Category Archive: Uncategorized

  1. Culture, Camels and Campfire

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    Another hot morning in the desert started with us saying goodbye to Kibbutz Keturah and loading up the bus. Our first stop was at an agricultural research center, which focused on ways to farm in the desert. We got to play in their interactive museum with sand models, videos and we even found Nemo! We drove to a couple’s home for a delicious home cooked lunch and learned about their story of growing up in the desert and how their lifestyle and work has changed over the years. We finished lunch and headed over to a center for Bedouin women and heard from the founder, Amal. She told us about her journey to becoming an established member of the community, and her journey to becoming a nurse, something that was very rare for women in her community. Since becoming a nurse, she has started numerous health initiatives in her community, some of which involve genetic testing, early cancer detection for women, and working to get Arabic translations in the local hospitals.

    We continued with the Bedouin theme for the day and drove to our next accommodations: the Bedouin tents. There was no cell service but it was fun to unplug for the night and spend time learning about Bedouin hospitality. We rode camels (check the instagram for pictures!!) and drank delicious tea. We had a reflection session around the campfire to check in with each other as we’re already 2/3 of the way through the trip! We talked about what challenged us, what surprised us and what we connected with and it was great to hear from everyone. We ended our night singing camp songs around a bonfire before doing our best to fall asleep in a hot tent.

    This morning (Friday) we woke up once again, bright and early and hiked up the Roman ramp of Masada. We made it in time to watch a beautiful sunrise and then walked around Masada learning from Or about the history and significance of it. It was early and hot, but super interesting to see ruins that old. We loaded up and grabbed breakfast back at the Bedouin tent before driving over to float in the dead sea! There were mixed opinions overall, but it’s a unique experience you can’t miss. A long sleepy bus ride led us to Tel Aviv for the next four nights which we’re all looking forward to!

    Shabbat Shalom,

    Havaya Israel 2023

  2. Heading Down South to the Land of the… Desert

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    On Tuesday we had our last wake up with a view of the Machtesh, loaded up the bus in RECORD time (shoutout to the luggage committee, they girlbossed the luggage like the women in STEM they are), and hit the road to head south. We arrived at Kibbutz Keturah where we were greeted with cold lemonade and cookies before learning about the history and current functions of the kibbutz. We even saw the date tree that comes from a date over 2000 years old! We had a yummy lunch on the kibbutz and then had our own Havaya Aseyfah (very different from our normal Havaya Aseyfah, there were no moose nor llamas involved in this one) where we discussed different scenarios on a kibbutz and what we might do in each of them. Because Kibbutz Keturah is one of very few public kibbutzim left in Israel, it was interesting to think about all of the details that go into every decision as it will affect everyone. It was super hot so we relaxed at the pool in the afternoon, had a barbecue for dinner and then had a fan-favorite, night swim pool party, a perfect way to close out the evening. We hit the hay early because we had a very very early morning the next day!

    Our day started with the Boker Tov Brigade knocking on doors at a sharp 3:50am! We loaded up the bus and drove 45 minutes to Mount Tzfachot for a sunrise hike. The hike was pretty steep and definitely not easy, but we made it to the top with plenty of time to watch a beautiful sunrise overlooking the Red Sea. A couple cool facts about where we were are that from the peak of the mountain, we could see four countries (you can ask the teens on the trip if they remember all of them to see if they were paying attention). Also, our first hike was in Tel Dan National park and that’s the beginning of the Israel trail, and this hike is the very end of the Israel trail. Although we didn’t walk the entire country top to bottom, it was cool to spend time at both the start and the end. At the top, we participated in a more traditional Camp Havaya Aseyfah starting with the Boker Tov song and ending with “ohhh what a day.” It was early and hot but everyone had great energy!

    We headed down the other side of the mountain and had a packed breakfast by the water before going snorkeling in the Red Sea. We had time to hang out and chill on the beach before driving to Ice Mall for some pizur lunch and shopping. Even though it was 105 degrees outside, the mall had an ice rink in the middle of it! We finished at the mall, came back to the hotel and relaxed with some more pool time after an early morning. We ate dinner and had a breif discussion about Tisha B’av which starts tonight. It was a super fun day, but everyone is excited for a good night’s sleep after such an early wake up!

    Until tomorrow,

    Havaya Israel 2023

  3. 2 Days at the Crater, Never Been Greater

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    On Sunday, an early morning goodbye to Jerusalem led us to a long bus ride south where we ended at a lookout point called Black Arrow. We could see Gaza and Or used it as an opportunity to teach us about the history and current situation in Gaza including borders, economy and leadership. After the lookout, we went to a nearby Kibbutz and heard from a woman who lived there about her experience living so close to Gaza. She showed us shrapnel of rockets and balloons that have ended up on her property as well as explained how it affects the day to day life on the kibbutz. We had Pizur lunch in Sderot and then headed to a fan favorite, the salad trail. We tried different herbs they were growing and ate lots of cherry tomatoes before releasing pigeons as a group. After a hot day, we drove to our new hotel in Mitzpe Ramon and the view is incredible! Our balconies face the Machtesh so everyone has been enjoying hanging out outside and being in nature after a busy week in Jerusalem. We had dinner at the hotel, celebrated Sammy’s birthday, and got ready for our day tomorrow!

    On Monday, we got a late start (9:30!!) and started our day doing some reflection and Yoga at a lookout point at the Machtesh led by our camper Leah, thank you Leah! We loaded the bus and drove to Ein Ovdat National Park where we did a shortened hike due to the heat. We saw lots of ibex and learned about why there is a natural spring in the desert. From there, we went to Sde Boker where we visited David Ben Gurion’s grave and learned about what he did in Israel and discussed the significance of him being buried in the desert. We stayed in Sde Boker for pizur lunch and ate lots of delicious deli sandwiches (don’t get me wrong we still love falafel but a turkey sandwich hits every once and a while) before heading to a local kibbutz to swim and relax for the afternoon! It was great to get out of the sun and it was nice to cool off and get out a lot of energy at the pool. We ended our day with a fan favorite activity, sand surfing in the desert. We climbed the big sand dunes over and over, sliding down on the boards over and over again and watched a beautiful sunset. Today was a hot one, but everyone did great and enjoyed the opportunity to relax and do a lot of fun activities.

    Until tomorrow,

    Havaya Israel 2023

  4. Jerusalem Past and Present

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    Friday was a really special day. We started the morning bright and early at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. Our large group split into two smaller groups and were each led by a guide from the museum. As hard and emotional as the museum was for all of us, it was beautiful to see the moments of hope throughout and to see how far we’ve come. Following our tour, we went to the Shuk and Ben Yehuda Street for an extended lunch/shopping period. Going to that area on a Friday morning pre-Shabbat is always chaotic, but super cool to see the hustle and bustle of everyone getting ready and feel the energy around you. After, we went back to the hotel to rest and get ready for Shabbat.

    We had our typical camp Kabbalat Shabbat service outside in a park near the hotel and celebrated Joey’s birthday (happy birthday Joey!!!) before splitting into four groups for a program called “Shabbat of a Lifetime” where different people host us for Shabbat dinner. The hope is that we have a fun dinner and form great memories of Shabbat in Jerusalem. Each of the group’s experiences were a little different but one group (this is Sammy BTW so I can only tell you about my group but I encourage you to ask your teens about this!) had an exciting night being hosted by a wonderful woman named Ateret. She is an Orthodox single mom covered in tattoos who who was raised in Boston, worked in TV and fashion and there’s even a character on NCIS based off her! She told us about her decision to make Aliyah and told us lots of cool stories about her as an activist. After a delicious dinner, she took us on a walking tour of her neighborhood, Nachlaot, a neighborhood right next to the Shuk full of musicians, artists, and religious people. We met some other community members and enjoyed getting to know the neighborhood and had a fun, late night!

    On Shabbat, we had camp-style Shabbat Shacharit and celebrated Lulu’s bat mitzvah! Mazel Tov Lulu!! She had an aliyah, and Yael, Jax and Alex read torah beautifully before Lulu gave an insightful D’var Torah. After lunch at the hotel, we rested at the hotel and then went to Sacher park to run around, play, and climb on the giant playground, described as “the best playground I’ve ever played on” by one teen.

    So far, our trip has heard about but not seen any demonstrations against or in support of Benejamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform which is surprising given how prevelent and big they’ve been. That changed tonight. A couple days ago, a huge march of people left Tel Aviv and started walking to Jerusalem. Today they made it and they marched right past our hotel on the way to the Knesset! After dinner at the hotel, we had a camp Havdalah service and walked to Cinema City to see a movie. We actually walked through the protest and the energy was incredible. We enjoyed Oppenheimer and Barbie and another late night in Jerusalem.

    Until tomorrow,

    Havaya Israel 2023

  5. A day to Remember

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    We started off our day at Mount Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery. We saw Theodor Hertzl’s grave and used it as an opportunity to teach the group about early Zionism. Our tour guide discussed Yitzach Rabin’s assassination, and Golda Meir’s impressive leadership. We went to the top of the mountain to where more recent graves of IDF soldiers are, and the experience was really meaningful.

    For lunch, we went to Shalva, a center for disabled/special needs children, for lunch. There, we met the new Israelis who will be joining our trip for the remainder of our time here! They all are high schoolers from Haifa and we’re excited for them to join our group! After lunch, we went to the house of a Holocaust survivor named Rena. She told us her journey and made the joy and happiness that she found after the war a highlight. We went back to the hotel for dinner and then toured a Haredi neighborhood near the Shuk in Jerusalem.

    Until tomorrow,

    Havaya Israel 2023

  6. From the East Coast to the West Bank

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    Today was full of brand new experiences, more so than any other day. We started off the morning early to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, an experience very few other groups get to do. We picked up a Palestinian tour guide because even though our Israeli tour guide Or was with us the whole time, she cannot operate in West Bank Zone A cities. To enter Bethlehem, we had to pass through a security checkpoint, and once we were inside we were behind concrete security walls. Our first stop in Bethlehem was the Aila Refugee camp where our tour guide told us about the history and how it operates today. After visiting the camp, we had the opportunity to walk along the security wall and look at the extensive graffiti covering it. The graffiti demonstrated a wide variety of messages, like the desire to end the fighting, tear down the wall, and to continue resistance. We even got to see some of Banksy’s work on the wall! Our next stop was the Walled Off Hotel which also serves as an art museum covering the history of the West Bank from a Palestinian perspective. The hotel had more of Banksy’s work as well as a room with a timeline from 1948-present and lots of art showing the history. Later, we met with a Palestinian professor who talked about the environmental impact of the occupation, and what he was doing to make Bethlehem a more sustainable place.

    We had lunch in Bethlehem before getting back on the bus and driving to Gush Etzion where we visited Shorashim, or Roots for Peace. We heard both an Israeli man and a Palestinian man describe their unique stories and how they came to be a part of the organization and why it was important to them to be involved in these conversations around peace. Even though we’ve heard a lot of speakers on both sides of the conflict in the past couple days, everyone really enjoyed this conversation and getting to hear both speakers in the same space.

    Back at the hotel that evening, we took some time to reflect and process everything we’ve experienced not only over the past couple days, but since we arrived. We talked about what we connected to, what surprised us and what challenged us. It was a really meaningful discussion and everyone seemed happy to get the time and space to talk. A favorite quote from the night was “We come on this trip to try to find answers and we’re leaving with more questions.” We all think that describes this trip pretty well so far.

    Until tomorrow,

    Havaya Israel 2023

  7. New Perspectives in the Old City

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    What a busy past few days! On Monday, we started our day at the new Tower of David museum. It explained the history of the old city, and we climbed 91 stairs to get to a fantastic view of the old city. After we left the museum, we “walked on the walls” as our tour guide Or said, aka, we did the ramparts walk. We sped through to try to avoid staying in the sun for too long but the views were awesome. After the walk, we trekked over to the Jewish Quarter. There, we had pizur lunch and some time to walk around, explore, and shop. In the Jewish Quarter, many teens bought cool Jewlery, mezuzas and other Jewish trinkets. In the afternoon, we made our way over towards the Kotel, or the Western Wall. Before going, we talked about the significance and everyone had the opportunity to write prayers and messages to stick in the wall. At the wall, we all had the opportunity to touch it, deposit our messages and take some time to reflect and pray. Many of the boys got to wrap tefillin! On our way back from the Kotel, our 25 minute drive turned into a 2 -hour drive as we were stuck in standstill traffic but some much needed naps were taken, as well as lots of time for group singalong. After some down time at the hotel, we walked to Cinema City for pizur dinner. It was nice to take some time in the air-conditioned space and spread out to enjoy dinner. A quick walk back to the hotel and some good quality hanging out led to a lovely night!

    On Tuesday, we were back in the old city but this time at the Temple Mount. It was really special to get to visit and learn about why this space is so holy to so many groups besides Jews. Even though we weren’t allowed in the buildings there, we were able to walk around and take pictures of the beautiful architecture and art surrounding us. As we left the Temple Mount, we walked to the Christian Quarter to see the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Again, it was cool to hear about the history of the building as well as the amount of people who consider this to be such a meaningful physical space for them. We had a delicious hummus lunch (dare I say the best hummus we’ve eaten on this trip so far) with all the accouterments like pita, falafel, Israeli salad, schug, and refreshing limonada, at a local restaurant in the Muslim quarter. As we were digesting lunch, we left the Old City through the Damascus gate, and walked into East Jerusalem to a bookstore. The bookstore is a place that prides itself in teaching people about the Palestinian perspective in Israel. In the bookstore, we heard from a Palestinian man who resides in East Jerusalem about his experiences and opinions on culture, treatment and overall geopolitics of the area. Back at the hotel that night, we heard from another speaker who discussed the importance of seeing multiple perspectives to gain a full understanding of any situation. He discussed an Israeli perspective of the conflict and encouraged our teens to question not only what he said, but everything they hear while they’re here. We ate dinner at the hotel and hung out, taking some time to process our experiences from the day.

    Stay cool (because it’s hot here),

    Havaya Israel 2023

  8. Shalom Jerusalem

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    Shalom from Jerusalem! We said goodbye to our beautiful hotel and all the adorable cats this morning and drove two hours down to Jerusalem. We gathered at a spot that overlooks the city and said the Shehechiyanu and toasted with grape juice to our first time here (for some) and our first time here all together for all. We headed over to Mahane Yehuda Market for a pizur lunch and a little bit of shopping. It was a favorite experience for everyone, especially those of us who hadn’t been there before. Lots of snacks, cold treats, and rugelach were purchased and enjoyed. After lunch, we settled into our new hotel and got ready for The Big Tent Event, an event put on by RootOne for all of the teen summer programs get together in one location. Many teens ran into friends (and some family too!) they knew from home and it was a blast to see the 4,000 teens all getting to experience Israel this summer. We watched Netta (the 2018 Eurovision winner!) perform and danced our hearts out! It was hot and the mosquitoes were not holding back but everyone stuck it out and embodied Howie Bee!

    Until tomorrow,

    Havaya Israel 2023

  9. Tzfat and Shabbat!

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    On Friday, we hit the road early to head to the beautiful, mystical Tzfat. We started our day learning about the history of Tzfat as a holy city and then met with Kabbalah artist David Friedman. David taught us about Kabbalah art and led us through a short meditation, and we had the opportunity to ask questions and check out his work. Later, we had some time to shop for souvenirs before watching a glass blowing demonstration by local artist Sheva Chaya. She gave an interesting talk about art in Judaism while we watched her create a beautiful mezzuzah out of glass! We had a pizur lunch where many tried and enjoyed Yemenite food before we headed back to the hotel to get ready for Shabbat and escape the heat. Lots of pictures were taken and we had a camp style kabbalat shabbat service with a beautiful view on the kinneret in the background. A highlight of the night was a special (pre-recorded) appearance by Rabbi Isaac to tell a familiar shabbat story. We enjoyed shabbat dinner at the hotel and got really sweaty while having a blast doing rikkud dancing on the lawn of the kibbutz. We ended the night hanging out with each other and the other two groups of teens staying on the same kibbutz.

    On Shabbat, it was 107 degrees! We had a super low-key day starting with a sleep in and then a Shabbat shacharit service with a few words of Torah. Camp-style services are always special, but it was extra special to be spending our first shabbat together in Israel. A favorite part of the service for everyone was singing Adon Olam to the tune we use at camp, originally started by a commuinty here in Israel. Everyone relaxed and napped in the afternoon, and we had a beautiful havdalah service after dinner with all of the camp traditions. We ended the night screaming and dancing to Medurah songs such as Lean on Me, “Spicy Roads” and the Giraffe Song.

    Until tomorrow,

    Havaya Israel 2023

  10. Golan Highs and Lows

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    After an early breakfast at the hotel, we boarded the tour bus for a drive to the very hot (106°) Golan Heights. There, excitedly, we got a great view of Mount Hermon and a distant Syria from on top of a former bunker and learned about the relationship between Israel and Syria throughout history. We had the opportunity to climb through the old bunker and discuss current implication of borders. We then took a lovely stroll through Tel Dan National Park and saw the breathtaking view from Mount Ben Tal, playing a fun group game at the top and dipping our feet in a nice cool pond. After that, we made a pit stop at a nearby plaza to enjoy a pizur lunch, which offered a variety of lunch options and an escape from the heat. Many on our trip enjoyed Aroma for the first time! Feeling refreshed, we drove to Abukayak. Everyone had a blast rafting and swimming (and partaking in many more shenanigans) in the Jordan River. After a stop at the supermarket for snacks to eat on Shabbat, we arrived back at hotel, where we showered and had dinner.

    Until tomorrow!

    Havaya Israel 2023