Here are some of this week’s highlights:
On Sunday, the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv students were honored to attend a Masa event to mark Yom Hashoah. The first part of the day took place at the education center on Har Herzl. Yad V’shem ran workshops for us and we heard the incredible story of a survivor. Following that, we shuttled to Yad V’Shem at the base of the hill and ate dinner. All of the students then had the privilege to sit in on the national Yom Hashoah ceremony and listen to the speeches from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President’s Reuven Rivlin. We heard more stories of survival and prosperity from some of the oldest survivors alive in Israel. Overall, it was an unforgettable experience. Aitan Haviv said, “I felt that the Jewish ruach (spirit) is alive and it made me feel alive”.
On Monday, we started to prepare for Independence Day by learning Rikudai Am (Israel Folk dancing). We learnt the basic moves so that when we go out on the dance floor on Wednesday night we won’t look stupid. After we burnt some calories dancing, we had some Sabich, an Iraqi dish of eggplants, potatoes and egg all in a pita.
On Tuesday, we went to hike in the Jerusalem mountains. We began our hike not far from Bar Giyora, which is southwest of Jerusalem and hiked down the Ktalav dry stream. Soon after we began walking we were sounded by the area’s beautiful nature and all we could hear were birds and other sounds of nature.
On our way down towards the old Bar Giyora train station, we spoke about the geology of the area and about the different trees that grow there.
The train station is no longer in use, it was once part of the Jaffa – Jerusalem rail line that was built during the Ottoman era and at the time was the height of technology. The train was steam operated and used this stop to refill water so it could complete the journey to Jerusalem. We had a picnic lunch next to the Soreq River and spoke a bit about mapping, topography and navigation. We then started the challenging climb up the hill, we stopped for a short rest at the ruins of a tomb of a Muslim Sheikh’ and were very happy to see the bus at the top of the hill. From there we drove to a stalactite cave to see the wonderful rock formations that were created over millions of years and were discovered during works that were done in a quarry around 50 years ago. Harry Fogel said, “I felt like Batman in the cave“.
Finally, I want to tell you about an interesting project we started. The Ten Days of Gratitude weaves the days between Yom Ha’Shoah and Yom Ha’atzmaut together with a thread of thankfulness – amidst our national sorrow, we also appreciate the gift of sovereignty. The Ten Days of Gratitude provides us with a chance to appreciate and give thanks for the accomplishments, achievements and successes of our nation, integrating gratitude into our way of being for this period of national reflection.
Here are some quotes from our students:
“I am thankful for my family”
“I am grateful for the privilege of being in Israel”
“I am thankful that I’m happy”