Before we get to Josh Lancman’s poignant and poetic update I want to thank Eric and Orli for their dedication, energy, patience, and photography skills 😊 Toda Raba!
That today was the last day of Naale wasn’t something running through everyone’s heads today; how best to enjoy it was our focus. And this somber day started out just as all other days on our Israel trip began with not enough sleep, a traditional hostel breakfast, a lot of caffeine, and the fact that none of those elements mattered, because we were with our friends.
What jolted us from our slight melancholy was Ms. Pinsberg’s excited announcement that we all tested negative for Covid. Hooray! We continued the fun by journeying to the old city of Yafo, where Rob took us through the ancient port’s twisting streets and offered enlightening commentary on the history of this grand place. Many lollipops were handed out as prizes to those smart or lucky enough to guess the answers to his wide-ranging questions.
It’s always been strangely surreal to visit these old places, knowing that the immensity of their history dwarfs all our own combined life experiences. The people and events and things we’ve all heard about and had to study for history tests were real, not just facts learned in class, and they were here, right where we’re standing, probably admiring the same old buildings or struggling up the same stone steps. Maybe they were admiring the beautiful view of the Mediterranean from the shorefront or placing their hands on the zodiac themed bridge. We’ve been walking in the footsteps of our forefathers this whole trip, but it was never more apparent than when Rob was choosing students to pretend to be different historical figures who had to do with Yafo.
Today was a day of continued surprises. First were those students acting as Golda Meir or the prophet Jonah; the second was our dance party in the middle of Tel-Aviv. We came to a sidewalk seating place and were handed headphones with music playing on them, told to never stop dancing, and then guided throughout the city by an instructor, dancing to the music in our heads all the time as people stared on this unusual scene. What was most surprising was how easily everyone became involved with this weird activity- nobody would have thought all of us would be dancing to music in headphones while walking publicly in the middle of a crowded city! But we did, and it was glorious. Our enthusiasm even carried over to most of the people around us, who involved themselves in the madness of this incredible activity. My personal favorite moment was when our guide, decked out in a yellow-orange jumpsuit and incredible at incorporating the environment around us, involved a street musician and his violin, encouraging him to play along to the music in our heads.
Our next surprise was a visit to our third sea, the Mediterranean, where we peacefully watched the sun set on the calm aquamarine water. Our trip began with a sunrise over Cyprus seen from out the plane window, each of us in our own scenes, and ended in Tel-Aviv, with all of us crowded together on the beach.
The fourth surprise was a feast of middle eastern food at the aptly named ‘Dr. Shakshuka’ restaurant. We were joined by our fifth surprise, former Golda Och teacher Morah Pininah, who liked sarcastically commenting on how little we’ve grown. But despite her cynicism, I feel we’ve all grown a lot on this trip. As I look around at this odd and unique group of people I not only see them differently, due to having gotten to know each of them better, but I see different people. We’ve all matured and grown up in different ways, all following our own spiritual paths to a place of adulthood. I don’t think any of us know for sure whether the changes made on this trip will stick for the next two years of high school, but if there’s one thing this trip has taught me, it is the necessity and importance of having faith. That’s both in the religious and interpersonal sense. I might look around and see friends now, but they may not be there next week. But I still have faith that these changes will last.
In between the old city and dancing, we went to the shuk for a pizzur. Those with family had the opportunity for a visit. I got to see my great-aunt Vita, who had been absent from my life due to covid for the past two years. It was comforting to see her, not having changed one bit from the last time I saw her. I guess that happens when you’ve lived for over eighty years. None of us have that sort of life. We’re teenagers, you can literally see us changing all the time. But the important developments, the real actual growth, that’s just as easy to detect in someone. But while physical changes happen naturally, without easily perceivable cause, rhyme, or rhythm, it’s totally impossible to know when maturity will happen. A classmate of mine said on this trip that personal growth is personally induced out of a desire for growth; I tend to agree with that. It’s just hard to know what will cause someone, us, too actually mature.
Naale is an experience manufactured to make the kids who go through it into something a bit closer to adults. As Rob has said every time, I’ve asked him, there has never been an unsuccessful Naale. It’s made to tie us closer to each other, to Judaism, to our homeland of Israel, and even to our school. It’s that last one that really stands out now.
Naale is also going to have a unique soundtrack in the minds of everyone who remembers it. But the song that’s been running though my head this whole trip isn’t one that’s been blasted on one of our group’s many JBL speakers, but on my own headphones. ‘Wild Horses’, by the Rolling Stones, is about commitment and growing up. “Childhood living… is easy to do” is the first line of the song, and I think anyone who’s experienced Naale can relate to those words, at least now that they’ve entered adulthood. But the song really stands out in particular to me now, especially the chorus. “Wild horses… couldn’t drag me away”. From this group, from this school, from this religion, from this homeland, they couldn’t, not with how connected I now am.
“Monday morning, we woke and got ready for breakfast at 8:15am. Around 8:45, we left for Yad Vashem, which is a huge Holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem. Once there, our tour guide walked us through the museum. She showed us all the trees that were dedicated to the “righteous among the nations” for their heroic efforts (saving Jews) during the war. We looked at many different meaningful exhibits and videos, documenting the countless stories of Holocaust survivors and what they went through during the war. At the end of the tour, we were privileged to see the “Gallery of Portraits”, which showcased binders, telling the stories of every person affected by the Holocaust, including blank shelves for those names haven’t been discovered yet. One of the most emotional parts of the visit was walking through the Children’s Memorial, listening to all the names and ages of the children whose lives were lost.
Following Yad Vashem we got a pizzur lunch, where we were able to enjoy falafel and other Israeli food with our friends. Then we headed to the Herzl Museum, where we saw Theodor Herzl’s memorial site and discussed his role in modern Zionism. Lastly, we had free time at Sacher Park, where we got to brighten the mood and play on the huge playground. We finished the day with a delicious dinner and meaningful conversations with our mishpachot. We are sad for the trip to end, but still excited for our last day in Israel tomorrow!”
We have a double update! Talia wrote about Shabbat followed by Rebecca’s write up of today. Enjoy!
Talia: “Friday night we got back from walking and digging in caves to shower and prepare for Shabbat. We were all very very dirty from all digging in the dirt, so the showers were much needed. After we got all ready, doing our hair, putting on our clothes for Shabbat, we went to take some pictures, and got an entire grade picture. We all went to do Shabbat services, and our whole grade got very into it, chanting the prayers and singing together. It was a very special experience to have with our grade, and it really felt like we were all getting closer just in that moment. After our very enthusiastic praying, we went to eat Shabbat dinner in our own separate room in the upper level of the hostel. The dinner was so good, with foods such as brisket and schnitzel served. When we all finished eating, Josh, Mimi, and I helped to lead Zmirot, and our whole grade got up in the front of the room and put our arms around each other. We stood together, arm in arm, singing songs such as ירושלים של זהב. After, we all got changed into comfy clothes, and did a very fun bonding activity led by the madrichim, where we all learned more about each other. We all hung around until curfew ended, and we went back to our rooms to go to bed and prepare for Saturday prayers. On Saturday we had an optional breakfast, allowing us to sleep in more, until Shabbat prayers at 10:30. Sam and I lead the Torah service, and many kids participated in the service, such as Aliza and Adina reading Torah. Then, after the services ended, we were given four hours of free time, where some very interesting events ensued: a few students got stuck in the Shabbat elevator, after a short while people came and helped them out, and all was well. It will make for an interesting memory to look back on. Then we split into groups with the four madrichim and did different activities such as yoga. It was super fun, and only a tad bit chaotic. At this point we were all in comfy clothing, and our grade did havdalah together outside in the amphitheater of the hostel. I got to hold the spices, Yuval and Mimi did the prayers, and Jonas held the havdalah candle. Our entire grade sang havdalah together, arms around each other in a circle, and it just reminded me of how much fun I have had, and how sad I’ll be to leave. However, the night wasn’t over yet. We all went to Ben Yehuda Street and tried so many different foods. Rex and I ended up getting the greatest food ever, at this place called Jahnunn. It was amazing, highly recommend. Then we all went back to the hostel and had an hour of free time. We all ate the food that we got and did food reviews. Let’s just say, it was pretty much entirely a 10/10. Shabbat was great, and I’m so sad that our Naale experience is ending.”
Rebecca: “We started off the day with a long walk to the Kotel. We learned about its history and meaningfulness to the Jewish community. While there, the boys and girls each went their separate ways, and had time to enjoy some individual prayer. After, we all gathered and walked to the egalitarian side of the wall, where we held Shacharit. Praying together at the wall helped us all feel so much more connected to our Judaism. Later we headed to the old city and enjoyed a scavenger hunt. We wandered across the old city solving clues and taking pictures. After an exciting game we had a pizzur lunch, where everyone had the opportunity to eat with their friends. We then visited Yad Sarah, an Israeli organization that provides medical supplies and services to anyone in need. We learned a lot about Yad Sarah and teamed up with friends to help build some crutches. At night we headed to the Shuk, and tried different foods with our mishpachot (assigned groups that meet every night). Then we had a free dinner, and got to eat and shop with our friends. The night ended with conversations with our mishpachot, discussing our favorite parts of the week. We had another great day in Israel!!
Final update before Shabbat! Agam and Yoni wrote this one:
“Today is the first full day we spent in Jerusalem. After bidding Yahel goodbye with a visit to the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi, we settled into our youth hostel, Agron. After a breakfast much earlier than anyone wanted, we packed our lunches and headed to Beit Guvrin, an archaeological dig site, filled with dim caves and tunnels only lit by small candles. We went through the caves to learn about ruins from thousands of years ago. Once we emerged from the tunnels, we were taken to an active dig site to be volunteers (or unpaid workers as I like to call it -Y) (Yoni what are you saying? - A) As we dug, Missy, our tour guide told us stories of artifacts they had found that coincided with the period of the Maccabees. Not only did we dig, but we were also taught to analyze and examine our findings. After being covered head to toe in dirt, bones, and possibly fossilized human poop, we trekked down the hill to make some pita - open fire style. Though extremely stressful and messy (who would have thought cooking for teenagers was hard?) we made many pitas and one super pita, filled up with the israeli toppings of חומוס, זעתר ושוקולד השחרHummus, Zaatar and Chocolate spread (though not all together of course). We climbed aboard the bus where the Madrichimstarted playing Shabbat songs, to get us prepared for the coming celebration in Jerusalem. As we are writing this, Josh Lancman is making every American Jewish Camp proud with his rendition of Minyan Man. Sadly, this is where this letter ends, but look out for more news in the coming days (after Shabbat)!”
“Today we were all very sad as we left Kibbutz Yahel. After leaving we drove to the Dead Sea. There, everyone covered themselves in mud and floated!! We all had a smile on our faces. The water was clear blue, and the feeling of the salt was outstanding. We then drove to Ein Gedi where we hiked. It was filled with beautiful views. We got to 4 different waterfalls but were only allowed to go in to 3 of them. Everyone went in and the water was an amazing refresher from the hike. On our way to Jerusalem, we stopped at the Old Synagogue of Ein Gedi where we did a very nice and spiritual Mincha service. The synagogue was filled with several outstanding and detailed mosaics. As well, we learned all about the history of the synagogue and how it came to be as it is today. We are now on the bus to Jerusalem to the Agron youth hostel where we will stay for the rest of the trip. Overall, it was an amazing day, and we can’t wait to continue this amazing trip!!!"
When you ask people about their favorite city in Israel, Tel Aviv and its sandy beaches is often in first place. For me, Jerusalem is at the top of the list. In Talmud, Kiddushin 49b it says: Ten measurements of beauty descended to the world, nine were taken by Jerusalem…” If you visited the city, you know the feeling of walking the streets, surrounded by a mixture of old, ancient and new, the mixture of religions and languages. If you lived in the city, you know how deeply realistic it is. All the tension and beauty humanity has to offer comes together. Sometimes its harmonious, sometimes it’s not. But it is always real and deep.
In the next few days Naale will get to enjoy and explore this unique city, from the kotel to the market where Naale can find the best Sabich Israel has to offer. Before they get to walk around Jerusalem, the group has a morning adventure in Beit Guvrin, with the Archaeological Seminars they will dig our history, crawl in caves and get very dirty 😊
Giselle and Jonas, who celebrated their birthday today, wrote the update. I couldn’t stop smiling, their excitement and happiness is evident in every word and between them.
“Day 3 (Wednesday) was by far the most meaningful yet. We started off the day with tefillah for Rosh Chodesh led by Jack and Eliana and transitioned to a Torah service led by Talia and Sam. After tefillot we packed our bags for a hot adventurous day. Stepping out of our comfort zones, we visited a kibbutz obtaining a new perspective on life and community, witnessing a selfless way of life. After a walking tour of the kibbutz, we got excited for a challenging bike ride. Not long after we started the bike ride to the border of Jordan, Eliana not once, but twice ate dirt (no worries… all is good… she got ice cream with Avi and we’re all smiles here). What started off as a simple bike ride quickly turned into a greatly educational experience as we approached the border, passing solar fields and date farms along the way, something we never would have thought would be incorporated into our birthday experience. Soon later we arrived back at the kibbutz for lunch and got ready to head for the sand dunes. This was not a simple adventure as Rob taught us that to get to the best parts in life you must work hard and “bundle your temptations”. We quickly learned what this meant as we were greeted by mountains of rock that we had to climb in order to reach the glorious sand dunes. On our hike up, we took some time to ourselves to reflect while taking in the beautiful views. When we finally reached the top, we were stunned by how quickly the painful rock turned into the finest sand we have ever felt. The dunes were overwhelming, and we all instantly began to race down them. I (Giselle) beat Jonas, Avi and Jack every time in our amazing sprints down the huge sand dunes. It was an amazing experience filled with memories we will never forget. This was truly the best birthday either of us could have asked for and we were extremely excited to learn that Rabbi Rob shares a birthday with us, making today even more exciting. Spending the day with our best friends in the most special place in the world is truly an amazing experience that could never be topped. Before wrapping up, we wanted to leave you with Joey’s Milat Hayom (Hebrew word of the day), watermelon, אבטיח. Look out for the next update tomorrow!
“We started our day at National Park Timna. At the park, we started off by watching a very informative video about the history of Timna and its geological significance and especially it’s copper. Then, we hiked the park and saw Copper in the rock formations that were millions of years old.
Following the hike, we saw a demonstration of how ancient Israelites made different tools out of Copper. Like many experiences in Israel, this too was followed by a hike. We saw a rock shaped like a mushroom, you probably saw the photos. After that, we prayed Mincha on a beautiful spot in the desert and went on a final hike in an area of the park called Solomon’s Columns.
From Timna we drove to a beach on the Red Sea in Eilat and had some fun time in the water. After the beach, we went to the Eilat promenade where we were separated into smaller groups to shop and eat a Pizur dinner (when each one get a sum of money to buy the dinner of their choice) It was a fantastic day and now we are on the bus back to Kibbutz Yahel.”
Eliana wrote about the first 24 hours of creating memories that will last at least until Senior year 😊:
Today above all else was a whirlwind of emotions. Right now, I am writing this with sleepy eyes at 8:45pm Israel time. Just over 24 hours ago we awaited the bus at school to take off for the airport. After smooth check-in and a pretty long line at security we were given an hour of free time to get food and set for the flight. As everyone passed bag check with Starbucks in hand the excitement continued to rise. We boarded the plane and adjusted seating arrangements to the flight attendant’s annoyance allowing everyone to be ready for takeoff. Not so fortunately, we waited on the airplane for over an hour to leave the runway.
Through the course of the 10-hour flight many kosher food trays were mixed up and many heads fell to friend’s shoulders making ourselves as comfortable as possible. To be honest, I can recall all this because not much sleep was had. (Apologies to the non-GOA passengers for the constant chatter and water bottle refills). Light began to arise from the window, a cue for breakfast to be served. All unwanted food was passed to Joey and Jonas, but everyone found something to eat. We were the last to leave the plane, because Aliza lost her phone. All is found though!! Then we got covid tests in our own designated spot for us, probably about 7 stations I would say. A super easy process thanks to Rabbi Kallush for having our papers in order. Then we moved swiftly along to the 3 hours bus ride. Much singing took place, (maybe a bit too much because the speakers were asked to be turned off) but the Disney singalong was my personal favorite. As we went deep into the Negev the views from our bus windows were so pretty. Many hills sand walls passed. We played Israeli music trivia lead by our madrichim who were so beyond welcoming and kind. Then after a long overdue stretch break we got to Kibbutz Yahel. Everyone was pleasantly surprised to know how pretty and clean the small village is. The girls got to the showers immediately while the boys continued to chat on their assigned porches. We had dinner just as the temperature dropped greatly (coats were needed!!!) Dinner included a wide variety of foods: from chicken to fish to rice and grilled vegetables. Jet lag was kicking in, when we were told lights out at 9. And that just about covers it. I already know these next ten days will blow all our expectations away. And I’m so grateful to be a part of it. Look out for update two tomorrow.
Eliana Finkel on behalf of a very tired 10th grade