Dear Parents and Students,
This week was absolutely incredible. Not only did we get together with the Tel Aviv group for a fantastic 2-day trip, but we also had the chance to meet some incredible Israelis of our own age. Here are the highlights from this week:
On Sunday, we decided to begin the week with an Israeli Politics and Knesset game. The students were asked difficult questions such as, how many years has Benjamin Netanyahu been in the government, what party does Minister Naftali Bennett belong to, and what is the precedent of the president of the State of Israel. It was a pretty tight competition. Noam Aharon won the game and received the prize of a blender!
On Monday, we had an evening activity called Café Ivrit. The students met in a coffee shop in the neighborhood for a nice, relaxing evening during which they could ONLY converse in Hebrew (Challenging, right? That’s the point!) The students ordered hot drinks and each one received a menu with some Hebrew vocabulary on it. It was a great experience practicing some basic daily Hebrew words together including slang and all kinds of funny terms.
Micah Gonchar said, “Ani mamash ohev ochel v’ivrit. Haya keif lelamed od milim kacha. (I really love food and Hebrew. It was really fun to learn more words this way.)”
We left Jerusalem early on Tuesday morning and made our way to the Carmel mountain range, near the northern city of Haifa. We started our tiyul with a two-hour hike in the beautiful green Carmel Forest, a trail called Nahal Oren. Nahal Oren is an archaeological site on the northern bank of the Wadi of Nahal Oren/Wadi Fallah. The site comprises a cave and a small terrace in front of it, which descends steeply towards the Wadi floor. The site was first excavated in 1941.
We continued to the Druze village of Isfiya, where local Druze guides met us. They told us all about their culture and religion, and then we had a very tasty traditional Druze meal for lunch. All the students found the experience very powerful, being exposed to a new religion and culture, and many were amazed at how many similarities there were to Judaism.
From there, we journeyed to the old city of Akko, where we visited the site of the prison from the time of the British Mandate, housed on the site of a crusader fort. There we learnt about the history of the British Mandate in Palestine, and the Jewish struggle for Independence.
After that, we watched sunset on the Akko beach and then went on a walking tour of the walls of the old city of Akko and explored the shuk, before checking into our youth hostel. That night, the madrichim ran a fun game called “Aardvark Challenge”.
On Wednesday morning, we began the day at Rosh Hanikra. Rosh HaNikra is a geologic formation on the border between Israel and Lebanon, located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in the Western Galilee. It is a white chalk cliff face that opens up into spectacular grottoes. We took cable cars down to the grottos, which – more simply put – are sea caves. The grottoes were formed in the wake of underground shocks that ripped open gaps in the bedrock. Slowly, rainwater penetrated these rifts, forming tunnels and caves that continued to expand due to the waves that slammed against the rock. After watching a light show in a cave, telling us the story of Rosh Hanikra, we walked around, took photos, and were sprayed by the waves. We then went to join Israel gap-year volunteers with the organization “Hashomer Hachadash” (The New Watchman).
We split into two groups and visited Israeli students who are the same age as our students and who are dedicating a year of their lives to volunteering and connecting to the land of Israel through Hashomer Hachadash. It was fascinating to hear about their gap year, and their reasons for choosing to do this the year before they then enlist in the army for further service to the country. We then cooked lunch together with them and continued to hang out and have fun with them. All in all, the day was fascinating, powerful and fun. Certainly a day to be remembered!
This semester’s Selah track is coming to an end and we have only a few activities left. Our theme for the beginning of the week was Judaism and Homosexuality. We met with Nadav, a religious man who came out of the closet in his mid-twenties after having gone through a Yeshiva-based education and getting married young. Nadav told us his story and made us think about some of the challenges faced by religious gays and lesbians. It was a moving evening that opened our eyes. On Monday, we went to the Open House – Jerusalem’s drop-in center for the LGBTQ community. Rabbi Marc played a clip from the 1990s documentary “Trembling Before God” and the group did some textual study. Gilad, one of the Jerusalem counsellors, gave a presentation about his coming-out story. On Thursday morning, we had our final Learning Space of the semester and the teachers wrapped up the last 12 weeks of classes. Ovadia summed up his Jewish Revolutions class, Avigail reviewed her Tehillim/Shir HaShirim class and Rabbi Marc concluded his Ethics of Speech Class. Keith and Nili’s Shabbat class will reach its peak on Friday night with an amazing Shabbat dinner experience at their home. This weekend we have our final Shabbaton. We are staying in a Jerusalem hotel in the neighborhood of Rechavia and will be praying and eating Friday night in Nachlaot before our Shabbat day picnic and Parsha session.