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 9 items.

  • 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
  • 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:
  • 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.

April 20, 2021

Neshama 29 - April 20


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