent some time debriefing our day in separate Boston/Haifa groups. Throughout the trip we are working to continue to maintain our cohort of twenty, as well as the Boston-Haifa group, and the full Diller program that we will meet at Congress. These separate times, and our other programming as a full group will help us when we go to Congress, to feel confident and comfortable with the support system we have built amount the thirty-six of us. Finally, we ended the day with a Maagal Lila. It was a nice culmination to the day for us to give anonymous compliments to each other. I certainly left with a renewed sense of self-confidence. By then, the day of programming was over, but we were right next to the beach, so of course we had to go! I didn't end up staying long because I was so tired, and a good nights sleep was very needed. I can't wait for the rest of community week to see what the the other groups have in store! -Hannah E.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 4: Journey of the Water Part 1

Monday July 22 Written by Noam Kahn Hey everyone! Today we woke up at a youth hostel, had a nice breakfast, and began our day by traveling to the north. All the fellows were very tired from not getting much sleep the night before. Still, everyone was excited for the upcoming day. The theme of the day was the Journey of Water, so all the activities were based around water. Trevor and I (the leaders of the day) brought everyone to the hike, and we began by walking through a river. The hike up was interesting and the views were beautiful. At the top, we took a break at a rushing waterfall. On the way back, we came down a steep rocky slope, but everyone supported one another to get down. After we got back down from our hike, we had a short water themed discussion. We then travelled to a rafting place where we were split into groups and assigned rafts. The rafting trip was so fun! Every group got wet, and there was a small waterfall in the middle. It was nice to be on the Jordan River and see such beautiful sights. After rafting, we had a nice pizza lunch and took about a 2 hour ride to Haifa. In Haifa, we met our brother Diller group and had an opening ceremony. After, we went home with our home stay families. Today was amazing!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Day 3: The Golan Heights & the Upper Galilee

Sunday, July 22nd Written by Trevor Nataupsky BEACH DAY!!! On July 22, 2013 we all went to the Kineret. The Kineret is a major water resource in Israel. It is a large lake which Israel has used for years. We used it as a playground. 23 bodies running straight into the shinning blue lake (20 fellows, 2 Junior counsels, and Liana), swimming and splashing in the crystal blue sea. Once in the water, many small, hungry yet harmless fish came up to us. Little did we know that they were man eating fish. Just kidding. The fish came up to our feet and nibbled on them. it did not hurt- it just felt weird. Later, several fellows brought out their Frisbees and started to use them in the water, diving for catches. After about an hour and twenty minutes of fun in the sun, our leaders of the day (Kineret and Andrew Jacobson) gathered us up for a discussion on the Kineret and our theme of the day, co-existance. We learned that the Kineret is important in both Judaism and Christianity. In Christianity, this was the place where Jesus performed many miracles. In Judaism it is mentioned in the Torah several times as a very holy place. After having a wonderful discussion, we went to go have a (what we thought to be) "small" lunch. For lunch, we all sat at for tables were there was bread, hummus, eggplant, corn salad and normal israeli salad. So we all thought that was it. Little did we know. After that they came out with french fries, burgers, schnitzel, kosher sausages, and chicken. We were all so full at that point. But wait there was more. Then he came out with watermelon, that was so juicy. One fellow said "I think i put on 10 pounds after that lunch." Once lunch was over we headed to the bus for our journey to the Golan Heights. The Golan Heights is a part of Israel that used to be part of Syria. Then it was taken by Israel in the 6 day war. Lead by our awesome tour guide Arava we went to a 4D movie about the Golan Heights. Although, before entering the theatre a fellow discovered there was free wifi. Yes free wifi. So any fellow with a phone took it out and checked their facebooks, snapchats, twitters, etc,. In the 4D extravaganza, many fellows said "it was quite the experience". One of our JC's, Andrew Geller, said "it was "amazing."" There was wind and water in this 4D film. Many fellows favorite part was when an Israeli "cowboy" scooped up a bunch of dirt and smelt it. We even saw a man who looked like Arianna Dines father doing meditation. Someone else thought this man looked like David Micley, one of our coaches (hi David Micley! Since you're everywhere we keep thinking we are seeing you). Then went to a room about the wars of the Golan Heights. Through different lighting techniques we all learned about the battles over the Golan Heights. After leaving the 4D theatre, Arava took us to a spot were 7,000 feet in the air. we were on top of a mountain were a battle from the 6 day war. From the top of the mountain we could see Syria. After learning about the border we had about 45 minutes of free time to explore the abandoned bunker and go to the cafe that was there. We all went through its' dark narrow stairwells which led us underground. we saw old beds. It was cold and creepy down there. All of us went up to the top of the bunker were you could stand and look around at the marvelous view. After exploring the whole bunker a couple fellows decided to go down to the cafe where once again there was free wifi. So very soon after every fellow went there and got more free wifi. we all stayed in there and chatted and laughed away the time. Soon after that we went to go meet the Diller International Israel Leader: Liat. We took our bus to the most northern town in all of Israel, Metulla. It is right on the Lebanon border. We meet her on a mountain overlooking the whole town. She arrived in what was later called the Diller car (because of the diller sticker on it). She taught us all about how Metulla stayed in Israeli borders because of "60 crazy people." These people were like "Metulla must be a part of the Jewish nation" because there a stories of Jew's settling here in the Torah. After talking for a bit she brought us down to the Lebanon border.There she brought us to the a "no man land" area were both jewish and Lebanese famers work. We picked Lebanese apples. They tasted like Granny Smith's. Soon after we went to her magnificent house where she served us homemade food. Like we didn't have enough already today. She served us 2 large metal containers of chicken, 2 large bowls of rice, salad, and potatoes. In her amazing backyard there was a trampoline and a pool. Liat's house over looked an amazing mountain area. It look like a picture out of a magazine. We all had a great time at Liat's house and she was really great. She has so much energy and shared her own stories and and opinions with us about coexistence. Some highlights are people jumping on the trampoline, Andrew Geller getting pushed into the pool in his clothes, and Eytan, Amos, and Kineret sing a song from a movie musical all in hebrew. They have watched it 40 times in hebrew school they said. Sadly, we had to leave Liat's amazing home to go to our hostel. We packed up our bus and headed to the hostel. Once, arriving there we got our room keys and had about an hour of free time before our feedback to our leaders and Maagal Lila. a lot of people explored the property and found "work out" equipment. They look liked kids toys. we all played there and met new people who were also staying there, including many Ethiopians. Then we all went to our Maagal Lila. The Maagal Lila was based around one of Hillel's famous quotes and the staff related it to thinking about who we are and how we think others see us. It was a very thoughtful experience. We all had to truly think about who we are. As a great man once said "we all have to find our corner of the sky." After our Maagal we all chatted till the wee hours of the night and soon went to bed for another wet day of fun and learning. This is the Diller Teen Fellows blog. We all love you all and miss everyone. Have a great day, and g-d bless you.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Day 2: Shabbat in Jerusalem

Day 2: Jerusalem/Shabbat by Debbie Baskir Looking back, this past Shabbat has been one of the most meaningful Shabbats I have ever experienced. We woke up and went to shul. We had the option of choosing which shul we wanted to go to, either a traditional Italian shul or a more modern shul called The Great Synagogue. I chose to go to the Italian shul because I had heard that the Italians have a completely different service compared to the Ashkenazi or Sephardi service. We walked in as complete strangers but left feeling as if we were part of the community. We were greeted with open arms and wide smiles by the women, who seemed ecstatic to have new people join their community for a few hours. We left feeling very satisfied with our decision to go to the Italian service. We walked back on King George street and met up with the other group, who seemed happy with their decision, too. We stopped and sat under a shady tree to stop the sun from penetrating our sunscreen. We started talking about being a tourist vs assimilating into the Israeli community. There were many different and interesting opinions and ideas expressed. Lead by Arava, our tour guide, we walked around in the more Orthodox neighborhoods. Although some of us felt as if we were intruding on those Jews' peaceful Shabbats and observing them as though we were in a zoo, that is something that needs to be done in order to experience those neighborhoods. Uncomfortableness isn't necessarily a bad thing. After lunch, we had a few hours to relax. Some of us met up with local family or friends, some of us hung out in the hotel, mainly the pool, and some of us slept to catch up on our lack of sleep and jetlag over the past few days. When we were all rested and relaxed, we began our walking tour of the Old City. While on the way to the Old City, we saw some Ultra-Orthodox men, who were probably from the neighborhood of Meah Shaarim, who were screaming at the cars passing by. It was so surreal, as we had heard about the increasing violence and protests that those Jews have been having, but to see in in the flesh was a whole new experience. We saw many important sites throughout the Old City, including a Kariite shul, the statue of King David, the Zion Gate, but most importantly, the Kotel, or the Western Wall. For many Fellows, this was their first time seeing the Kotel. Some described it as humbling, uplifting, and incredible. When I was praying with my head leaning against the smooth rock of the ancient Wall, I paused for a minute to observe my surroundings. In the background, I could hear some Yeshiva boys singing some Seudah Shlishit songs. I also saw the intense praying of some of the nearby women- their kavanah (meaning and deep thoughfulness in Hebrew) showing so strongly that it inspired me to pray more. At that moment, I can honestly say that not only was I proud to be Jewish, but also felt part of the Jewish people. When Shabbat ended, we partook in Havdallah in the plaza of the Kotel, along with the Diller cohort from L.A. We met the bus near the Kotel and drove to Ben Yehudah street. The street was packed and filled with people of all ages, but mostly of young people our age. I must say, the falafel that I ate for dinner on Ben Yehudah street was the best falafel I had ever had. It was just delicious! Nothing can ever be compared to Israeli falafel :) We came back late to the hotel exhausted, our feet burnt out and tired, but our minds completely filled with a whole bunch of new memories that I bet will stay with us forever. ADIOS PEOPLE. hi mom.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Friday in Jerusalem

Written by Jessica Landon
Outlook at Yad Vashem

In a barrack outside Yad Vashem

Ready for the day!

Amos teaching us our first Hebrew word of the day

Theodore Herzl's grave

Michael Levin's grave

Gifts to the Lone Soldiers

Avi from the Lone Soldier Center

As seven o’clock rolled around, we packed our suitcases and headed out for breakfast before the hour bus ride to Jerusalem. Twenty, jetlagged teenagers filed out from our rooms at Kfar Yarok to the dining area, still excited for our journey in Israel to begin. But keeping our minds off of our trip was something out of the ordinary—peacocks. Everywhere we turned, a peacock would catch our eye, especially the males with their beautiful feathers.
            After breakfast, we drove to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Though we only went around the outside of the museum, the experience was still moving. The children’s memorial featured pictures of ten young boys and girls killed in the Holocaust followed by a dark room with tons of mirrors reflecting on five candles. The sound of a monotone voice saying the names, ages, and origins of children killed in the Holocaust filled the silence. Many children’s names and information remain unknown, explaining the brief amount of information given about each child.
            Then, we walked around the rest of the vast land of Yad Vashem—bigger in size than the old city—learning about the Partisans, righteous non-Jews, trains, and concentration camps. Additionally, we learned about the importance of remembering and teaching future generations about the Holocaust. The strangest part about the tour was the juxtaposition of the beautiful view and the depressing subject. The city of Jerusalem and the awesome land caught everyone’s attention as we walked from site to site, making the memorial surreal. However, the combination of the surroundings and the memorial shocked the whole group into the experience of our Israel trip. By starting at the Holocaust memorial, a defining part of Jewish history, and seeing the land of Israel from atop the hill at Yad Vashem, we were thrown into the heart of Israel.
            Following Yad Vashem, we continued to Har Herzl to visit the graves of some of the most important people in Israeli history. Not only did we visit Theodore Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, and many of Israel’s Prime Ministers, but we also visited the graves of soldiers killed while serving in the army. Arava, our tour guide, took us to the grave of her friend Uri, who was killed in the second Lebanon War at age 21. After reading his eulogy, we reflected on the meaning of being an Israeli. As Arava emphasized, when one person is lost, it affects everybody. The army, something relatively foreign to us Americans, is so inherent to Israeli culture that understanding what it means to be a part of the army and be interconnected to the entire community of Israel through the obligation of becoming a soldier allows us to further understand what it means to be an Israeli. As someone who has already been to Israel twice, this is the first time that I have felt a deep connection to what being an Israeli is like, rather than just seeing Israel through the eyes of a tourist.
            Then, we went to see the grave of Michael Levin, a lone soldier who was killed in battle, and talked to a lone soldier who is in the army today. We had watched the documentary about Michael back in Boston in May. He talked to us about the Lone Soldier Project, the process of becoming an Israeli soldier, and the life of a lone soldier in the army. Talking to him, too, connected us to Israeli culture through an American’s point of view.
            After talking to the lone soldier and eating lunch, we headed to Machaneh Yehuda for some pre-Shabbat shopping. The hustle and bustle of the market overwhelmed many of us, but gave us an eye into Israeli life. Hassidic men walking through to get to the Old City, women buying food for their families, and Dillers meeting Dillers in the markets of Jerusalem configured the tightly-packed setup of Machaneh Yehuda. As someone who loves fresh food, I quickly became engrossed in one of my favorite places.
            After we left the market, we went to check in at our hotel and get ready for Shabbat. With a ton of time to kill before leaving for Shul, many of us went for a swim on the rooftop pool! Then, we walked a short way to an orthodox Shul for Shabbat services. The services were very intense and the restricting Mechitzah did not allow enough room for all of the girls. Although they were extremely different from the services that I go to at home (and also very tiring for us jetlagged Americans), there was a distinct pleasure that I gained from hearing the familiarity of the prayers and seeing a mass of people praying so passionately.

            The first full day of the trip was a long, but powerful, day, starting off our Israel experience with meaning and intensity. We were thrown into Israeli culture and, personally, I loved it. The extreme differences yet deep connections allowed me to better understand Israel and created an amazing experience with the twenty other fellows in the group that will only continue to fill us with awe.