Sunday, July 28, 2013
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
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
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
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
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
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: 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
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.
Friday, July 19, 2013
Written by Emily Morgan
Adventure: Day Three
Days one and two bled together with the flight. It was long awaited and greatly appreciated after a ten hour delay at JFK. Anxiety and excitement had risen sharply on the quick flight to NY, seeing as it was a brief preface to the 12 hour flight ahead of us. It got really exhausting to be so excited for so long but it also made everything we did more fun. For example; going through customs was a blast! Getting drilled about our individual Jewish background was intense and pretty scary looking back, but while it was happening it felt like a game of trivia!
Terminal 4 at JKF quickly became a second home for the group; we got comfy. Really comfy. After a group chow-down at Buffalo Wild Wings, it was only a short time until we had spread ourselves and our belongings all over Gate B 27. Being the spunky group of leaders that we are, it wasn’t hard for us to entertain ourselves. Whether it was playing a few intense rounds of cards or just following the flow of the moving sidewalks, we enjoyed our last sane hours. Luckily, we all kept track of everything and easily boarded the plane. I thought that was just as excited as anyone could ever get! I was terribly wrong.
The flight itself was surprisingly enjoyable; the food wasn’t too bad, the seats were moderately comfortable, and the ride didn’t feel like it was longer than a good night’s sleep. The atmosphere of the plane was fascinating- everyone there was headed to Israel, but not one person looked or acted alike. We all shared this common interest; this belonging or calling to the Holy Land. Looking back; we were all in a pretty cool situation- our plane was full of Jewish people from all different denominations. Every few hours, many of the conservative or orthodox men would stand in the front or back of the isles and pray. It was so interesting to watch them and notice all the differences between myself and everyone else even though we practice the same religion. Without constant prayer the flight was pretty boring so it’s a good thing that The Incredibles was playing during the flight. We all needed that.
Upon landing at Ben Gurion, the group’s excitement rose, as well as our level of exhaustion. The airport was enormous and beautiful. It was crazy to be conscious of my location… We were finally in Israel!
Because of our 3 hour delay, we needed to speed through passport checks and baggage claim. Shorty after, we withdrew shkalim and met our wonderful tour guide, Arava and the JCs (and Andrew from our group). Heading straight towards Jaffa, the bus ride was a buzz with excitement and nerves. My eyes were practically glued to the window and my hands to my camera. A new thing we have been doing here is frequently asking each other, “Wait- where are we?” to which one would reply “ISRAEL” and both parties would scream and jump around.
Jaffa is a beautiful city. The buildings are works of art and the atmosphere is incredible. Many were very nervous about the Blackout restaurant while it hadnt really occurred to me to be skeptical of a restaurant where I cant see what I’m eating. We chose our meals before we were lead into the dark and were put into groups for dining. I have never been in such a dark place. It was weird to close my eyes tightly and open them to see just the same thing. Once I got my meal, I was ready to experience it truly. It was maybe the most delicious thing I had ever eaten. It was gnocchi with mushroom and cheese. I would have probably judged the meal by the way it looked if I had been able to see it. The food was so incredible that I had a dream about it last night. The dessert was just as good. It was nice to embarrass myself and have no one see how wildly I was enjoying my meal
After the experience, we walked out to The Platform; an outdoor market. It felt really Israeli, I think. Everyone there looked like there were having a great time. There was a live band that we all danced around a little to outside. My face still hurts from smiling so much last night.
Next, we sat by the water to have our opening ceremony and write about our day. We went to Kfar Yarok, a youth village. It was really nice and so great to shower and get some real sleep.
I can’t wait to see what today brings us all! So far, it is undoubtedly the best trip of my life!
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Sunday we were lucky enough to meet with Anna Oliker, who is the party manager of the Israeli government party Yisrael Beiteinu. In this past election, Yisrael Beiteinu ran on a joint ticket with Likud, and together they make up the majority of the Knesset. Unfortunately getting in to the Knesset was more challanging than predicted, so we only got to meet with her for a few minutes. It was so interesting hearing what someone who is so high up in the Israeli government does on a daily basis. She is also a Haredi woman, which added a different perspective to the experience.
After meeting with her, we took a tour of the Knesset and learned all about the history. This experience really fit in with what the Diller program is all about, as we were delving deeply into how the government works. It was very weird hearing the vast differences between the Israeli and American governments, especially about how central religion is in Israel, while in America we pride ourselves on the separation between "Synagogue" and State. This was a great intersection of all four pillars of Diller: Leadership, Social Justice, Jewish Identity, and Israel!
Sunday night, we went to Ben Yeduda street for the last time, and as we were walking through the streets, something peculiar caught our eye. Over 70 Japanese people were dancing and singing in a somewhat organized fashion in the middle of Ben Yeduda street! They were so energetic, and also seemed very passionate about Israel. Obviously, Andrew felt moved along with a few British boys, to join right in the festivities! It was truly a bizarre and unique experience.
Monday morning we woke up at 5:30am!! Insane, we know. I take all the blame (sorry Andrew!), but it turned out to be very worthwhile. We walked to a park where we boarded buses with around 250-300 woman and a handful of men as well. This group is called Women of the Wall, and it is an organization that has been fighting to change the laws surrounding what women can and cannot do at the Kotel. They have existed for close to 25 years, but recently have grown tremendiously, raised a lot of attention in the media, and have even sucessfully made it legal for Women to pray with talit, kippot, and tfillian at the Kotel! However, it is still illegal for women to read from a Torah on the womens side of the kotel. We were escorted with a heavy police escort to the Kotel. The streets before the gate were lines with police, holding Haredi men and women back from attacking the buses. A few Haredi women actually went up to the police on motorcycles, and started screaming at them and hitting them! When we got to the Kotel, we got off the bus and walked through the gates. We couldn't go all the way to the Womens side (as the group ussually does), and had to stop right outside of the Kotel. There were 100s of Haredi men and woman (mainly men) standing behind the police barriers and yelling at us! We started praying the Rosh Chodesh (new month) service. Many women were wearing talit, kippot and tfillian. Throughout the entire service, the Haredi men were screaming, yelling things such as "Just get out of here!" "Because of you the Meshiach wont come!" "You're Amalek!" "You're all Nazis!" "You are the reason that people have cancer!" And much more that we didn't understand. They threw a few eggs at us, as well as some open bottles of water. We later read in the newspaper, although we didn't actually see it, that one Haredi man attacked one of the men praying in comradory with us and a Haredi man threw stones at someone. Two Haredi people, one man and one women, were arrested. Although we weren't allowed to bring a Torah, we did the Torah service using a Chumash instead. One young girl had her bat-mitzvah during this service! She was so brave, and read right through the vicious chants, egg throwing, and whistle blowing of the Haredim.
We later learned that the reason we could not go to the womans side of the Kotel for the service was because thousands of Religious seminary girls had flooded the womans side before we got there, as their own organized protest to our service. We can't even imagine what this would have been like just a short few weeks ago, before the change in law and police support. We never felt in danger, because we have never seen that many police in one place before. There were police in uniforms of all colors in front of us, behind us, to our sides, and above us. After the service, we were again escorted out on buses by police.
It was an experience that neither of us will ever forget.
We then said goodbye to Jerusalem, and got on a bus to Tel-Aviv. After a short rest at the hotel, we went to the only Eritrean Womans Community Center. This is a population that escapes to Israel seeking refuge, but the Israeli government wont recognize them or give them any help. This center was set up last year to provide a day care service during the day (many of the babies were concieved through rape) and to provide services such as english and hebrew lessons and parenting courses for the women at night. We went to volunteer with the children, and were a bit taken back by the poor conditions and understaffing of the center. There were around 30 babies at the one room center, and they told us that most other day cares they could go to had around 60 babies in the same sized room. To be perfectly honest, we were both very uncomfortable the whole time because the care takers did not know english or hebrew, and it was so disorganized that we didn't know what to do with ourselves and there crying babies that we found ourselves overwhelmed. This experience reminded us how lucky we are to have grown up with everything we have. It also showed us that not all community service is enjoyable, and that it is okay to admit that you had a bad experience.
This morning we went to Nachalat Benyamin, a street where every Tuesday and Friday local artists set up booths and sell their work. It was great and we saw so many beautiful things! And now off to the beach!!
-Liat and Andrew
Saturday, July 6, 2013
Yesterday, after a lovely pastry filled breakfast we headed out to the Gush Etzion which is a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. There, we visit the Caliber3 anti-terror training center. Calliber3 is one of 6 privately owned shooting ranges in Israel, but it is the only one that the government associates with and uses to train anti-terror personnel. Calliber3 trains anti-terror personnel, ranging from mall and school security personnel to body guards to elite anti-terror forces. We participated in a two hour course for tourists, where they taught us all about the work they do to help protect Israel and the Jewish people. We learned all about their specific weapons, their tactics, and their training mechanisms. Then, our instructor, Eitan, taught us some basic firearm skills. We practiced with wooden fake guns, and then had the opportunity to shoot a baretta .22 caliber pistol and a ruger sniper riffle. One at a time, we shot at targets with Eitan by our side instructing us. Liat shot 7/8 while Andrew shot 5/8. In the shooting competition with the other tourists, our group triumphed.
It was really interesting learning about the security measures that are being taken in Israel. Being in the West Bank was also a totally new experience for both of us, and we were surprised by the fact that our taxi rolled right through the checkpoint and there was no security checking anything. It was a weird feeling, and we both had very mixed emotions about it. The contrast with our experience at B'Tselem was prominent and at the forefront of our minds.
After this adventure filled morning, we went to Machene Yehuda, the shuk in Jerusalem. Machene Yehuda is basically two narrow roads filled with little booths selling spices, fruits, vegetables, pastries, cookies, and so much more. It's crazy on Friday afternoons, because everyone is coming out to prepare for Shabbat. Everything is so cheap and delicious!! We found ourselves buying more and more as we pushed our way through the street. It was so packed that at some points we couldn't even walk!
We went to the Kotel for the first time Friday afternoon where we ran into Molly, one of the young adults who will be coaching the fellows on their Tikkun Olam projects! Small world! Andrew got into some energetic dancing with a group of religious men, while I watched with the other women.
Today, we enjoyed our Shabbas sleep, and slept in late and had our delicious food that we had gotten at Machene Yehuda. We went back to the old city and explored on our own, and then took a free walking tour of the four quarters. This tour took us all over the old city, and we learned so much about the history. It was great! Can't wait to go back with the fellows!!
-Andrew and Liat
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Today we woke up very early, again, and decided to walk to the old city and explore the Jewish and Arab shuk. Sadly, very few places were open at 8am, but we got to go up to some roofs and see a great view!
In the afternoon, after getting lost once again, we met up with Shachar from Israel Extreme. He took us to a cave near Beit Shemesh that was very off the beaten track, and we repelled into it. It was just a small hole in the mountain, and when you looked down it, all you saw was black. It was a truly amazing experience to go down into the dark depths of an unknown cave putting all of our trust into a man we had met twenty minutes before. In the cave, he took out a little stove and made us tea from spices that we drank with cookies. As we called through many narrow tunnels and explored the caves, Shachar explained to us the things we were seeing, he archeological evidence, and told us many stories.
These specific caves that we crawled through were caves that the Jews build to hide from the Romans (Hannukah story). We saw the strategic structure the caves had that the Jews had thought out, including the difficult jumps from tunnel to tunnel instead of doors. We also saw the holes that the Romans had made in the tunnels to stick knives through and the fire damage that is thought to be from the Romans setting fires in the tunnels to force the Jews to run out the other side. Learning the history of the caves really took the experience to a new level, and it morphed from being just a fun outing to a meaningful adventure.
After we made it out of the cave, Shachar took us to a village close to Modin where Jews, Christians, and Arabs all live, and we went to a very authentic, not touristy, restaurant owned by Arabs. Shachar ordered three desserts for us, one jelatin, rose petals, and coconut thing, one goat cheese and spice thing, and Baklavah. The first two were disgusting, but it was a great experience to eat at a place that wasn't on Ben Yehuda and that didn't cater to tourists.
All in all, it was a great third day in Israel and we can't wait to see how the rest of the trip will turn out!
Liat and Andrew
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Today we met with Anat who works at a social justice organization called Shatil (partially funded by the New Israel Fund) that focuses on promoting human rights for all Israelis. They do work with gender issues, poverty, Arab/Israel relations, and much more. Anat is the coordinator for a social justice fellowship that takes post-college Jewish adults to Israel for a year to intern at a NGO of their choice. Nadav, a fellow who we were privileged to meet with, has spent the past 10 months working at an organization called Sikkuy, which focuses on equal rights and treatment of Arab Israelis. The most interesting and unique thing about this organization is that it is run and staffed by an equal amount of Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis. Every single project they work on they all agree upon, and they have both Jews and Arabs working together.
After learning about the fellowship and Nadav's experience, we headed over to an organization called B'Tselem. On our way there, we decided to walk about two blocks past it, and were able to see the fence separating Israel from the West Bank. Bt'selem is a human rights organization focused on restoring the human rights of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. We met with an International Relations Associate, Noam, who told us all about the organizations work. We learned so much about the West Bank and the living conditions there. One of the things that we found most interesting and innovative was a project they have been working on for a few years now, where they give out hundreds of video cameras to Palestinians in the West Bank and asked them to record parts of their daily lives, including injustices committed towards them by the IDF and Jewish settlers. She showed us a few videos that stunned us, and explained that their organization simply believes that everyone is created "bt'selem elohim- in God's image" and therefore Israel must push to restore the human rights of Palestinians, as well as the legality and accountability on the IDK and Jewish settlers. All of their research, as well as videos and interactive maps, can be found on their website.
Then, we headed over to the biblical zoo to have some fun and look at the cute animals! After getting COMPLETELY lost in Jerusalem, we finally found our way! There we saw some really adorable animals, as well as the biggest spider in the world- Andrew was terrified.
All in all, we had a great day, and are very happy to still be awake at 6pm! Dinner and bed soon. Stay tuned for more tomorrow about our adventures rappelling into caves and exploring them. Peace.
-Liat and Andrew
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
3:40am here. Been up since 1:30, watched a movie, checked out twitter, and are about to watch a second movie. Gotta love jetlag. After a really easy flight we arrived here in Israel at 5:25am, and got to the hotel so early that there was no one at the reception desk! After a brief chill sesh, we finally were able to check in and went exploring on Ben Yehuda, so early in the morning that most places weren't even open yet. Too exhausted to do anything, we decided to grab a bite to eat, hang out in a cute park near the hotel, and try to stay out as late as possible to fight jetlag. We lasted to 3pm and were fast asleep by 5:45pm. Today we are excited to meet with a woman from the New Israel Fund and a social justice fellow, and then go to the Bt'selem office to learn about their organization. More on that later.
Andrew and Liat