Jerusalem Weekly Updates
Here are this week’s highlights:
On Sunday the Holidays were finally over and we returned to our regular schedule! We resumed our internships and volunteering activities.
In the evening we left the building, went next door to the soccer field and played a game of Human Foosball. The game is just like table foosball but with real people. We had so much being together again.
On Monday we decided to be brave and to go to the Crazy Mary Horror Maze. The students showed great courage and most of them made it to the maze’s higher levels. The maze begins at level 1 and continues to level 10. Most of us made it to level 10. It was a good experience for the students. Despite some concerns, they were there as a group and had to help each other overcome their fears.
On Tuesday morning we went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. We split into two groups. One group consisted of students who had been to Yad Vashem before and the other group contained the students who had never been. We walked through the museum learning about the Holocaust and the atrocities that took place. We were shocked and moved by the experience. Eliyah Gelb said, “It means so much more now that we have the privilege to live in Israel, and we will always have a Jewish State to come home to. We are living their dream.”
On Tuesday afternoon we went to Mount Herzl, the location of Israel’s national cemetery and other memorial and educational facilities, in the west of Jerusalem. The night before I asked some students to write a few words about the people buried on Mount Herzl such as soldiers and key figures from Israel’s history:
Heidi David wrote about Max Steinberg: “Just 3 years ago Max Steinberg’s parents flew from their home in Los Angels to Har Herzl, where we are currently standing, to bury their beloved son who only two years prior had his first encounter with Israel on a Taglit Birthright Trip. The 10 days Max spent touring the country with Birthright resonated deeply with him and led him to remain in Israel and ultimately draft into the IDF as a lone soldier.
Being new to Israel, Max’s Hebrew was not proficient enough for him to be accepted into the prestigious Golani brigade that he aspired to be a part of, but Max didn’t give up. He told the army “If it’s not Golani, it is jail or home.” Max’s dedication to serving in an elite combat unit continued throughout his service. Despite his small frame, Max’s friends and commanders remember his immense heart, grit, and determination in everything that he did, making him a vital part of the Golani 13th Brigade.
In 2014, Operation Protective Edge broke out between Israel and Gaza. Max’s unit moved from the Syrian Border to the Gazan border, where they were told they would be entering the strip. In his last phone call home, Max informed his parents that another tank collided with his own and that he and other soldiers in the unit returned to base for medical treatment. But despite minor injuries, Max insisted on returning to the strip to get back to the rest of his brigade. The next morning, his parents received a phone call and were told that the tank that Max returned to was hit by Hamas explosives and that there were no survivors.
Over 30,000 friends, family, soldiers, and strangers showed up to Max Steinberg’s funeral at Har Herzel, an unexpected turnout for his family. Today, we honor Max’s life and the two years he dedicated to protecting Israel.”
We ended the day with a “poyke”. This is an Israeli cowboy stew. It is the cowboy’s version of our classic Jewish cholent and absolutely anything can go into it. In this version we used beef and lots of root vegetables. We made a bonfire, put the poyke pot inside, roasted marshmallows and spoke about the IDF Code of Ethics. We divided the students into three groups and each group was asked a question relating to IDF values such as: ‘How is Judaism expressed in the values of the IDF?’ After that, we talked to the students about the importance of values and the idea that each value is equally important.
Our madricha (Dorin), who had been in the IDF, spoke to us about her experiences in the army and the students finally understood that the Israeli army is not a game, and that there are many complicated and difficult situations while serving. For example, religious soldiers who have to serve with members of the opposite sex.
Some of our students have a strong desire to enlist in the IDF, and this evening gave us a sense of understanding of the basis of the IDF. It also gave us a greater insight into the spiritual element of IDF.
The Marva Military Track began this week. The Marva program is an army program in which the students experience army training on an army base with real soldiers. This Wednesday they got their guns and took part in a lovely ceremony in which they swore on the Bible that they would protect Israel. We are so proud of our students doing Marva!
This week on Selah the group had its monthly Tanach Tiyul and were taken to visit the historic site of Nebi Samuel. There we heard the story of the Prophet Shmuel and his appointment of the first Jewish King, Saul. We also studied a section from the end of the book of Shoftim (Judges) and saw the location of a major war between the Tribes of Israel. We sat in a stunning Crusader church that has been converted into a synagogue and mosque that exist side by side. We played the guitar and sang some songs before going on a short hike. On Thursday morning the group returned to our Learning Space at Rabbi Marc’s house. We started the day learning the laws of speech (Lashon Hara) and following that a Chevruta program (one on one learning) during which each pair choose a book from the Rabbi’s library to begin to learn and discuss. After a break we had a class on Tehillim (Psalms) and finished off with an amazing Shabbat class where the group made a fruit salad, did a mindfulness exercise and blessed the fruit. Families in the city of Raanana are hosting the group this Shabbat for a Shabbaton.
This week in Parsha and Pizza we reminded ourselves of the story of Noah and the flood. The world became corrupted and God decided to wipe out humanity and start again, saving only Noah and his immediate family as well as some animals. We spent a lot of time thinking about the immorality of people before the flood and how terribly they must have behaved to warrant such a punishment. When the flood was over God makes a promise (In Biblical Hebrew we call it aברית – a covenant) that the earth will never again be completely destroyed. God declares the rainbow as his sign. Rabbi Marc helped the group think through the symbolism of the rainbow with two ideas. The rainbow is an upturned bow, a sign of peace, and God is showing us that his bow and arrow will never again point downwards to hurt humanity, but instead remain pointing upwards. The rainbow is also full of colors and God is showing us the diversity of the world and people and offering us a sign of peace that we may all sit together in the light of the rainbow.
Last week 19 students from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv opted to go on a special Camping Weekend together on a Moshav near Modiin called Havat HaBarbur. The group set up their tents and cooked their food, built a campfire and sat around singing and relaxing. Along with the counselors, we were lucky to have Tehilla with us, an amazing facilitator and educator who ran sessions on nature, meditation and creation. The students led a musical Kabbalat Shabbat prayer service, had time to bond, play games, and learn a little about the great outdoors.
Next week we are going to a seminar on Kibbutz Ketura for three days with the Tel Aviv group. Ketura is a kibbutz in southern Israel, located north of Eilat, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Hevel Eilot Regional Council.