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.