Author Archives: arayches

  1. Heading North Along the Coast

    Leave a Comment On Monday, we visited the Ayalon Institute, where we toured the once illegal underground bullet factory that was used to assist Israeli forces during the war of 1948. We then went to Kibbutz Gezer, where we were greeted by Ben’s Aunt Su! She gave us a tour of kibbutz where afterwards we enjoyed a fine lunch and took a dip in the pool. We then headed over to the beach in Bat Yam, where we rode the waves of the Mediterranean and learned about an organization that allows troubled youth to refocus their energy on surfing. The next day, we left Tel Aviv and headed north. Our first stop was Caesarea, where we toured the ancient crusader city that sat on the coast, as we learned about the rich history of one of Israel’s most popular attractions. We then went to Givat Haviva, which is a center for Jewish education and coexistence, where we were able to further understand the history of the conflict in the region. Next, we visited Atlit, an old detainee camp where Jews were taken off ships coming from all over Europe and put in camps by the British. We were able to explore a refurbished version of one of the old ships and we gained more knowledge of the creation of the State of Israel. After spending a night in Haifa, we spoke with a representative of the ahmadiyya sect of Islam and asked him many questions as we got to see inside of his mosque. We then explored Haifa on our own, and then went to a town called Akko, where we toured another crusader town and explored the underground tunnels. We are currently on our way to the Sea of Galilee and will stop at a Bedouin village for dinner on the way. We will be coming out with more blogs soon, so stay tuned….
  2. Exploring Tel Aviv

    Leave a Comment On Friday night, we welcomed in Shabbat with the Beit Tfilah Yisraeli congregation in a beautiful service on the boardwalk looking over the sea. The leaders had amazing singing voices and tons of ruakh (energy)! Watching the sunset throughout the service was an amazing sight. It was easily one of the best Shabbats we had ever been to. On Saturday, we gathered for services at the hotel, and then hit the beach for a relaxing day of rest. That night, we went to the boardwalk for havdalah. The waves may have splashed everyone a bit, but the familiar prayers and songs made us all feel warm! On Sunday morning we met with Bina to tour South Tel Aviv. We had stimulating conversations about poverty, socioeconomic inequality, and the history of South Tel Aviv. Then we went to Florentin for a graffiti tour. We learned about different artists and their motivations for making art. We saw a mural of the famous Jewish baseball player, Sandy Koufax. The colorful tour showed us a different part of Tel Aviv and it’s culture. After the tour, we met with IGY, the Israeli Gay Youth Organization. The leader of the discussion talked about the LGBTQIA+ community in Israel. We discussed the difficulty of being gay and what that entails in a religious state. This included the monopoly that the Rabbanut (Orthodox rabbinate) has on marriage, adoption, and non-traditional family life. But our leader also told us about the uplifting Pride Parade that took place in Tel Aviv. This secular city is an amazing place where people are allowed to express themselves to the fullest. We traveled to Rabin Square, where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was fatally shot by an extremist with opposing views. We discussed the historical significance of the assassination and what might have happened in Israel had he not been shot. Then we met with family and friends, and those of us who did not walked around Rothschild Boulevard and explored. Later that night, we went to the roof for a pool party and celebrated Sammy’s 16th birthday! We’re looking forward to another exciting day in Tel Aviv.
  3. Week in Review

    Leave a Comment Boy have we had a WEEK. Last Shabbat we enjoyed services at Kol Haneshamah. Then Sunday we left Jerusalem to begin our descent to the lowest point on Earth — the Dead Sea! After floating and mudding, we hiked to a waterfall and ended the day in Eilat. It was חם רצח (kham retzakh/hot murder — our Hebrew word of the day). Monday we spent the morning at the beautiful Eilat beach, swimming in the Red Sea. In the afternoon we explored Timna Park and learned about ancient copper mining. The next day we visited two kibbutzim — Lotan and Ketura — and learned about community life in the kibbutz. We ended the day by riding camels and enjoying Bedouin hospitality. Wednesday we woke up before the sun in order to hike Masada and see the breathtaking sunrise. We then visited a development town and, even later in the day, saw one of the biggest naturally occurring craters. Thursday we hiked up a canyon, visited Ben-Gurion’s home in the desert, and ate a lot of salad (and hot peppers) at the Salad Trail. We ended the night in the coastal city of TEL AVIV! Today we pretended to be spies and saved the city! After that we explored Jaffa and ended our second week in Israel with the best kabbalat shabbat service ever overlooking the sunset on the Mediterranean Sea.
  4. Shabbat, the Dead Sea, and Eilat

    Leave a Comment Saturday morning, we attended a Reconstructionist-style service at Kol Haneshama synagogue in Jerusalem. Following lunch and menukhah (rest), the group took an optional trip to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian quarter of the Old City. Next, we visited a park near our hotel for an afternoon of frisbee and fun. At sunset, we enjoyed a rooftop havdalah service at our hotel with some Israeli friends from Camp JRF. We finished the night shopping and exploring at Ben Yehuda Street to experience some of Jerusalem’s unique culture. On Sunday, we woke up early to visit the settlement of Kfar Adumim and talk to teens about our life in America and theirs in Israel. After our visit, we drove further south to float in the Dead Sea and then hike to a waterfall in Ein Gedi park.    On Monday, we started off our day with a quick drive through Eilat before spending the morning at the beach to cool off in the 110 degree weather. Next, we ate lunch at the Ice Mall, and in the afternoon we went on a bus tour through Timna Park, a former copper mining area. We saw the beautiful landscape there, as well as Solomon’s Pillars, ancient hieroglyphs, a copper mine, and early Israeli copper ovens in the Negev. We finished the day spending time as a group along the docks of Eilat.
  5. Exploring Jerusalem

    Leave a Comment We started the day on Thursday by walking through the Hezekiah Water Tunnels in the City of David. We all agreed that it was incredible that the intricate system was built 2200 years ago! After, we went to Mount Zion in Jerusalem. We saw King David’s tomb, as well as where the Last Supper took place. Then we headed over to Tantur to talk with Palestinian teens where we discussed various conflicts and possible solutions. The Q&A was very informative; we learned about the teens’ experiences with the IDF, Israeli government, refugee camps, and their identities as Palestinians. We then bused back to the hotel where we had a Q&A with a panel of Jews from very different branches of Judaism. It was an interesting experience to learn about the unique perspectives these people had about Judaism and society. That evening we had a fun time at The First Station, a converted train station that has turned into a plaza/festival area for both tourists and locals.    The next morning, we visited the beautiful grounds of the Israel Museum, where we were able to see the Dead Sea scrolls, many old and new pieces of art, and the world’s smallest bible! Then, we headed over to the shuk (market) where we experienced culture, shopped, and ate some really good food. We then took a bus tour to other neighborhoods of Jerusalem, including the neighborhood of Gilo and the wall dividing Palestinian land from Israeli land. After the tour, we traveled to our new hotel, Eyal Hotel, and Vadim (our tour guide) said it was worth mentioning that the hotel is lovely; from the food to the rooms, we feel comfortable and have begun to make Israel our second home. That night was Shabbat, and we spent our evening at the Kotel; we had our own camp-style service, not forgetting to sit in a circle and sing hippie songs. The city was alive, with it being Shabbos, and hundreds of people took to the streets. We had never seen anything like it. We ended the spectacular night with an oneg (celebration) of our own (only the staff has a Friday night oneg at camp), and we went to bed with a nice, warm feeling having spent our first Shabbat together in Israel.
  6. Our First Few Days

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    We landed at Ben Gurion Airport at 6:17 am on Tuesday morning and greeted our friends, Elinor and Tomer.

    We then met our guides, Vadim and Shera, as well as our driver, Igor. We headed to Neot Kedumim, where we tested our our sheep herding skills and learned about Israeli history.

    Then we drove to an archaeological dig, where we were guided by the archaeologist, Nimrod. There we dug to find 2200 year old artifacts such as pottery and coal. We explored an ancient cave that was used as a basement for keeping pigeons and other animals.

    Driving back to the hotel, we said shehekheyanu on a vista looking out over Jerusalem.

    On Wednesday, we woke up bright and early, ready to explore the Old City. But first, we listened to Reconstructionist Rabbi Steve Burnstein, who talked about the history of progressive groups in Israel and the conflicts that arise. After, we explored the walls of the Old City.

    We then walked around the Jewish Quarter and ate delicious shawarma among other things. We toured more parts of the Old City and viewed the Dome of the Rock. Then we visited the Western Wall and discussed some of the inequalities surrounding it. Getting back on the air-conditioned bus after a hot day touring was a relief!

    We’re all looking forward to learning more about Israel and exploring Jerusalem.