Thursday, July 14, 2016

Community Week

By: Documentation 

On get to know Haifa day, the leaders of the day Izzy, Emma, Or, and Dvir led the fellows in fun bonding activities during the opening circle. We then went to the zoo, where we got a behind the scenes experience with a Diller parent. Afterwards, we toured the beautiful Bahai Gardens, and learned about the Bahai religion's most holy place. 

After lunch on the beach, we got a stunning view of Haifa as we rode cable cars over the city. We ended the day with a discussion and feedback session. After that, we celebrated Ben's birthday with singing, cake, and a special video for him.

The next day was social justice and coexistence day, led by Noah, May, Yitzchak, and Jessica. To start off the day practicing social justice, we went to a tennis club that works to teach tennis to children with challenging backgrounds or living situations. The fellows had the chance to lead practice drills with the kids and hear from the coaches' own experiences. 

For the coexistence aspect of the day, we then walked around a largely Druze street, enjoying the shops and restaurants. Back in Haifa, we heard from a few fascinating speakers. The first were two teens, who spoke about their experience in a joint Israeli-Palestinian teen program, and shared their views on the culture and politics of Israel. The second speaker was Lian Najami, a Forbes Magazine 30 under 30 and political science student, who shared her own perspective on coexistence in Israel. 
All in all, a thought provoking day!

Yad Vashem, Har Herzel and Haifa

By: Izzy

In omnia paratus! Ready for anything! This line certainly represents our cohort as we experienced a diverse and exciting day on the 11th.
We began the day by visiting the Herzl Museum in Jerusalem. We learned about Herzl's vision for the future of Israel and his perseverance to peacefully pursue a democratic state despite opposing ideas to achieve statehood by means of  violence.
The museum was informative and entertaining, complete with various videos and Herzl's preserved personal artifacts.
We continued to Mount Herzl, a cemetery, home to some of the country's most important figures such as Herzl, Israel's prime ministers, and soldiers killed in action.

After reflecting at Mt Herzel, we realized that much of Herzl's dream for the state of Israel has come to fruition. His goal for a Jewish state was for the country to include many people from different walks of life. He wanted everyone to be considered and cared for; he wanted everyone to feel at peace and at home. Our last stop on the tour was at the graves of several fallen soldiers. We stood beside the adorned grave of Max Steinberg, an American combat fighter in the IDF, and Alana explained how she had been at his funeral two years ago, even though she had never personally met him. In fact, only a few of his family and friends were at the funeral while the rest were back in California, his birth place. However, 30,000 people from all over Israel travelled to attend Max's funeral because in Alana's words, so long as one is in Israel, ״one is never alone- not in life or in death." Max's life represents the fulfillment of Herzl's dream. Today, and always, Jews in Israel and in the diaspora join together in support and solidarity.
Following our stop at Mount Herzl, we drove to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. Before we began our visit, we ate a quick but satisfying lunch -- sandwiches filled with chicken schnitzel and fries (or some sort of vegetable delight for our vegetarians). The tour that followed was tear-jerking and challenging, informative and meaningful. Though we viewed varied media to learn about the narratives of those involved in the Holocaust, one visual that particularly stood out was of a large pile of shoes belonging to those who fell victim to the Holocaust. An emotional sight, it was unfathomable to image why the world allowed this genocide, unparalleled in its atrocity, to occur.
Upon the culmination of the tour, the group's discussion reiterated why the existence of the Holocaust makes it imperative for a safe haven for the Jewish people, or for the State of Israel, to exist.

Looking to lead the Jewish future, we changed gears and headed to Haifa for our much awaited home stay with the Haifa Diller Teen Fellows.

We enjoyed a lovely opening ceremony, playing games with the Haifa fellows to remember our time together in Boston and admiring the hilarious videos created by our beloved family back in Beantown. Leaving the ceremony with satisfied stomaches and beaming hearts, we were ecstatic to settle into a week full of adventure and exploration of Israel's beautiful Haifa!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Kennes Tours

By: Sadie
The last day of Kennes started off with a cohort wide program that addressed the diversity and unique qualities that comes with the Jews of the Diaspora. The program allowed me to getter a firmer grasp on not only the historical events that went into the Diaspora, but also on how remarkable the strong Jewish community across the world is. It was inspiring to realize that the connections I was making with people from around the world were representative of a movement bigger than myself and the weekend dedicated to Kennes. After this program the Boston cohort split up to go on various bus tours throughout Jerusalem. My tour focused on using food as a lens to understand the diversity of Jerusalem. 

The tour gave me a new perspective in the sense that I now view the shuks and marketplaces of Israel as not only fun places to shop for gifts, but as complex work environments that benefit some but also cause harm. Our speaker at the end of the day gave an inspiring message about the importance of taking ownership of the problems you see in your community, and not assuming that someone else will do it for you. This message is something I hope to take home with me to Brookline in order to make a substantial change that I feel is important. The day ended with a fun closing ceremony and end of Kennes party that gave us the opportunity to have fun with our new friends until we see them again for Congress! Although Kennes is coming to an end it truly feels like just a beginning (sorry for the cliche)  for our time in Israel and also within the
 new friendships we've been able to form. 


By: Matty
Today started like any other day: I woke up in a Bedouin tent to the echoes of peacock screeches at 5 o'clock, drank some tea as the sun came up, and boarded a bus to the second most visited tourist site in the country; aside from the zoo of course! After filling up all of our water bottles, we headed through the twists and turns and totally-unsafe-roads of the desert until we arrived at our location,Masada.  At this point, I'd like to tell the tale of the treacherous route we took to the top, full of cliffs and rocks, but the truth is we just walked up the ramp that was created by the Romans to storm the Jews (I'm sure you parents are happier about it anyways).  Irrespective of the ease of our journey, it did work us up just enough to sweat, and the arrival at the top was powerful. We spent time looking out over the desert on one side, and the Dead Sea on the other.  Personally, I saw a friend of mine on a different trip when we reached the top, and if I could give one piece of advice, it would be to coincidentally see someone who lives 10 minutes from your house 6000 miles away.  It's fantastic.  

We learned about the history of the fortress, and took more pictures, but being up there meant more to me than a new Facebook profile picture.  Whereas many people carry around a Jewish necklace, often a "Chai" or a Hamsa , I carry a roughly 2000 year old coin around my neck, that was excavated at Masada and dates back to the Romans unsuccessful siege.  It is truly one of my closest connections to my religion and to bring it home, even briefly, meant the world to me. 
 After what seemed like forever, but ended up only bringing us to 8:30 am, we took the cable car down and had breakfast.  After being up for 3 hours.  Need I say more?

We travelled to the Dead Sea and even though the first beach we were supposed to go to was closed because of sinkholes, we eventually made it to the second beach, and even got a tour of the world famous AHAVA factory.  The beach we were at was unbearably hot, and after nearly burning my feet off on my way down to the water, we finally took our first steps in.  To those of you who don't know me, I am 6 foot 2 inches, and about 175 pounds.  I have become accustomed to stepping in water and using my entire frame to keep my head just above the surface to prevent myself from sinking.  So, to lie down in the Dead Sea was truly like nothing else I've ever experienced.  However much we enjoyed floating and how smooth our skin suddenly was, we soon boarded our bus to Jerusalem, sweaty and tired.

By the time we got to Jerusalem, all problems had been cleared up, with some naps and air conditioning.  We arrived at Kennes, which is for all of the international cohorts (aka everyone in diller minus the Israelis).  Even though we were late, dirty, and entirely overwhelmed by the insanity of the event, we soon adjusted from the desert to comfortable hotel living.  We had some mixers, but the main event of the evening was the (potentially ill-named) "White Parade," where everyone dresses in white and walks together towards Shabbat services.  

It was a beautiful way to start the weekend along with our new international friends.  After services, we met up to reflect on our experiences, then came down for a final Oneg Shabbat.  It's safe to say we got to bed nice and late that night, and then slept really, really well. Thank God for late wakeup!

At over 20 hours long, this was our longest day by far.  We woke up in the middle of the Negev with sand and animals all around, and went to bed in a hotel outside of Jerusalem with over 300 Jewish teens.  It was the perfect way to start off the weekend...

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Craters, Camels, and more!

By: Tara

As the second day in Israel had begun it had already felt like we had been traveling for weeks. We started off the day with a delicious Israeli breakfast. We entered the room as the Australia cohort was leaving, so we were able to get a sneak peek of Melbourne Diller. After a short walk we viewed the Machtesh Ramon, a beautiful crater in the Negev. 

Viewing the endless expanse of desert I was able to fully take in the different types of beauty that Israel has to offer. Our JC's explained to us that just as the crater was formed slowly, layer by layer, our Israel trip was another layer in our life and we should acknowledge and appreciate what it will do for us.

 Following the crater, we took a hike at Ein Ovdat where we learned about different animals and learned how to survive the Israel sun. 
We then visited Ben Gurion's tomb and learned his story, and his dream of living in the Negev. Learning about the simplicity of Ben Gurion's choice it made me realize that it's impossible to understand the reasoning for one's choice just by looking at it, whereas it's more important to study and learn the full story. 
After the tomb, we took a bus ride to Bat Hamidbar where we learned the story of a Bedouin women's journey to education and her path to open up a business. After hearing her full story I was able to take away that no matter what circumstances we're put in, we really have the potential to do something different. This women went against her family and culture to be an entrepreneur and open up her own business. 
Ending the day, we drove the a Bedouin Tent which was truly a new experience for me. First off, I can now say I've ridden a camel and gotten a pretty cool selfie with one. Her name was pancake. 

But on a different note, the hospitality experience was an entirely new cultural encounter for me.  The tent was clean and the mattresses were draped with beautiful patterned covers. We were served a hearty Bedouin style meal that we all shared with our hands while sitting on the floor. We finished the night by bonding as we sat under the stars of the desert sky. I love how we're getting closer and closer as a cohort!

Our First Days!

By: Noah and Sarah

Israel Summer Seminar has finally arrived! We took an hour long flight to Newark, New Jersey and stopped there for a few hours. We met the Pittsburgh cohort in the airport and began to make our first connections outside of Boston/Haifa. We boarded our next flight to Tel Aviv and embarked on our 10 hour journey to the Holy Land. The flight was long, but don't worry—there were free movies! After numerous attempts to fall asleep, we eventually arrived safely in Israel.

We started our day in the south at Netiv HaAsara, a town bordering the Gaza Strip. We met with a women named Tzameret who spoke to us about what life is like on the border and we saw first hand the lives of the people who are closest to the conflict as it goes on. We were inspired by the fact that after all of the tough experiences that she and her family have endured she continues to have a profound love for her community and for Israel. Next, Tzameret took us to the border between Gaza and Israel. She showed us her art project of ceramic pieces that created a beautiful mural which read "Path for Peace." We were given the opportunity to add our own ceramic pieces to the wall, and we wrote wishes for peace on the back of them. At the wall, we met an IDF soldier who was protecting the border. He ended up being from Queens, New York and we were all pleasantly surprised to meet an American in such a position.  

Our next stop was the Salad Trail, which is in the Negev Desert. The Salad Trail is a farming area where we saw Israeli agricultural innovations first hand and sampled produce of many interesting varieties. For example, we tried purple carrots and zebra tomatoes.

 The special thing about this farm is that everything they grow there comes from the sand. This was such a unique type of place that even those in the cohort who have been to Israel numerous times had never encountered before. 

Our day came to a close and we took the refreshingly air conditioned tour bus to our sleeping destination, Mitzpe Ramon. Stay tuned for more!