1. A View from the Kinneret

    On Thursday morning, we started off our day with a beautiful hike down into a valley with a natural spring at the bottom. With joy from the hike being over, we jumped into the spring, some of us accidentally bringing our phones into the water with us, and enjoyed some fish nibbling the dead skin off our feet. And suddenly we realized that we had to hike back up the mountain. Although the entirely uphill hike back to the top was excruciatingly difficult, everyone made it! We then traveled (by bus, thankfully) to a cliff side grotto where we saw a stunning overlook and walked through some natural water tunnels. Afterwards, Igor (our driver) graciously took us to a Druze community. With an organization named Yahel, we spoke with representatives of the Druze community, learned about their culture, and got to meet some of the 16-year-olds who lived in the village. After a long day, we went back to the kibbutz and had a well-earned rest.

  2. Heading North Along the Coast

    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.

  3. Exploring Tel Aviv

    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.

  4. Week in Review

    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.

  5. Shabbat, the Dead Sea, and Eilat

    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.

  6. Exploring Jerusalem

    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.

  7. Our First Few Days

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