Programs
Israel Education

Neshama 29

Thanks to the tremendous hard work and dedication of our team, the patience and support of our parents and the incredibly positive attitude of our seniors, their Class of 2021 Neshama experience has become a reality. 
 
We wish all of them – and their madrichim (counselors) – good health and safety throughout their journey between now and the end of May.

Neshama 29 Updates

List of 28 items.

  • Tuesday, May 25

    Matt:

    Hey everyone!! We started today at 8:30 with two informative presentations about Nativ and Aardvark Israel gap year programs. Around 9:45, we got on the bus to go to Sderot. It was very interesting driving through the city of Sderot and seeing shelters near every structure in the area (including playgrounds, bus stations, and parks). We then had pizzur at a strip mall in Sderot. My group went to a place called Cafe Greg and ate some really good food for lunch. We also picked up some food at the local supermarket for our Mangal (barbecue) later in the day. We got back on the bus and drove to a newly built playground to meet Ari, a local tour guide from Sderot. He explained his connection to Sderot and began speaking about the conflict with Gaza. It was very interesting to hear the story from Ari, who prioritized giving facts and not sharing his own political opinions when guiding us around the city. We then checked out a playground, where there was a shelter in the shape of a caterpillar to make kids more willing to enter it. He said that in Sderot, you have less than 15 seconds to run into a bomb shelter when you hear a siren before the rocket hits. The thought of this is really scary to me and it gives me a sense of how people there need to be aware of the possibility of a rocket hitting at any moment. It was meaningful for me to walk around Sderot and learn about how the area was affected over the last two weeks by rockets. This made me feel more educated on the situation there and helped me understand how individuals are affected by this conflict. We visited a building in the city where a 5-year-old boy was killed by a rocket within the last two weeks. Ari told us that the area where the rocket hit was covered by an Israeli flag to show that our country is strong and to cover up the destruction from children. Our last stop in Sderot was an open field where we could see the iron dome from a distance. It was really cool to see the technology that helps save many Israeli lives. I am very happy that we were able to visit Sderot safely to show support and  that we are interested in learning the real stories of what happens close to Gaza. Next, we drove to a Moshav to meet with our friends from Merchavim. We did some icebreakers and had some conversations with them about what they experienced when conflicts were going on during the last two weeks. We prepared a barbecue with them and got to spend time together after being apart for two years. It was a lot of fun and I’m so glad that we were able to support our friends after they have been through a lot recently. It is sad that the trip is almost over but we are making the most of every opportunity and every day. Looking forward to two more meaningful days in Israel!!-Matt Saperstein
  • Monday, May 24

    Jonah:

    Yesterday we spend the day in Tel Aviv. A lot of people were yearning to spend some time there, so I was definitely very exciting that we at least got to spend 1 day in the 2nd biggest city in Israel. Firstly, I was struck by how strongly Israelis respond after times of conflict. We saw many people out living their lives, and doing their everyday things. The beach and streets were crowded. I think many of us noticed how strong of an Israeli value to display strength in the face of adversity and not let terror succeed in influencing their lives. Firstly, we toured the old city of Yafo for a few hours. Afterwards, we toured many of the city’s best culinary institutions, where we were greeted with water and some of their amazing food. We ate food from a variety of backgrounds. I really appreciated how special it is that all these different food and cultures can exist here, in walking distance of each other. During our free time in the area, I went to a cafe called Nisso. The place is known as one of the more hip spots in the area and I really loved sitting watching all the people around and experiencing the culture. Afterwards took a quick stop at the beach for about 30 minutes. We finished the day at Sarona market, a food area that is kind of similar to Chelsea market in NYC. We had good food and met our Israeli friends.
  • Sunday, May 23

    Elana wrote the update from Sunday’s adventures:
     
    Today we hiked in sde boker in the desert. It was pretty flat but then to get to the top there were many stairs and some ladders and we worked together to finish our last hike of neshama! During a break on the hike we played a game where a guesser tries to find a pattern in the answers to questions they asked. The first guesser had to get guess the pattern of starting the answer with the first letter of your first name. And the other guesser had to guess the pattern of saying something with the first letter of the last word the person before said. I know confusing. Michael Lurie took some time to get it but people got it before him yet played along and it was fun. 

    We then went to a goat farm in the Negev and talked to a woman named Leah. She started out selling goat cheese and milk to over 80 stores in the country, she took a year off and came back and decided to keep it local. Because they don’t have permits all structures are mobile or taken apart easily. They used to not have electricity so they would make milk but could not sell it. They gave it to nearby farmer to keep in a fridge. Unlike what’s shown on the news they have a pretty good relationship with the farmers they do not really bother them. There have been a few events that involved tension but not many. 
    Hope you are all excited to see us soon!
  • Thursday, May 20

    Rosie’s update from yesterday:
    Hi parents! We started today with a bus ride to Banias National Park where we went on a short hike. During the hike we learned about the Greek God of nature named Pan. We also got to see an ancient Roman bridge and a very beautiful waterfall. Then we took the bus to Tel Dan, another national park, and we ate lunch at some picnic tables in the shade. We walked through Tel Dan until we got to an area where there were remains of an alter. We learned that this after was built for the people who lived in the north so that they didn’t have to travel all the way to Jerusalem when they needed to go to the alter. At this spot we also studied some more Torah. We walked some more until we got to a small pool of water were we could put our feet in. At the end of the walk we saw the gate that it is believed Abraham walked through. Our next stop of the day was at אסון המסוקים. Our Madrichim told us the story of what is known to be the worst military accident in Israel’s history. Next we went to a beach on the Kineret. Those who didn’t want to go to the beach were able to hang out and shop at some stores across the street. Finally we returned to Kibbutz Shaar HaGolan for dinner and some well needed rest. We love and miss you all!- Rosie :)
  • Tuesday, May 18

    Noah B, from Tuesday:
    In the morning, we woke up early to leave Agron in Jerusalem for possibly the last time to head up north. Along the way to Kibbutz Shaar Hagolan, we stopped at Tzippori. Tzippori was an ancient city where the Romans lived peacefully alongside Jews. We traveled around Tzippori as we watched videos describing what life was like there and as we examined beautiful mosaics. We ate bagels from Holy Bagel (which were delicious) on the bus ride to Har Arbel. Most people chose to go on a stunning hike climbing down, up, and around the mountain. The other few people did yoga while looking over the Kineret. Our final stop was a well needed area where we could buy snacks, clothes, and my personal favorite, Aroma. We finally checked into our rooms and had a wonderful kibbutz dinner. Following that, we planned a surprise party for Rose’s birthday including cakes and a bunch of balloons. We ended the day with a fun dance competition prepared by Yaara’s Mishpacha.
  • Sunday, May 16

    Shalom from Jerusalem!
    On Sunday, we finally made it back to Agron after the weekend in Ein Gedi. It was a long bus ride back to Jerusalem, but once we made it, we instantly felt more at home. For most of the afternoon we napped and recuperated from all of our desert adventures. Around 4:30, we all started getting ready for Shavuot festivities and then headed down to the Amphi. We lit candles and conducted a beautiful Maariv service led by Michael L. After that, we headed to dinner which was meant to be dairy, however, the caterers accidentally delivered us a vegan meal. It was lovely nonetheless. After our fantastic dinner we started our Tikkun Lel Shavuot! We sat in the amphi all together, and started our first lesson, which was led by Matty S and Ari B, and we discussed all about stress in the Torah. After about an hour and a half we moved on to Jared B, who talked about Kabbalah. Next, we got a very nice ice cream break, where Rob would ask us questions about the Torah and if we answered correctly, he would give us an ice cream! Then we moved on to Lilly B and Kayla B who taught us about the word “Neshama'' and it’s connection to breath. It was a very nice connection to our trip and a stimulating discussion. We then moved on to Ami N who talked about Yigdal. Together, we examined the text line by line. By then it was already 3:30 in the morning and time for another ice cream break! We lost a couple people to sleep, but we still had a great time! Those of us who were still awake then took a nice walk to the park nearby. Even though it was 4 am we saw so many fellow Jews on the street! It was nice to see other people out and about as well. Being in Jerusalem at this time feels really amazing because you don’t feel alone as a Jew. At the park we sat in a circle and Kira, Maya and DJ talked about their connections to Israel. After that it was time for more prayers at the Amphi! After the Torah service everyone was pretty exhausted and pretty much passed out in our respective beds. Fast forward about 11-12 hours and it was3:00 in the afternoon, which meant it was time for breakfast/lunch? We had some quick Pita as a snack and then prepped for our Mangal dinner. We discovered that it is a tradition in Israel to have a barbecue on the afternoon of Shavuot. We all helped out by cutting salad, prepping burgers and kebabs, and grilling. Overall, it was a pretty delicious dinner, all things considered. After dinner we had Havdalah and from there, we had an amazing grade bonding experience...karaoke! We jumped around singing songs, with the highlight of the night being Jeremy L’s and Ben H’s rendition of “Young and Beautiful” by Lana del Rey. After that, we were all pretty pooped once again, and headed to bed. Overall, I’d say we had a pretty positive Shavuot experience. For a lot of us it was the first time ever doing a Tikkun leil Shavuot, but it was such a great experience that I think a lot of us would not hesitate to do it again!

    We miss you all very much!

    Lots of love,
    Shira and the rest of Neshama
  • Friday, May 14

    Rob shared his experience and thoughts:
     
    I just wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for your incredible support during the challenging times that Israel is experiencing.  Your sons/daughters have been so mature, so thoughtful, and so understanding during all of this- it has been a real pleasure to explore Israel and learn together!  I also want to thank the school officials, especially Rav Kallush, who are in constant touch with me to discuss all issues- whether it is a student who is feeling under the weather or if it is a decision to allow the students to visit Ben Yehuda street in Jerusalem.  I also want to thank our madrichim who have friends and family who are deeply impacted by the recent events, and despite that, give all of their attention and love to the Neshamnikim.  When we were hastily planning the "new" Neshama experience (after suddenly given the permission to enter Israel), I planned to be with the group almost all of the time, since I didn't know what surprises would await us in the Corona touring experience.  To this point, I have been present with the group on a daily basis and intend to continue doing so until our safe arrival in Newark airport, Gd willing.  We are following all the guidelines of our security team at Moked Teva (situation room), who are in constant contact with Israeli security/army fources.  Quite honestly, if I or our students didn't look at our phones, we would not know there was a conflict on the Gaza border or disturbances in cities.  That is the bizarre experience of living in Israel, but all Israelis know this experience.  We do take time in our schedule to update and discuss the unfolding events in way that won't cause unnecessary anxiety for our students.  We pray for the health and well-being for all those affected by this conflict and we look forward to quieter days in the near future.  Thank you again for giving your children and the staff this amazing and once-in-a-lifetime experience!  Shabbat Shalom from very very quiet Ein Gedi.
  • Thursday, May 13

    Emma’s Burke:
    Shalom from Israel! Today we woke up at 6:15 in preparation for our descent to Masada, the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi. We had breakfast, checked out of the hostel at Agron and boarded the bus. The bus ride was only an hour to Nachal Arugot, where we did a two-hour hike to reach the natural ponds Rob spoke so highly of. Although it was hot out, the hike was filled with beautiful rock formations to climb. We lended a helping hand to one another as we hiked until we reached a point in the hike where we needed to change into water shoes. From there, we hiked through small streams until we reached the awaited ponds of Nachal Arugot. The ponds were magnificent: the water was a light turquoise blue, and incredibly clear. There were no animals or sea creatures in the water and we enjoyed going in, still fully clothed! The water was refreshing after a hike in the hot sun. Rob led a smaller group of kids to the end of the hike where we “crawled like a bear and crawled like a crab” across slippery rocks. We practiced skipping rocks in a small pond before heading back to the first pond where the rest of the group was waiting. On the way back, we slid down some rocks into ponds and kept on crawling like a crab! At the very end, there were only a few rocks left. As I was descending to the original pond, I tried sliding down the rocks as we had been doing. However, I picked up too much speed and could not stop myself. I was headed towards the edge of this tall rock where I would have fallen into the pond of water below. I was sliding faster and faster and then I saw the edge of the rock. I braced myself for impact but impact never came. Before I could fall off the edge and into the water, I felt someone grabbing onto my arm. My new hero, Michael Lurie, somehow managed to grab my arm in the final second before I fell. I used his arm to swing in the air and climb back up the rocks. In the moment, it was incredibly scary. Reflecting back on the incident, I realized I would have been perfectly fine. After we had lunch and climbed back down the path. Along the road back, we saw more ponds and even a waterfall! After the hike, we went to the ancient synagogue of Ein Gedi. We saw the remnants of the synagogue. There were signs that explained what the remnants were, from the Bimah, to the Holy Chair and the Ark. Rob asked us what we think of when we Daven. Some people answered that they think about the words they are saying and the meaning and importance behind it. Others said they thought of friends and family members and prayed for the difficulties they are facing to come to an end. We davened a meaningful Mincha led by Michael Lurie. It was incredibly unique as the synagogue was outdoors. We had an incredible view of the Dead Sea to our right and the mountains on the left. I felt a strong connection during a time of unrest, conflict and tension. I prayed for our continued safety, along with the safety of all the innocent victims affected. We then went to the hostel at Masada. We had time to unpack, shower (as it was much needed!) and relax. We ate dinner and then had a peulah discussing our trip for Masada tomorrow. We discussed the history behind Masada and why Masada is famous for more than just the 4 am hikes. Sending love to all the families, who I know are worried about our safety! We are perfectly safe and are looking forward to spending lots of time at the Dead Sea tomorrow! Our biggest worry is dreading the 4 am wake up!
     
     
     
    Hi parents and siblings! 
    Today was a super exciting day, which started with a 4am wake up! We were given coffee and some cake for a pre- hike snack. We left around 4:45/5 for the long hike up Masada! We took the snake path, which was very long and windy. The path was dirt and stones, with staircases and handrails. After a long way up, and many stops for water, we make it to the top of the mountain around 6. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to watch the sun rise at the top of the mountain, but we still saw the sunrise on the way up. We then spent the next hour and a half learning about the history of Masada. For those who aren’t familiar with the story, here it is: Herod the Great (a roman king) first built the fortress on top of masada. As Rob said, “Herod is an absolute dawg”.  After Herod died, the Jewish rebel group Zealots moved into the fortress, and reconstructed part of the mountain to fit their needs (such as converting barns to synagogues). However, the Romans wanted to destroy the group of rebels and decided to try and reconquer Masada.  The Romans set up camps around the base of the mountain, and built ramps and towers. After months, the Romans decided to finally try and destroy the wall of the fortress on Masada. Zealot leader Eleazar Ben Yair gave the famous speech telling the whole community to commit suicide. When the Romans finally entered the fortress, they found their enemies bodies and decided to leave Masada. In the late 1900s, archeologist Yigael Yadin decided to restore Masada (the black lines in the pictures below signify what remains were still intact when he reconstructed). We saw many models of the fortress throughout our hike, and when watching the demonstration of how the mountain got water, we experienced our own little flash flood (attached below). We then hiked back down the mountain and had breakfast. Although it wasn’t the most delicious breakfast, it was definitely the most gratifying. We then packed our suitcases and got ready for the dead sea! Unsurprisingly, we were directed towards the wrong hotel, but we eventually found our way. We spent the afternoon relaxing at a resort on the beach of the dead sea. We swam in the outdoor pool, soaked in the hot tub, sat in saunas, ate a delicious lunch, and of course, floated in the dead sea. The hotel even had an indoor pool filled with water from the dead sea, so we were able to float inside the pool. After a relaxing day of shmoozing, we got on the bus and drove to the next hostel. There we ate dinner and broke off into boys and girls for night bonding activities. At the end of the activities, we had free time, and now it’s time to go to sleep!  We love and miss you all so much!! 
    Xoxo,
    Talia
  • Tuesday, May 11

    Sam wrote today’s update: 
    “Today we continued our week of Many Faces, where we have the distinct and unique opportunity to meet with the many diverse people that live within the area of Israel. We began our day by traveling to Ein Rafa, an Arab-Israeli settlement outside of Jerusalem. There, we met with Yasmin, a formerly atheistic woman who converted to Islam after studying the religion about twenty years ago. Yasmin first delved into the central feature of Ein Rafa, the mosque which is in the middle of the community. I was immediately struck by something she mentioned which I had also noticed myself -- that the village of Ein Rafa was in much better condition than most other nearby Arab Israeli and Palestinian villages. After learning more about the mosque, Yasmin's conversion, her time in Israel and what prompted her to convert to Islam, she toured us around the village, finally stopping with us in her garden to answer any questions we had. I appreciated her answer to someone's question about Islam's relationship with women and feminism, and how she felt that wearing a hijab was freeing rather than oppressing. I also enjoyed learning more about Islam, as I did not know much going into it and liked having the opportunity to discuss the Quran and the tenets of Islam from someone who practices it. At the end of our time in Ein Rafa, Yasmin showed us her garden, including the new sheep and farm her family had built after quarantine! Afterwards, we traveled back towards Jerusalem and had lunch in Mea Shea'rim, a Haredi neighborhood of Jerusalem. It was really interesting to see how they lived in their own community, as that was an experience I had never had before. Overall, I appreciated the learning opportunities that this week has given us so far, and am looking forward to continuing to expanding my knowledge about life in Israel for every sect of people”.
  • Monday, May 10

    Jess wrote todays update:
     
    “Today might have been the most mentally draining and confusing day of the entire trip. We dove straight into the depths of the Arab-Israeli conflict through tours of the Old City of Hebron and intense discussion related to extremism, occupation, and the history of the land. We began the day in Kiryat Arbah, a suburb of Hebron, where we discussed the horrific actions of extremist Baruch Goldstein and visited his grave while reading Yitzhak Rabin’s condemnation of Goldstein’s murderous attack on a mosque. Rob detailed the significance of the event taking place on Purim and in 1994: Goldstein thought that disturbing the peace would end the Oslo Accords and the proposition of a two-state solution, an action he believed to be on the same level as that of Esther and Mordechai. After leaving Goldstein’s grave and our first encounter of the day with Jewish extremism, we proceeded to Maarat Hamachpela, or the caves where our forefathers and three of our foremothers were burried. Before entering, we read the verses of the Torah that detail Sarah’s death and Abraham’s purchase of the cave. We noticed how the final verses of the chapter emphasized the legality of Abraham’s purchase and the presence of witnesses during the transaction, possibly intimating that the land was even disputed in biblical times. After going inside and seeing the tombstones from a distance, we advanced to unsettling discussions with Hebron Jewish settler Saadya Hershkov. To give you an initial taste of his ideology, he prefaced the conversation by saying that he graduated from high school, immediately left Brooklyn to study in a Yeshiva in Israel and returned to Brooklyn with a “No Arabs, No Terror” shirt. That statement definitely woke us up and prepared us for the rest of the session. Saadya first shared the history of the region and then moved on to a more political discussion in which he openly shared his extreme beliefs surrounding Palestinians, calling Islam an inherently violent religion, violence, naming “ruling with an iron fist” as the only option, and “Jewish supremacy,” the term coined by one of the members of his group.

    Our group had many questions for him, to say the least. Many of us were thoroughly disgusted by his beliefs and drew parallels between his ideology and Baruch Goldstein’s, but we all agreed that talking to him was a worthwhile experience and necessary in order to fully process the many perspectives and “faces” of Israel. Next, we met with Issa Amro, whose beliefs were on the complete opposite side of the spectrum from Saadya’s. Issa is a non-violent Palestinian activist who stages efforts, such as peaceful protests, to end the occupation. He began the discussion conversation by relaying personal disappointments and his own suffering. He stated that he first realized his purpose as an activist when Israel shut down his university, temporarily preventing him from finishing his Master’s Degree, a lifelong goal of his. He then recounted the numerous times that he was arrested, detained, and convicted for protesting peacefully and expressed his beliefs surrounding Israel being an apartheid state and the Palestinians being oppressed and treated unjustly. After a mentally draining day, we headed back to Jerusalem. 

    Through today’s discussions, starting with the Baruch Goldstein story and ending with Issa’s narrative, we have all become increasingly aware of the complexity of Israel, its people, and the Arab-Israeli conflict”.
     
     
    Thinking of today’s events, the people who were injured, those who lost their lives, their families and my family, I can’t stop humming the song to the words of Isiah:
    וְכִתְּת֨וּ חַרְבוֹתָ֜ם לְאִתִּ֗ים וַחֲנִיתֽוֹתֵיהֶם֙ לְמַזְמֵר֔וֹת לֹא־יִשָּׂ֨א ג֤וֹי אֶל־גּוֹי֙ חֶ֔רֶב וְלֹא־יִלְמְד֥וּ ע֖וֹד מִלְחָמָֽה׃ (פ)

    And they shall beat their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not take up Sword against nation; They shall never again know war.
  • Sunday, May 9

    Jonah wrote about yesterday’s learning experience:
     
    Today, we began a week of deeply exploring many of the conflict that exist within the State of Israel. We woke up early and traveled to Gush Etzion to visit some settlements and also Palestinian neighborhoods. After crossing through a checkpoint to enter the West Bank, I immediately noticed the frequency with which I saw Israeli flags being flown on lamppost and alongside the road. This sight inspired feelings of pride that after so many years of fighting Israel’s flag could be flown there. I also felt somewhat uncomfortable with the provocative statement the flags must be making to the Palestinians whom we shared the highway with. 

    The decently sized presence of IDF soldiers we saw at many of the more crowded intersections was also striking. We stopped first at areas of settlements of Gush Etzion, where about 70,000 settlers reside. We learned about their struggle as the main point of attack on the Jerusalem front in 1947-48. I found the resilience and perseverance of the inhabits, most of whom were had just escaped the Holocaust, remarkable. Undoubtedly, there is controversy over the settlement yet I still I admired their passion and devotion for such a young state of Israel. Afterwards we walked through the small Palestinian village of Khaled Zakariya. Many of us gained a lot from the eye-opening experience of the vastly different lives these Palestinians led.

    Immediately, noticed the poorly paved roads and sensed the staunch difference in the infrastructure of the village compared to the nearby settlements. We learned that Palestinians living in Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank need to apply to the Civil Administration of the IDF for approval to build any new infrastructure. Most applications are rejected, making life hard for the village inhabitants. Homes built without permits can be demolished. Many of us struggled with Israel’s treatment of these Arabs. Our speaker, a Palestinian native, continued to speak on a variety of issues. Notably, we were surprised to hear that, in his opinion, if democratic Palestinian election did indeed take place, Hamas would win. After being able to walk around and have lunch in the city of Efrat, we met with Uri Bank, a right-wing settler who told us his view on how a one-state solution, with Israel extending sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank is the only feasible solution. Overall, most of us felt like we benefited from the unique experiences we had today.
  • Thursday, May 6

    What a week it has been! Lots of walking and cooking lunches in tuna cans and a Mater Chef competition on the 4th day as described by Naomi: “it was a highly competitive Master Chef competition during lunch. Each mishpacha presented three dishes to the judges which were to be judged based on taste, presentation and creativity. In the end Doovdev’s mishpacha came out as the winners with a dessert of caramelized apples”

    Ari wrote today’s update: 
     
    Hello folks, we did it, we finally ended our five day hike from the Kineret to the Mediterranean. The day started off at 6:45, the earliest wake up of the trip, when we packed our bags with water and beach clothes. Unlike the other days of the hiking trip, our breakfast was pre-made by the company watching over us, which was greatly appreciated. As soon as we finished, we hopped on the bus for a quick ride and got off for our final hike at a banana plantation.  The walk was roughly three hours, but felt much shorter as we walked on a flat road. Over time the anticipation grew, and we knew our pilgrimage was coming to an end, until Rob shouted out “Guys! I can see the ocean”. We all ran to look, and a wave of realization crashed over us, our five days of walking seven hours in the sun, cooking our own breakfasts and lunches, and sleeping outside were about to be over. We approached the water, and huddled around Naomi, who was holding onto the ceremonial water we took from Kineret. She dumped out the bottle from one sea into another, and soon after, all of us walked into the ocean. We messed around, chanting our songs, playing our games, and most importantly washing off the dirt that accumulated over five days of no showering. We stayed by the ocean for an hour, had a great falafel lunch prepared by the hiking company, and ended the long five-day trip with a bus ride to Jerusalem, where we got to relax and walk around the shuk and get whatever we wanted for dinner.
     
  • Monday, May 3

    Adiel wrote the update from yesterday, Monday:
     
    We woke to the sounds of nature for our second day of yam l'yam. The ground beneath our tents was stiff, but most of the group had a decent sleep. 
     
    Once we organized our supplies and food, we made our own breakfasts. Tuna in cans was smoked using paper and fire. Tea was made with boiling water over a camp stove. After we cleaned our utensils, we began our hike over Mount Meron (the second highest mountain in Israel). The first hour of our hike was quite difficult. Much of it was quite rocky and required care and teamwork.
     
    The next quarter was less rocky, but there was still a bit of an incline. We walked past Druze vineyards. We then reached a memorial dedicated to the 44 firemen that died fighting the Carmel forest fire )in December 2010). The only natural spring of water we saw was beneath a large tree. According to Rob, the Israeli government has an intelligence base at the peak of Mount Meron that also coordinates airline flights in and out of Israel. Additionally, there were a few historical flour mills on the trail. 
     
    We then had our lunch. We (Noam's mishpachah) cooked rice and lentils while other groups sautéed salami and vegetables using tuna oil. Although the rest of the hike took about five more hours, the rest was generally level or downhill. Once we reached the campsite, we set up tents and then relaxed. 
     
    Camping and hiking are ways that we can connect to the land of Israel physically. Although hiking allows us to experience the land, camping allows us to live with the land. Both are challenging and fun.
  • Wednesday, April 28

    Michael Lurie wrote yesterday’s update: 
     
    Hi everyone! Neshama started our day again in Ketura and made our way to Timna National Park, the biggest national park in Israel. Right off the bat, we witnessed more beautiful views of the desert mountains. No matter how long we’re here and how many views we see, some of them, like the ones in Timna today, seem so surreal. When I stared out in the distance at the hazy backdrop, I couldn’t  help but wonder how something so beautiful is a natural occurrence. As we made our way through the park, we learned about the importance of copper to the region and how it shaped the Egyptian empire and even world religion as a whole. Rob took us on a few hikes in Timna, first to some natural arches and ancient copper mines. We even got the chance to climb through one of the mines on our hands and knees. Along with the scorching sun and a demonstration of the strenuous process of smelting copper, we gained a deeper appreciation for how truly grueling this work was. After a few more short hikes with gorgeous views, we headed to a nearby lake for lunch and then back to Ketura. We were given a few hours of free time until we went to the kibbutz’s “off grid village”. There, we learned about Ketura’s innovations for those living in developing countries, using simple technology and engineering. We visited three different ideas for houses that the kibbutz uses to inspire the designs of homes in those countries. These simple solutions for huge problems like water and power scarcity highlighted the spirit of kibbutzim. Yes, they work together to make a profit, but their essential function is to improve the lives of its members, and more importantly, the world. The resourceful work they do on the kibbutz is so easily applied to tikkun olam. After visiting the village, we finished our day with a poolside barbecue. Looking forward to the Bedouin tents tomorrow!
  • Tuesday, April 27

    Neshama’s days on Keturah make Kibbutz life look glorious: daily visits to the pool, short hikes, cycling and pizza! Todays update is a glimpse into the fun:
     
    Hi everyone It’s Betsy Chernoff. Today started off nice and early, in my opinion, (8:15) in order to avoid the heat. The reason for this was our hike up Har Amir. Here, we were led by Aliza, a member of the kibbutz who taught us about the geological makeup of the mountains. In addition, we learned about how all the mountains in the valley are named by influential figures in the Tanach. For example, right next to us was Har Yuhevit and Har Abraham. Although the hike felt a bit treacherous at times, we got through it and we’re more than happy to see Meir, our bus driver, waiting for us at the end.
     
    Following, we drove to Eliat where we had a pizur lunch at a mall overlooking the beach. As most of us were eager to shop, we knew we had to eat as fast as possible given the limited time. Most of us got the classic falafel but I decided to switch it up today and got some noodles with very much needed vegetables. The last outing of our day was something that many of us have been waiting for, snorkeling. Once we got our equipment, we were split up into 3 groups and headed in the water with our guides. When my group was getting our flippers, googles and mouth pieces on, our guide was laughing, probably because we looked like 5-year-olds not knowing what we were doing. Once I got the hang of it, looking in the water felt like an escape. Looking at the fish that our guide referred to as Nemo and Dory from Finding Nemo, I felt as if nothing else was going on. As I lifted my head out of the water and came back to reality it made me realize how much nature can calm me. Once we were done snorkeling, we relaxed on the beach for a while and took in the beautiful blue waters of Eliat. After coming back to the kibbutz where we had a pizza dinner, we began Shnitzelborscht. This consisted of 5 stations, each one testing our knowledge of Israel. Everyone’s competitive side was definitely let out tonight. Although GOA prepared us well, we realized we still have a lot more to learn on our next few weeks in Israel. Alright, it’s time to say goodnight in order to get ready for tomorrow! We miss you!
  • Monday, April 26

    A warm day filled with activities and learning. Adina and Andrew wrote today’s update:
     
    Neshama started off today with an early morning bike ride around Kibbutz Ketura. We saw date trees, a solar field that powers a third of Eilat, and were close to the quiet border of Jordan. Those that didn't/couldn't bike created oil pastel drawings of the desert next to the kibbutz. They drew the trees, shrubbery, mountains, and sand surrounding them. Afterwards we learned about the kibbutz governing structure including their core values, many committees, and the asefah (main governing body). We then simulated different committee roles to decide certain issues presented to us. This allowed us to see firsthand what life on a kibbutz is like. After lunch we enjoyed a few hours of pool time and relaxing in the hot sun. We then headed out for a short hike, mincha, and a desert excursion in the sand dunes. We all jumped into the sand, tackled each other, and took many photos soaring through the soft sand. After diving through the sand, we took some time alone to reflect on the desert experience and its role in Israeli culture. The calmness and vastness of the miles of sand dunes and mountains around us had some spiritually moved. We ended the day with a Bedouin dinner in the desert cooking pitot over a fire and enjoying falafel and hummus. We sang the night away around a campfire before heading back to Ketura for the night. The experience in the desert today allowed us to connect with nature in a new way. After actively traveling through cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the peaceful desert showed us another side of the beautiful land of Israel that we will cherish forever.
  • Sunday, April 25

    Hello everyone! It’s Emma Beigelman again back to tell you all about our first day at Kibbutz Ketura. We started off our morning at Jerusalem in Agron, had our breakfast, and hopped on the bus for our long, but pretty ride down south. Right as we pulled up to Ketura, we were welcomed by Leah, a member of the Kibbutz, who took us to our dining hall for lunch before we got settled into our rooms. All of us were stoked upon getting into our rooms because these rooms are apartment style so there are about 8-14 people per apartment. The rooms are really nice and clean, so we are all very very excited to stay here for the next few nights. Soon after, we had around two hours to hang out at the pool, which was much needed as the weather was nearing 100 degrees and the heat was very dry. We spent our time swimming, tossing a football around, and eating ice cream. I had my new personal favorite, avatiach (watermelon ice cream).

    Next, we had a relatively quick tour of the kibbutz. We started by looking out into one of the mountains which had eight barrels lined up, which we were told is used as a giant Menorah during Hannukah. The children who are soon to be bar mitzvah-ed hike up the mountain and light each barrel like a regular Menorah. We then walked over to one of the solar panel fields where we learned that this kibbutz was the first place in Israel to even use solar panel fields. We took a quick look at the date trees before reaching the algae factory. This factory produces algae which contains antioxidants that are known to be very beneficial and make the kibbutz money. However, we were told that this factory has slowly lost its high income as other countries, specifically China, began to copy their methods at a larger scale. We finished the tour at a soccer field where we learned about multiple kibbutzim coming together for soccer games and teams would win trophies. We were able to ask many questions where we learned about all the types of healthcare that is provided by the kibbutz, the application process that goes into joining Ketura, the experience going into the army after growing up in a different society, the stipends that each family receives for wants like clothing, games, and books, and how successful the kibbutz has remained.

    After this, we spoke to two students at the Arava Institute for environmental studies, named Ranin and Yuval. The students come from countries all over the world, but we spoke to an Israeli and a Palestinian where they explained their reasoning for joining this program and their passion for the environment. Through this, we were able to see how despite the differences in opinions and religions, the students at the Arava Institute are able to get along very well as they put their disagreements aside. We then had dinner and finished off the night with a scorpion ‘scavenger hunt’ in the desert. We walked through the desert with UV flashlights and tried to spot any scorpions as the light makes them much more visible. We ended up finding many scorpions, and while many if us were quite terrified at first, it quickly became enjoyable and exciting for the majority of us. Our first day here was very exciting and I know I am really looking forward to the rest of our time spent here!
     
  • Thursday, April 22

    David wrote Today’s update: 
     
    “Today we toured the northern borders of Israel with Avraham Levine, an expert on the history and geopolitical situation of the area. Avraham is also a resident of the Golan Heights. 
     
    As our bus ascended the Heights navigating the narrow switchbacks along the Jordanian border, we learned of the significance of these borders and how the Israeli, Jordanian, Syrian, and Lebanese borders were drawn by the British and French in the early 20th century.
     
    Our first stop, at Mitzpeh Shalem, provided beautiful views over the Kinneret, Tiberias, Har Hermon, our lodging at Deganya Bet, and the mountains of Tzfat which were helpful to understand the significance of the Golan at the beginning of the day. We learned about Israel’s controversial seizure of the Heights in the 1967 war, and how important it would be to keep this land in Israeli hands. It could be dangerous to have ISIS or Iran in control of the fresh water of the Kinneret, looking over thousands of Israelis.
     
    Our second stop at the moshav Avne Eitan, home of our guide, provided a look at regular life in the Golan. Thankfully the border is very peaceful at the moment, but we learned about the drills that the children must go through in event of an emergency, as well as seeing the communications bunker for radioing to the military, in addition to the safe for protecting weaponry that can both be used in case of emergency.
     
    Tel Saki, our third stop, played a significant role in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Israel had been tipped off that there might be a battle on Yom Kippur, so about five artillery soldiers were sent to Tel Saki to keep an eye on the border. A full Syrian force emerged, necessitating two Israeli tank units to take care of the situation. This was still not enough, as the soldiers of damaged tanks were forced to retreat to Tel Saki. The soldiers were able to hide in a bunker, which we were able to visit.
     
    We ended our tour just how we began: with a view; this time from Har Bental, facing west. Avraham taught us about the geopolitics surrounding Syria, especially the Syrian Civil War, and what implications it has for Israel. With its Iranian alliance, the Syrian border is probably the most dangerous; even more than Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
     
    After our tour we traveled down through the scenic Jordan River Valley to Jerusalem where we will spend a much needed relaxing Shabbat after a long week up north.”
  • Wednesday, April 21

    Two updates in one email: first by Kayla about Tuesday’s adventures, second by Elana about today’s experience:
     
    Hi everyone!!! Today we had what Rob likes to call a “Thrill and Chill” day. The day began with breakfast and packing up lunches at Kibbutz Deganya Bet. We then had around an hour-long bus ride to our first stop of the day, Me’arat Keshet (Rainbow Cave). Mearat Keshet is a beautiful arch and cave near the Israeli/Lebanon border where we went repelling! 

    This was both an exciting and nerve-racking experience where most of us were pushed outside of our comfort zones. As we repelled downwards, we had an amazing view of the Western Galilee and received lots of grade wide cheering and moral support. This was a great opportunity to try something new and adventurous while bonding with our grade and madrichim.

    After repelling we hiked back up to the bus. It was one of our most exhilarating hikes yet. We hiked narrowly along the edge of the mountain with frequent steep inclines and declines. For stability and safety, we often needed to climb on or hold onto metal steps and railings that were placed into the mountain. 

    We then headed to the beach for the afternoon. Here we swam in the clear water of the Mediterranean, played frisbee, and relaxed on the beach. These were much needed activities after our adrenaline filled morning, and gave us more time to simply talk and be with friends. After the beach we headed back to Deganya Bet for dinner and free time before bed. 

    On Neshama so far, we have had a lot of meaning and impactful experiences. While these experiences are amazing, it sometimes feels as if there is not enough time in the day to fully process them. Today’s more relaxed schedule was a great opportunity for many of us to personally reflect on all the incredible things we have done so far, as well as have fun, step out of our comfort zones, and enjoy Israel’s nature and beauty! We feel so grateful to be here right now and miss you all!
     
     
    Hi parents! Today (Wednesday) was a really fun and relaxed day. First, we went on a 3-hour hike. We learned that before the 1960s the territory we hiked in was Syrian. There are still walls today that show it was Syrian territory. The hike was pretty flat. On the hike we saw cows and frogs. In the middle of our hike we went in a type of pond with a waterfall. We had to climb down to the water and it was steep but we all worked together and helped each other get down. Then many of us went into the water and it was very cold. However, it was very fun and refreshing. We then went rafting for an hour which was very fun. We hit in to a few branches but we were all pretty good at it. We all tried to race each other and splashed water on each other. In my raft with Hayley, Betsy, Adina, and Noah our Madrich we sang songs and had some trouble but we worked together and laughed when we could not stay straight. Then went to a strip mall where we got dinner, ice cream, necessities and snacks from the supermarket. Hope you all you having a relaxing time without us.
  • Monday, April 19

    Every update I read, every conversation with Rob, every WhatsApp exchange reminds me what a fantastic group of people Neshama 21 are. How each Neshamanik makes the most out of every minute, how they embrace and celebrate opportunities, how they overcome challenges, support each other and always with a smile. It is deeply rewarding. Below is Matt Saperstein’s reflection of todays experiences: 
     
    “Hey everyone!! Today we woke up early to got ready for a big day in Tzfat. After an hour drive, we visited a viewpoint at the top of a hill overlooking the land surrounding Tzfat. There we began talking about Kabbalah and how the city of Tzfat was involved in its development. We then went inside an old water cistern that was used by the city of Tzfat many years ago. In the dark cistern, we were challenged to think like Kabbalists by sharing our thoughts related to what the meaning of life is. We then visited Avraham Lowenthal, a Kabbalist who expresses his Kabbalistic views through art. He gave us a better understanding of how Kabbalah is all about selflessness and bettering yourself by caring for those around you. It was very interesting to talk to someone who studies Kabbalah and understand his views related to how all people should live life to help the greater good rather than focusing on their own desires. 

    We then visited two old synagogues in Tzfat and admired the ancient design of the two buildings. For lunch, we were put in randomized pizur groups and explored the food scene in Tzfat. It was a great experience spending time with new people as we ate and shopped in the town. After lunch, we visited with Rabbi Meir to take part in group meditation based on Kabbalistic tradition. It was a unique experience for me to connect to spirituality in a new way. Our last stop in Tzfat was walking through the underground tunnels of the city. One of the underground rooms we walked into was discovered to be a room where the Jewish community in Tzfat would gather for holidays and celebrations many years ago. It was very meaningful for me to enter this space with my own Jewish community because it showed me how this space that was always meant for Jews to be together. 

    We drove back to Kibbutz Deganya Bet, took some time to rest, and then ate dinner. Lastly, we took part in an evening grade bonding program which pushed us out of our comfort zone and allowed us to share our thoughts about the trip, college, and life with others. I’m very appreciative to be in Israel right now and I’m excited for another packed day tomorrow!!”
  • Sunday, April 18

    This Sunday we are lucky to have two fantastic updates, one by Emma Beigelman about Friday and Jared’s write up about today, Sunday. Attached is the program for this week. It is supposed to be very hot; some plans might change in the morning upon instructions from HadarMatzav, the situation room.   
     
     
    Hi everyone! It’s Emma Beigelman and I was asked to write today’s journal. First off, happy birthday to Jess!! 
    This morning, we checked out of Agron in Jerusalem and ate a quick breakfast before we left on a bus to Tel Aviv. After a nice long nap on the bus, we got to our graffiti tour in Florentine. 
    We walked with a tour guide who told us all about the meanings behind some of the artwork. There were multiple pairs of eyes at the tops of buildings that we were told to look out for. Yuval, the tour guide, explained how the eyes are meant to remind people to watch out for your surroundings and keep you from staring at your phone instead of experiencing the beautiful city. She explained how the people doing this graffiti have to be in pairs as one person dangles the other off the roof and the artist paints upside down. Another work we saw was inspired by the famous graffiti artist Banksy. It depicts a person holding balloons and flying towards one of Banksy’s pieces. The artist’s name is Kislev and we were able to see much more of his artwork. We stopped by a set of freehanded hearts that represent the LGBTQ+ community, painted by a member. The hearts were spray painted freehanded in order to show the uniqueness of each individual, however because of its location and message, people have attempted to cover it up. Throughout our tour, we passed by many teddy bears attached to buildings and lamp posts. The story behind these bears is that a father wanted to help his daughter find her way to school, so he set up a teddy bear trail. My personal favorite was the stenciled graffiti by Kislev of the 27 club. This piece was done on a crane and Kislev had written “Tel Aviv Municipality” to trick the police into thinking that he was working. He chose Yom Kippur as the day to make this because Yom Kippur is the only day that no one is working so no one can be called to fine Kislev. On the far right of this piece is the face of Kislev himself, however people have covered his face in order to say that he is not worthy of being next to these legends as well as the fact that he lived past age 27. 
    The 3 most meaningful pieces in my opinion were the last 3 we saw. The first depicted the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. It is a sad piece but the beauty in it was how much people in the area cared for it. The police had tried to cover it many times but the townspeople protested to keep it. Next was a piece of two women crying in each other’s arms. This piece was created in 2014 after 3 teenagers were kidnapped and murdered. One woman is a Jewish mother of one of the murdered people and the other is a Muslim mother of a kid, who was kidnapped and murdered by a Jew in revenge. It showed the viewers the same pain on opposite sides of fighting. Lastly, we saw a piece that used braille. The braille read “Did you see the swastikas? No I didn’t.” to remind people of how easily people ignore antisemitism and to call it out when it is seen. Just under that sentence reads “I must remember that I am blind also.” Because the artist had realized that she ignored hatred towards other religions but did not take her own action.
    We ended the tour by spray painting on an old vinyl with a stencil of Golda Meir, which turned out very nice. After this, we walked to Shuk HaCarmel where we ate a quick lunch and walked around. We ended the activities for the day with a long bike ride along a nearby shore while other went shopping for Shabbat dinner and snacks. I had my own small “Neshama Moment” as we like to call it when you step out of your comfort zone. I have not gone on a bike for probably over a decade, but I still tried it. I may have crashed into a stranger and stopped biking, but the experience was nice regardless. As of now, we are getting dressed and ready for Shabbat and eating dinner.
     
    Jared’s update, a little bit about Shabbat, a lot about today, Sunday:
     
    Our Kabbalat Shabbat was led by Rafi, followed by dinner, peula with Madrichim, and to bed. After Shabbat morning prayers we went to the beach and spent a few hours relaxing on the beach. We had a special Pizzur dinner in Tel Aviv for Erev Jeremy’s birthday umptza umptza. I got pasta and ice cream with my group and we had a great time. We got back, packed up, and hung out with each other until curfew. Woke up at 8ish ate brekky then took our stuff on the bus to begin our day long journey in the north. First, we went on a hike along the Mediterranean coast about an hour north of Tel Aviv. As we walked along the coast we began to talk about the Kabbalah and mysticism which is characteristic to the north of Israel. I had the pleasure of leading neshama in a brief meditation along the coast looking out into the calm blue sea. It was a deeply relaxing experience that opened up conversations about personal spirituality unrelated to, but not forgetting, the traditional Jewish spirituality we are all familiar with. As someone who regularly meditates alone, it was a new experience to be the voice in the ears of others. I found this more gratifying as I don’t have an opportunity to share what I practice personally with others very often. After we finished our hike, we took a sleepy bus ride to the Atlit detainment camp museum where we heard about the conditions that many Jews faced when they finally made their way into Israel. Quick history lesson: due to tensions between Jews and Arabs under the British mandate, the British decided to decrease the number of Jews allowed to legally immigrate to the land of Palestine. The flow of Jews from Europe did not decrease by the necessary amount, so Jews were either turned back to Europe (usually to face pogroms and antisemitism) or they were placed into detainment camps. These camps visually resembled concentration camps in Europe, which scared many Jews, however their function was that of a waiting room. People were held in the camp for as little as 1 day or as much as 2 years. These people waited for the opportunity to be given legal immigration papers, but the conditions of this camp were not up to par. Rat infestations, partial separation of families, and mandatory curfews were just a few of the characteristics. 
    After learning the history of the camp and walking around it, we began our final bus ride of the day to Deganya bet - a Kibbutz in the South of the Galilee. 
    Peace out my dudes
    Jared
  • Thursday, April 15

    When Neshama’s departure was postponed, one of the things Rob and I were hoping for, was that they arrive early enough to spend the Yom’s in Israel. Thank God (or Chasdei Ha’Shem as I learned from the many Shtisel fan’s) Neshama experienced all three Yoms in Israel: Yom Ha’Shoa, Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut. DJ wrote about the experience from the last two Yom’s:
     
    Hi everyone!!! The past two days have been moving and exciting. Yesterday was Yom Hazikaron (Day of Remembrance) where we remembered all of Israel’s fallen soldiers and the victims of terror attacks. We started off the morning by walking outside and listening to the siren that rings across the country. During those two minutes, we paused our day and thought about the importance of the day, and all those who have passed. In such a fast pace country, seeing this pause was incredibly moving to me. Typically, we watch the siren on YouTube when we are in America. However, being in Israel and seeing people pull over and get out of their cars is a completely different experience and shows the unity of Israel and the Jewish people. After the siren, we went back to Agron and had more programming about the importance of Yom HaZikaron. We broke off into groups and researched different people that have passed. We presented to the rest of the group and listened to songs that the madrichim connect to during this difficult day. The thing that always shocked me about Yom Hazikaron is how people shift from a day of sadness and grief to Yom Ha’atzmaut and celebrating Israel. We participated in a prayer service and were able to experience this with Israelis. We then walked to Ben Yehuda street and celebrated Independence Day. It was very exciting to be celebrating a country that I love so much and have been eagerly waiting to go to on Neshama. The energy was the highest I have seen in a long time as people were dancing and singing at the top of their lungs. I was even more moved that these Israelis did not ask or care why us Americans were in Israel. Instead, they embraced our love for Israel and accepted our celebration. To me, this is really what Israel and the Jewish community means; not caring where each other are from but loving each other for their backgrounds and beliefs. 
    Today, we hiked from Sataf to Yad Kennedy which was about a three-hour hike. The hike was very scenic, and there were even some springs where some people jumped in! It was nice to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut by walking and appreciating Israel’s beauty and land. We finished the hike with a BBQ completely organized by the students. Some of us were actually using the grill, others cut vegetables and others baked homemade pita. We were surrounded by Israeli families making their own bonfires and barbecues. This really made me feel that we were experiencing Israeli culture and celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut in an authentic way.” 
    Hope you all are doing well, we miss you and Chag Sameach!!
     
    Tomorrow Neshama are moving to Tel Aviv. Shabbat starts late, so they will have time to enjoy a Graffiti tour in Florentine, Shuk B’tzalel and The Nachalat Binyamin Artist Market.
  • Tuesday, April 13

    Today’s update is written by Maya:
     
    “This morning started bright and early. We loaded the bus and set off for the Kotel. Even though this wasn’t our first time visiting the Kotel on this trip, the experience of today will be forever remembered and valued. Every Rosh Chodesh an organization of brave and inspiring people called Women of the Wall holds Tfillat Shcharit at the Kotel. Our group was fortunate enough to not only learn about the organization the night before but also take part in the service. The organization fights for women to achieve the right to pray and read Torah out loud at the Kotel. Coming from a large egalitarian community in New Jersey, praying and reading Torah out loud was something that I never fully appreciated and took for granted, which is why it shocked me to learn about the struggle and strive Women of the Wall goes to in order to pray at the Kotel.
              
    When we arrived at the Kotel, the girls joined the service on the women’s side and the boys joined the men supporters in the plaza. As the service began, we all stood together and proudly prayed together. We were witnesses to and a part of women taking the right to practice Judaism and showing that our most holy and sacred site also belongs to women. Being among these women made me feel extremely empowered and inspired. 
              
    The service also brought other emotions that were very difficult and hard to process. While we were praying, there were Chasidic girls who were yelling in our ears, coming close to us and shouting slurs. This made me feel disappointed because as Jews I always thought that we are supposed to love each other and protect one another; what I witnessed today was a lot of hate and division. Even though a lot of us had tears in our eyes, we continued to pray louder and with even more pride. This experience will truly be unforgettable. 
              
    After the service, we quickly changed gears and began preparing for Yom Hazikaron. We visited the Castel National Park which is significant because of the key battles of Operation Nachshon. After the park we visited the Kiryat Anavim cemetery where the majority of the fallen soldiers from operation Nachshon were buried. When looking at the gravestones in the cemetery it was emotional to see that so many of the soldiers were around our age or slightly older.  We did a short hike around the cemetery and then headed back to Agron. 
              
    Our busy day didn’t come to a close just yet. In the evening we attended a very special and meaningful Yom Hazikaron commemoration, specifically honoring lone soldiers. During the ceremony we heard many stories of brave men and women who died while serving. Being in Israel on this very important day made me feel more connected to Yom Hazikaron than I ever have before. From seeing the emotions of our madrichim and other Israelis during the ceremony it was clear that Yom Hazikaron is a very personal day. On this day every Israeli is thinking about someone that lost their life. I, along with my classmates look forward to more emotionally challenging days, where we deepen our understanding and connection with Israel.”
     
    We are blessed to be able to be in Israel for Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut. The experience of standing in the 2-minute siren, followed later in the day with the transition to Yom Ha’Atzmaut can’t be explained or recreated. One actually has to be there to feel the depth of sadness and joy. One way to connect to Israel on these days is through a project created by the Avi Chai Center in Jerusalem: A Face. A Day. A Memory in collaboration with families of fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks the artist created short animation film sharing a glimpse of their loved ones. 
     
    May we live to see the day when Isaiah’s prophecy becomes our reality 
     
    וְשָׁפַט֙ בֵּ֣ין הַגּוֹיִ֔ם וְהוֹכִ֖יחַ לְעַמִּ֣ים רַבִּ֑ים וְכִתְּת֨וּ חַרְבוֹתָ֜ם לְאִתִּ֗ים וַחֲנִיתֽוֹתֵיהֶם֙ לְמַזְמֵר֔וֹת לֹא־יִשָּׂ֨א ג֤וֹי אֶל־גּוֹי֙ חֶ֔רֶב וְלֹא־יִלְמְד֥וּ ע֖וֹד מִלְחָמָֽה׃ 
    Thus He will judge among the nations And arbitrate for the many peoples, And they shall beat their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not take up Sword against nation; They shall never again know war. (Isiah, 2, 4)
  • Monday, April 12, 2021

    Lilly wrote todays update: 
     
    “Today was one of our most fascinating days yet - a day dedicated to learning about the historically significant landmarks of Islam and other religious conflicts. We began the day with a classic Israeli breakfast of salad and bourekas. Once we finished eating and transporting our bags to storage in preparation for the switching of rooms later, we left the hostel and walked to Temple Mount. We went through security and entered the open space to find an archeological cemetery composed of pillars left by Romans during the time of the second temple. On one side was the Al-Aqsa Mosque and on the other was the Dome of the Rock. Rob chronicled the history of the Arabs in Israel for us, culminating in the development of the Muslim empire and the importance of Jerusalem to Muslims. Following our visit to Temple Mount, we sat down in a small outdoor amphitheater to hear from two women who are both deeply motivated by their respective faiths. Nachla, a passionate Muslim, has her roots in Palestine though her status is resident in Israel. She lives in Jerusalem and enjoys praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, though she is often stopped outside due to some part of her appearance that is deemed immodest or inadequate - an occurrence she attributes to mistreatment towards women. Sister Rita, initially from Canada, leads a religious lifestyle in Jerusalem and, interestingly enough, noted gender inequality in her own community. After speaking to them, we began walking towards our next destination, the Jewish quarter, for lunch. We stopped at an Austrian hospice to observe the city from a rooftop and also visited the outside of a Coptic Christian Church. Following lunch, we toured the Temple Institute where models of objects from the First and Second Temples are exhibited. We learned that the Institute wants to build a third temple for all Jews to grow closer to God. 
     
    Our visits today exemplified the deep complexities within Israel’s religious culture. We started the day visiting the Dome of the Rock, one of Islam’s holiest sites, just one day before the start of Ramadan, and ended it with a tour advocating for the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash on the site where the Dome of the Rock sits. Every day we are here, we grow increasingly knowledgeable, but also sometimes discouraged about Israel’s unrelenting tension. However, meeting with Sister Rita and Nachla reminded me that there are people who genuinely respect one another, despite their differences, which sometimes feels hard to come by these days.”
  • Sunday, April 11, 2021

    I hope you had a lovely weekend. Neshama had a beautiful shabbat with lots of singing and dancing, davening together and learning with their Madrichim about Israel’s history and its effect on current politics. 
     
     
    Talia wrote about yesterdays experience:
     
    "Hi parents and siblings! 

    Today was an educational day, where we learned a lot about Christianity. We started the morning getting on the bus to Mount Olives, which is located across from the Old City of Jerusalem. We learned that the Messiah is supposed to ascend from the mountain, which is why there is a large cemetery there (so that the dead have “front row seats” for the messiah). While at the cemetery, we visited a cave that had many of the Jewish prophets buried in. It felt almost like a scene out of Indiana Jones, with each student holding a candle to light the way into the darkness of the graves. We then visited a Roman Christian church that is also located on Mount Olives called “Dominus Flevit.” The church was built by Antonio Barluzzi. The interesting part of the Church was that while most churches are facing east, this church faces the west. Our next stop was Gat- Shmanim, where Jesus was allegedly arrested. A church was built on top, with casing around the rock where Jesus wept the night before he was arrested. There also was a beautiful mural above the rock depicting the story of that same rock. After visiting the two churches, we made our way to the Old City. We walked through the Arab quarter, and eventually walked through a Shuk to get to the Jewish quarter. We were then given money for explore part of the Jewish quarter and eat lunch. My group found a delicious shawarma and falafel place for lunch, and ate (parve!) watermelon ice pops. After lunch we ventured to the Christian quarter of the Old City. We went to the Church of Holy Sepulcher, which is the place where Jesus was supposedly crucified and buried. The entire experience learning about Christianity today was so interesting. There are so many parallels between our Tanach and the Christian bible, and it surprised me how similar some of the beliefs were. Entering the Chruch of Holy Sepulcher was an adventure. When we walked in, there were people leaning down to kiss the rock where Jesus was allegedly prepared for burial. As we made our way through the church, we were surrounded by prayers and different spiritual items. We saw beautiful murals and paintings, and even walked past the place where Jesus was supposedly buried. Rob told us stories from the Christian bible relating to the Church and the different sects of Christianity who dwell in it in a tense status que.  While Christianity is a very different religion than Judaism, being in the holiest place for the Christians made my connection to G-d and my Judaism feel even stronger. That strength was shown when we walked to our final destination: a musical reading of the Israeli Declaration of Independence at the Egalitarian side of the Kotel. We started off by davening mincha, and eventually made our way to our designated spots on the stage. Famous conservative rabbis read the Declaration of Independence using Torah trope, which was a beautiful experience. Eventually, we snuck off the stage and made our way home to Agron. We love and miss you all, and wish you were on this amazing journey with us!"
  • Friday, April 9, 2021

    It’s been a day of many firsts:  first time in the old city, first birthday, first time out of Agron walking down ancient tunnels and their first shabbat, together as Neshama 2021, in Jerusalem! I’m emotional at every Neshama’s first Shabbat in Jerusalem, and this year even more. Seeing their smiles and glee in every photo is rewarding! 
     
    Kira wrote about today’s adventure: 
     
    “Today we started our day by walking to the Kotel. On the way we stopped at an ancient Muslim cemetery and reservoir, called Mamila. To get to the Kotel, we walked through the market of the Old City. Then we got to the Kotel. After a year of not being able to go to Synagogue because of the pandemic, going to pray at the Kotel was very meaningful to me. 
    Next we toured around עיר דוד (City of David). We went through נקבת השילוח (Hezekiah’s Tunnel), which is a dark tunnel with water up to our ankles that was used for collecting water during the rule of King Hezekiah. The tunnel was very dark, but we all relied on each other to get through it. We sang songs, warned each other of obstacles ahead, and held onto one another. We all pushed past our comfort zone and got through the tunnel together! After our walk back to Agron, we celebrated Michael Kotzker’s 18th birthday together on the balcony! I’m so excited for Shabbat!”
     
    This Sunday, Neshama will be taking part in a new initiative by Masorti Olami, a community reading of Megilat Ha’atzmaut (Israel Declaration Of Independence) at the Kotel with Jews around the world this year on zoom, next year (hopefully) in person. Follow the link for more registration and more information: https://www.wzo.org.il/haatzmautatkotel
  • Thursday, April 8, 2021

    A first real update since Neshama landed! Wednesday night was dedicated to student’s presentations about either their family’s survival story or sharing the story of survivors they interviewed for Names Not Numbers. It was an emotional night that came after a long emotional day. In less than 10 hours from landing they: tested for covid, tested for covid anti-bodies, met Noa, Ya’ara, Duvdev and Noam (Madrichim), reacquainted themselves with Agron, settled into their rooms, had dinner, an evening activity and finally back to their rooms for what I hope, was a good night sleep.  
     
    Naomi Sessler wrote todays update:
    Today the entire country of Israel stood still. For two minutes the only sights were stopped cars, people standing in street with their heads hung. For two minutes the only sound was the siren that rang throughout the country. 

    We had always heard about the siren; every year in school our teachers would show us the same video of the siren being played throughout Israel. However, being able to experience it brought a sense of community and a moment of unity. Standing in the street for those two minutes I felt closer to my grandmother than I have in a very long time. Although she has passed on, during the two minutes of the siren, I felt closer to her and to her story of survival during the Holocaust.

    Following the Siren we met in our mishpachot (families) and discussed the meaning of Yom Hashoah in Israel, went to enjoy the nice weather in the park, watched the movie The Photographer of Mauthausen and finished the day with dinner pizur* at Machane Yehuda (the open air market)

    *Pizur=Neshamaniks receive money to purchase their own meal.   
     
    Tomorrow Neshama are touring the old city of Jerusalem, the Kotel, preparing for Shabbat and welcoming Shabbat together on the building’s porch overlooking the western side of Jerusalem.
  • Tuesday, April 6, 2021

    I can imagine that by now you received a text that Neshama landed. The process at Ben Gurion went very smoothly. They all had their Aroma breakfast and are currently at Assaf Ha’Rofeh hospital waiting for everyone to finish the blood test. Hopefully in an hour they will be back on the bus to Jerusalem.

Tuesday, May 25

Neshama 29 - May 25

May 23-24

Neshama 29 - May 23-24

May 17-19

Neshama 29 - May 17-19

May 13, 2021

Neshama 29 - May 13

May 12, 2021

Neshama 29 - May 12

May 11, 2021

Neshama 29 - May 11

May 9-10

Neshama 29 - May 9-10

May 6

Neshama 29 - May 6

May 4-5

Neshama 29 - May 4-5

May 2-3, 2021

Neshama 29 - May 2-3

April 29-30

Neshama 29 - April 29-30

April 27-28

Neshama 29 - April 27-28

April 26, 2021

Neshama 29 - April 26

April 25, 2021

Neshama 29 - April 25

April 22

Neshama 29 - April 22

April 21, 2021

Neshama 29 - April 21

April 20, 2021

Neshama 29 - April 20

Misc.

Neshama 29 - Misc.

April 16 and April 18

Neshama 29 - April 16 and April 18

April 14-15

Neshama 29 - April 14-15

Tuesday, April 13

Neshama 29 - April 13

April 12

Neshama 29 - April 12

April 11

Neshamam 29 - April 11

April 8-9

Neshama 29 - April 8-9

Neshama 29 - Sendoff, April 6-7

Neshama 29 - Sendoff, April 6-7