Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Final Day of IWS!

Cohort 5 Israel Winter Seminar
Thursday, January 1st
By Naomi Silverstein

Our first day of 2015 began with a loud rendition of Happy Birthday for a very special Emma Starr and a whole lot of yawning. At 5 a.m. all of the remaining cohorts (many had left to go home the day before) met outside their dorms at Sde Boker Kibbutz for a light breakfast. Some groups were leaving for the airport, but not us. We, along with the Baltimore cohort, made the almost 2 hour bus ride to Masada. When we arrived at 7:30 we had an interesting make-your-own-breakfast experience that included canned tuna and a whole cucumber per person. After serenading Emma for at least the fourth time that day, we began our climb. 

All of the cohorts made the climb together. We took the path that the Romans had built in the early 70’s CE. The trek took only 15 minutes but it doesn’t take long to travel back in time. As we walked under the arch at the end of the path it was like we were walking through history. Our guide led us in a discussion over the morality of the Jewish zealots’ actions. On the one hand, it was a noble action to choose to die by their own hands rather than the hands of the Romans. Looking from another perspective, the group of Jews living on Masada was known as the Sicarii, an extremist band. Perhaps the mass suicide was just another way to get attention. Whatever the reasoning, walking the pathways and looking over the view from the top of Masada inspired incredible and overwhelming feelings. 

Due to time constraints, people had the option to swim at Ein Gedi oasis or in the Dead Sea. I was among those who opted for the Dead Sea experience. While some people thought the water was cold, us New Englanders loved it. Floating was so much fun! We were so buoyant that we couldn’t get ourselves vertical to stand back up! Accidentally getting a drop of the water in my mouth made my lips pucker and one of the Baltimore boys managed to get water in both of his eyes! Once everyone had endured enough of the stinging we swam out to wash off and head over to the mud baths. There were four huge basins filled to the brim with mud and each of us was smothered with thick layers from head to toe. The cool mud soothed the stinging sensations from the extreme saltiness. After taking the customary mud-covered pictures, we went to rinse off under the sulfur showers. Once we returned to the locker rooms we had to hurry to shower and get dressed before it was time to go. After I bought some Dead Sea lotion and a “Life is Sababa” t-shirt, we boarded the buses for Jerusalem! 

Easing our way back into American culture, the Boston cohort went to a burger restaurant for dinner! Sharing one long table, we enjoyed our final sit-down together and once again serenaded Emma with Happy Birthday. Dinner ended and we were headed to Ben Gurion airport. Instead of waiting at the gate, I went around and bought as much Israeli chocolate as I could afford! The 13-hour flight to Philly and then the two hours back to Boston ended our Israel Seminar. In our programming we discussed what being a family meant. To me, it is a place where I can take refuge and relax with people whom I love and love me in return. Going into the trip we were a close-knit group of teen leaders and friends. Now, we are a family.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Day Two of North American Kennes

Cohort 5 Israel Winter Seminar
Wednesday, 12.31.14
By Emma Starr

Wednesday morning started off with a traditional breakfast of cheeses and eggs etc.  We all then walked to our color groups and were told to look for envelopes with our color sticker on it.  At first I felt weird looking around Ben Gurion's grave site for envelopes but then when the groups found them all and we opened them I was very intrigued.  Inside the envelopes were quotes that Ben-Gurion said and dates that were important in the state of Israel. We each read them aloud and discussed if we were inspired and if so why.  My color group had a serious discussion about the conflict and people shared some very insightful opinions.  The notion of a group of around twenty Jewish kids from nine cities coming together to discuss the future of Israel was such an interesting perspective on how different people from different places see the world.  After we concluded with how we are going to affect change in our homes we continued our program on the "Journey of our People."  We also had to think about the first Jew in North America and put on a play about it.  Then the leader spread out a map and we were all told to place stickies with numbers one to ten written on the places that we think had the most Jews.  My group started out with getting the first three stickies correct but then we got the rest wrong.  It was so interesting to see how the places we think didn't have a lot of Jews are on the list and the places we thought had a lot of Jews were the top five on the list.  Boston is the city with the 7th largest Jewish population.
The five legged table is a concept by Avraham Infeld.  He says that a table stands on israel, memory, family, covenant, and language.  He spoke so passionately that it was very hard to not be totally captivated with his words which he so eloquently spoke.
After we heard from Mr. Infeld we broke up into our color groups again and discussed the future of North American Jewry.
We concluded our evening with a maagal both silly and serious.  We screamed our new year resolutions while cracking our glow sticks and ran towards each other ready to embark on accomplishing them together when we go back to the states.   We put on hats and glasses and counted down with the other cohorts and thought about how lucky we were to be in this beautiful country with the most amazing people in the world.  We are one family full of people that care about each other and will do anything for each other.  We are so lucky to have embarked on this adventure together, our nineteen amazing fellows.