Israel Education

Neshama 31

Trip Blog

List of 47 items.

  • Tuesday, May 16

    “Breakfast was at 7:50 and I got out of bed at 8:15 running around to get dressed. I made it downstairs just in time to grab something to eat before we all left at 8:25 to take a tour of Hadassah Hospital. 
    We started our tour learning about Henrietta Szold and how she was the reason this whole building is standing. We also learned how it was the first of its kind to be run by women and this was even before women could vote. Henrietta made such an impact that the anniversary of her death is Israel’s Mother’s Day.
    During the tour we went through the trauma ward where we saw nurses in training and the vip room that is for high profiled people who need extra protection like a bullet proof door. We saw the Chagall windows which were very beautiful and learned the meaning behind each one. We also learned how once they were destroyed the artist came back to make new ones. 
    I got to go to the place my mom told me that my grandma donated money to before she passed. My mom thought there was some sort of sign but she wasn’t sure. I asked Arielle who was giving us the tour to help me find something and with her help I was able to find my grandmas’ name on the keepers of the gates digital plaque. It said Madeleine (Madi) Thaler with a Jewish star next to her name that meant she passed. It was very nice to be able to take a picture and see that she is given recognition for her donation. 
    We made it back to Argon and while others packed I took a short nap cause I spent a few hours last night packing. At 1:40 we made our way to Stand With Us. We talked about Zionism and how to make the definition simplest enough for anyone including those who know nothing about it to understand. Modern Zionism according to Stand With Us is the belief in a Jewish State in the land of Israel. In general we learned how to combat anti Zionism. 
    We got back to argon and after a little bit started our evening activities. We started activities walking into the room on -3 where photos throughout the trip were on the wall. We had to pick our favorite photo and then share why we picked it. I picked a photo of Gabi, Sophia and I on Yam lYam where we washed our hair in the fountain together to stay clean. After we all went around we started our next activity. In this activity we were all blindfolded and had to answer questions without knowing who we were talking to. It was very fun trying to figure out who we had at the end. When we finished the activities we went to dinner where a few of us took photos with the “evil twins” (the staff who served us food at Agron).  They are actually very nice. Right after dinner we went right back to activities. We finished the Midrashim that we had to present and then the Madrichim presented theirs as well. 
    At 10 we started our all-night party.”
  • Monday, May 15

    3 More Days. 3 More. It’s hard to believe by the end of this week, I’ll be enjoying a nice crunchy everything bagel. Regardless of the scarce time we have together on this trip, we are going to enjoy these final few days. We woke up to our usual Agron breakfast, and then hopped on the bus heading to our first activity: escape rooms. We were divided into four groups, one was escaping a horror themed room, two were competing against each other to rob a house, and the last was robbing a bar. I was in the group competing against one another. Sadly, my group lost by about 10 minutes. After the escape room we headed to our second to last pizzur.
    My pizzur group decided to go to a shawarma place. I got a shawarma in a lafa, and chips for lunch; it was delicious! Then we took a short drive to a nice viewpoint of Jerusalem. After that we took a small break and then continued with our midrashim projects. The people who presented today did a great job, sharing their favorite moments and things that remind them of Neshama. After our presentations we went to the plat next to Agron and did some self-reflecting about the trip. We were given questions to think about, and then spread out across the park to write about the trip. It was a nice and thoughtful activity. We then walked back to Agron and ate dinner. After dinner we made sure we went downstairs to do our night activity. 
    The activity planned by the madrichim was very interesting and thoughtful. We were writing notes to each other based on various different prompts. When we walked in to start the activity, the lights were off and there was a circle of candles. The vibe was extraordinary. We wrote our notes to other people, and then at the end, received our notes from other people in an envelope. We then split up to read our notes as we ended the day”.
  • Friday, May 12 - Sunday, May 14

    “We started our day with another great meal at our youth hostel in Tel Aviv, after which we jumped on the bus and headed to the ANU Museum, which is a museum on the campus of Tel Aviv University that tells the story of the Jewish people, where we had 2 hours to walk around.
    The first section of the museum starts by presenting modern Jewish culture and its roots, with exhibits about Jewish music, film, literature, humor, cooking, language, and much more. The question is often asked what makes Jewish culture Jewish: is it simply something created by Jews? is it something that tackles Jewish themes (and what are those themes)? Or is it the combination of influences that Jews picked up? The second section goes through the historical timeline of the Jewish people: the role of the land of Israel, life under different rulers, waves of immigration, the communities where Jews thrived and where Jews suffered, the Holocaust, and Zionism. The third and final section displays special exhibits: the Jewish calendar and models of various kinds of synagogues.
    Overall, the museum has super cool high tech interactive elements, well produced videos, and a sleek look. It makes you look the Jewish people in the face, and therefore yourself, and re-examine what Jewish culture is, where it comes from, and the various Jews all over the world and the effects they have on each other and the world at large.
    We left the museum and headed back to Jerusalem. We were all conscious that we were leaving our last stay in Tel Aviv, but the anticipation for our final Shabbat back in Jerusalem was starting to build as we listened to our grade’s classic Friday song יום שישי  by הדג נחש. (listen here Friday by Hadag Nachash ) As we pulled into Jerusalem, we also listened to the Miami Boys Choir song, Yerushalyim, and I felt sad thinking about leaving this amazing city so soon, with its warmth and history, that has been our home base.
    For pizur lunch we went to תחנה ראשונה. Boaz, Amit הבן, and I ate hummus and spoke mostly in Hebrew. Afterwards, Sophie, Boaz, and I sat under the shade of a tree and relaxed. When we returned to Agron, we rested and cleaned up for our final Shabbat photos. We spent a good thirty minutes taking photos, including our official Neshama 31 picture on the amphitheater steps. Then, the true Shabbat festivities were set to begin. This Shabbat was about realizing all the things we had wanted for Shabbat, but hadn’t gotten around to. 
    The first activity of that kind was going down to the Montefiore Windmill, where we did Kabbalat Shabbat on Naale, to do גמד וענק (Israeli secret santa), Shabbat-o-grams, and Kabbalat Shabbat. We sat in a circle and gave each other eclectic, personalized gifts, ranging from a candy toilet to antique coins, and handwritten notes. Then we began the Kabbalat Shabbat service where we sang a little extra loudly and danced a little more than usual, knowing it was our last Kabbalat Shabbat together. The whole scene was even more meaningful with the sun setting and the view of the Old City in front of us, and also because we were completing the circle, celebrating our last Shabbat in the same place we did four years earlier.
    For our scheduled meals during Shabbat (dinner Friday night and Shabbat lunch) we ate on tables on the back patio as to get away from the noise and stuffiness of the Agron dining hall and extended our meals sitting and talking together, two things we had wanted to do on Shabbat for a long time.
    After dinner, we did a very chaotic, unique שירה (singing). We sang a few songs and then, in between songs people started sharing stories, some Jewish folk tales and some just funny stories from Neshama. So we had people brought to tears with laughter in between emotional renditions of ירושלים של זהב and המלאך הגואל. It was a sort of classic moment for our grade, straying from the tradition, but in a fun way.
    After that, everyone either went to their rooms to go to sleep or stayed out hanging out and talking.
    The first thing on the schedule for Shabbat was Shacharit services at 10:30. But this was not an ordinary Shacharit service, it was also Amanda’s Bat Mitzvah, our very own Neshama simcha!
    Amanda had never done her Bat Mitzvah at 13, and throughout the trip, she had discussed doing an Aliyah to become a Bat Mitzvah. Again in the spirit of fulfilling all the things we had wanted to do on Shabbatot, she spent the week practicing doing an Aliyah and writing a Dvar Torah.
    We had a nice service, with seven Torah readers, and on the seventh reading, Amanda got up to do her Aliyah. As she said the words, the whole room practically yelled back the response portions. When she finished, the room again exploded, this time into Siman Tov u Mazal Tov. 
    After the Torah service ended, Amanda gave her Dvar Torah. It was an emotional speech, where she beautifully connected the parsha, Behar, to her experience at GOA and to the ending of Neshama. After she finished speaking, we threw candies and the room again erupted into Siman Tov u Mazal Tov. 
    Next, we headed to lunch. After our meal, we had an afternoon of some activities and lots of free resting time. We played the game formerly known as Indian Chief, or Chief Rabbi, a game we had played at one of our stays in Tel Aviv. After some needed naps, the madrichim, Amit and Amit, led a discussion where we read over our goals at the start of the trip that we had written down, both as a group and individually, and discussed whether or not we had met those goals.
    At the end of Shabbat, a little after 8:00, we gathered in the amphitheater for our last havdallah. We put our arms around each other, and belted the ni-ni-ni-ni-ni-ni-ni-nis with smiles on our faces and then went around hugging one another and telling each other “shavua tov.”
    Overall, the Shabbat was a satisfying one. We accomplished lots of the fun Shabbat things we had wanted to throughout the trip and even though we knew it was our last, we celebrated with more intention and spirit instead of letting it bring us down.
    To end the weekend, we had a pizur dinner and some people stayed up late, eating snacks and watching Noa Kirel, Israel’s representative in Eurovision.
  • Wednesday, May 10

    “We started the day with a nice breakfast at Argon and then got our suitcases to put them on the bus for the hour bus ride to the Israel Dog Guide Center.  At the dog center we learned all about how guided dogs are trained and used for people who have vision issues or PTSD. Most dogs are given to citizens that were in the army. We got to play with the dogs, see dogs that were nursing, adorable puppies and even did an activity where we were blindfolded and have a friend guide us through the obstacle course that the dogs use to train. It was scary to put so must trust in one person. At the end we got dog print notebooks and now I must go ask my parents for another dog 😊 

    We got right back on the bus and headed to lunch in Jaffa. Sabrina, Sadie and I went out and got all different types of food and dessert. As we were walking to the shuk we overheard talking about there being siren that might be going off. We found Amit our Madrich and waited with him to be safe. A few minutes later the rest of the group came as well. We were walking while we heard rockets go off in the distance, we kept walking and then heard the siren to get into shelter, we stopped at a safe place to wait then continued walking. At the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in southern Yaffo. We learn about all the cool inventions that Israel has. We played a group game and then got to participate in a virtual reality game. As we were about to start playing, we heard another siren and went into shelter again. We were safe and then went back to finish playing the virtual reality game. It was so cool and fun and really felt like you were in the future. We then left and got back to the bus and ended our day at the hostel in Tel Aviv.  

    Later that night some seniors from last year came to visit us: Abs, Inbar and Eli talked about their experience in Israel and their gap year programs. We ended the night with delicious food and another siren, we went to the safe space and when that was over continued our activity and went to bed. but everything was ok for now then we ha

    I feel so numb and unnerved by the entire experience. Hearing bombs in the distance, sheltering, then just going on with the day.  I can’t really put into words my emotions. I just know this will stay with me forever.”
  • Monday, May 8 - Tuesday, May 9

    “We woke up today for a late breakfast at 8:45 and we headed out to Yad Vashem. Most of the group had been to Yad Vashem at least once before on na’ale so between that, our time in Poland, and our visit to the ghetto fighter’s kibbutz a lot of us thought we knew just about everything there was to know about the Holocaust. However, our tour guide Randy from Long Branch was one of the most knowledgeable people I had ever met. Being a former defense attorney he was very interested in the Adolf Eichmann trial and the Holocaust as a whole. 
    Randy guided us through the museum showing us the items we had seen before but he gave us new perspective on them. He also inserted bits of American history to give us more context to the events. The museum was quite crowded with soldiers and kids on field trips. However, I was still able to get a lot out of the visit. I found myself constantly writing down things I wanted to remember or research later on.
    After the tour we went to Beit Hakerem for a Pizzur lunch and then we headed to Mt. Herzl (Israel’s military cemetery). This was another place most of us had been to on na’ale and a place we visited on yom hazikaron. This time was different however because the last time we went the place was absolutely packed with soldiers and grieving families so it was hard to appreciate the place. This time it was empty and we did a thorough tour of the cemetery. We visited multiple memorials including the graves of prime ministers and the memorial for a lost submarine. At each stop a student did research and told us a story about someone buried in the cemetery. 
    The place we visited in the cemetery that hit me the hardest was the memorial for the “last of kin” soldiers. Meaning soldiers who were the sole survivors of their families after the Holocaust who then came to Israel and then died in battle fighting for Israel. Seeing the names of these people who literally lost everything and still decided to come to Israel and give their lives for a Jewish state, reminded me of something Randy told us earlier in the day. He showed us a picture of a bunch a holocaust survivors and Jewish-American soldiers praying together at Buchenwald concentration camp at day after its liberation. Randy pointed out a child in the crowd and told us it was former chief rabbi of Israel Meir Lau. When he said that name I remembered a quote from him that I thought about while looking at this memorial. The quote was said by Meirs brother Naphtali in the camp when he thought he would die soon. 
    “I have to tell you the truth: we don't have a father, we don't have a mother, and soon I will be leaving.
    You will be the sole survivor from our family.
    I don't believe this hell will end.
    But if this hell ends and you remain alive, remember that there is a place called Eretz Yisrael,
    Return there.
    Just go there.
    It is our home.
    They don't kill Jews there.
    It is our home.”
    Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau
    I believe this quote accurately represents the mindset of so many Holocaust survivors. Even when they were looking death in the eye they were thinking about their longing for Israel. The last of kin soldiers made it out of the hell of the Holocaust, returned to Israel and gave their lives defending their home, the only thing they had left.
    After the emotional day we went to unwind with a bonfire in the Jerusalem hills. We made poitje and pitot and we all talked, and a good time was had by all.
    I woke up the next day with a bunch of notifications on my phone. I saw that Israel had launched operation shield and arrow against the Islamic jihad in Gaza overnight. We went down for breakfast and prepared for our upcoming hike in nachal og but we were informed that since we could not get a security guard we could not go on the hike.
    Instead of the hike we went to khan Hagai sha’ar museum. A museum dedicated to the convoys that tried to bring supplies to a besieged Jerusalem in 1948. The museum was brand new, high tech, and highly interactive. We watched a lot of videos and participated in activities to give us an idea of what the war was like. Afterwards we got to explore a recreated convoy.
    We then proceeded to Har Adar, an Israeli town with a fantastic view of Jerusalem. At the viewpoint they had some old military vehicles including three tanks. Which we got to climb and take pictures on. 
    After this we headed to Gan Sacher for our “Sports extravaganza” where we participated in several activities organized by students, including a hanging competition, hide and seek and the famous “fusketball”. Then to finish the day we got dinner at Machane Yehuda”.
  • Sunday, May 7

    We scarcely rolled out of bed. 
    Quarter ‘til eight, real pressure. 
    Today held something major. 
    The clandestine squeak of balloons faithfully bundled in Chava’s arms swept past our room, down the stairs. 
    Raff’s birthday had come upon us— the last of the Neshama few. Scrambling clothes on, rushing to breakfast, triple-shot espresso, my tried-and-true morning tradition. Then we altogether gathered in the familiar Agron lobby.
    “Three! Two! One! Happy birthday to you…”
    I’d call our excursion to Beit Guvrin National Park a real nostalgia trip. This was the Hellenistic-era archaeological dig site most of us had been to on Na’ale. Mostly, though, the group’s excited jitteriness came from the prospect of buying those famous turquoise-purple shirts. And the genuine intrigue felt by the few yet uninitiated. 
    After descending down into the fusty, wide-mouthed cave, the first matter of business was our mise en place: take your pickaxe and spade, excavate this cave, fill the buckets with the chalk-rock floor, set aside all of your “finds”. Good, off to work you go. And dig.
    Sadie, Ilan, and I formed an impromptu labor collective in a corner. “We the triumvirate work together as one. Every artifact we find is our group’s find,” etc. (It was direly serious.) Among the group’s finds was a piece of an amphora with its handle intact; tooth and jawbone fragments; wide, convex shards of ribbed crocks; and a part of a perfume bottle. It’s an impossibility to grasp that human hands threw this pottery two millennia ago. And with the same flinching attention, clenched row of dusty knuckles, I hold a pickaxe to prove to myself that another identical pair had once been wet with clay. And our careful touch meets the same surface, with only time and dirt cleaving us apart. It nags at me, the relative simplicity of it all, the flattening of time. The thought drums at the back of my head for a while.  
    Haphazardly-packed clothes, hustling downstairs before the launderer’s truck pulls away. Boaz and I scramble an apology to our madrich, Omri. “Lost track of time. Had to run from other building. Bag wouldn’t close,” and all the other usual suspects. It worked out, though. Don’t you worry.
    Then, off to dinner. Most of the class elected to pack into Raff’s favorite restaurant, the sanctified Pizza Flora, to celebrate. A few friends and I parted company to “take one for the team”, if you will, as the pizzeria couldn’t seat all twenty-something of us. The five of us sat at the (mind-blowing) Yemenite restaurant next door, getting five orders of the same vegan Arais shawarma plate. We paid a visit to the group promptly after inhaling our meal.
    The last event of the day was the near-indescribable, last-minute-addition, spirited HaPoel-Maccabi Basketball game. I couldn’t stop remarking to my friends and family that, despite my apathy toward sports, it still felt somewhat sacrilege that I’d be seeing my first basketball game in Israel, not in the States. But I persevered. And with the unceasing chants and fists pumping midair from the red-and-black sea of HaPoel fans— “YALLA HAPOEL! HA-GA-NAH!”— and back-and-forth play, I found our section getting quite swept up in the thrill of it all. After all, who can resist yelling at players when you can’t even dribble a ball? 
    And, really, how could you not start pumping your fists too, when you’re together with your friends, and these loud, excited strangers, and kids on their fathers’ shoulders, so consciously approaching the bittersweet end of Neshama? 
    So you yell at nameless players. And you jump out of your seat for a team you’d never really heard of before. And you egg on Amanda to sneak downstairs after she found a rogue wristband on the floor. And you watch Sadie finesse her way into a free refill. And you think about the fleeting nature of time, and the permanence of moments. 
    You’re going to miss Neshama.”
  • Friday, May 5 - Saturday, May 6

    "I’m finally back writing again! After five days of sleeping in tents the Agron beds felt like heaven. Our schedule for the day was pretty minimal as all of us were exhausted from the past few days. I woke up around 9 am and happily stayed in bed for the next two hours. We all headed out for a pizzur lunch at the early hour of 12:30. I ended up at a new spot called Cafe Hillel with Sara. I Highly recommend it. I then fed my coffee addiction with an aroma coffee. 
    Following lunch, we had a few hours of downtime before getting ready for Shabbat. With all of us dressed and ready we took off at 6 pm for the Kotel’s egalitarian platform for a meaningful Kabbalat Shabbat led by Grace and I and Maariv led by Shayna. Although we shared the space with around 60 Israeli teenagers who were a bit rowdy, we managed to get through it. It was our first time being at the Kotel since the first weeks of the trip and was definitely an experience I will not forget. At around 7:30 we left the Kotel for a 30-minute walk back to Agron for dinner. Like many other shabbat dinners we had we spent the time talking to each other discussing our lunch outing and how this is our second to last Shabbat. 
    After dinner we gathered for an oneg Shabbat led by Grace and Sabrina where we all made dirt cups (a cup with pudding, crushed Oreos, and gummy worms). The cups were surprisingly tasty. The activity ended around 10 at which point many of us including myself retreated to bed for the night. A few stayed back to sing some songs, which I heard was great. 
    Shabbat morning for me began at 10 am when I managed to pull myself out of bed to brush my teeth. Although some Neshamaniks left at 9 am for services at a modern orthodox synagogue nearby. At 12:30 we all headed to the Agron dining room for a long-awaited lunch. Many of us then migrated back to our rooms for a couple of hours of rest, while some went to the park. At 5:30 we all met in the amphitheater for our weekly Shabbat snack, which included pita, hummus, chocolate spread, chips, and bissli. We then left Agron to tour various Jerusalem neighborhoods. We stopped in a Moroccan neighborhood, the second oldest neighborhood in Jerusalem. After, we walked to a tomb that was once thought to belong to King Harrod. We then walked to Yemin Moshe, a wealthy area with many international residents. Our last stop was a lookout point with an amazing view of the old city. After many weeks in Jerusalem this was one of the first opportunities we had to see the many interesting neighborhoods. 
    After the tour we had Havdalah led by Daniel Shapiro, then we all headed for a pizzur dinner. I ate at another of my favorite spots, Burgers Bar on Ben Yehuda. At around 10:30 I went to my bed for some rest before the long day awaiting me tomorrow."
  • Wednesday, May 3 - Thursday, May 4

    Gabi wrote about their last two days:
    "We woke up Wednesday morning after a warm night in the tents and once again prepared for a day of hiking. After some tea and biscuits from Dor and Noam, we began our adventure for the day. Everyone was looking forward to today’s hike as we’d get to jump in some water, which came as a relief after a few hours of sun. The water was super nice, cold but not too cold, and was completely clear. 
    After some time in the water, we continued our hike for a while until we found the perfect spot for lunch, right by the water. But, this was not just any normal Yam le Yam lunch - it was MasterChef: Yam le Yam edition. The three groups were in charge of creating three course meals with the ingredients we were given on a daily basis, and it was taken very seriously. Rob was our commentator and went around checking on what each group was doing, while Amit, Einat, and Elad were the judges. For the appetizer course, the Team Sumsum made a toasted vegetable wrap, while Team Autobus Yarok and the Team DSS both made Israeli bruschetta. After some deliberation, the winners were revealed as Team Autobus Yarok! Next came the main meal. Team Sumsum made Spanish rice, the Team DSS made stuffed peppers, and Team Autobus Yarok also made a rice dish. The winner of this round was Team Sumsum! Lastly, came dessert. Team Sumsum made a caramelized apple, Team DSS made caramelized apples on biscuits with chocolate on top, and Team Autobus Yarok made an apple bread pudding. For the last course, the winners were declared as Team DSS! 
    Once lunch and MasterChef were over, we once again began our hike to the campsite. We faced some obstacles along the way, including cows (and cow pies) streams, and swarms of middle school girls. After getting past the cows and a few streams uneventfully, we came across our largest challenge yet: the widest stream we had to cross. While some of us were still wearing our water shoes, others had changed back into hiking shoes. Those of us in water shoes were able to cross easily, and also give hands to those who had on hiking shoes and had to cross on the stepping stones. However, one particular Neshamanik had a different approach to crossing: recruit Raff to carry him across to the other side. Now, both Raff and Elias were confident this would work, as they had done this before. But not through a slippery, rocky, treacherous stream. Slowly but surely, they began their journey. Then, just as it seemed like they would make it across, Raff stumbled on a rock and CRASH! Down he went, backpack and all, with Elias in his arms. Fortunately, we were able to cross the rest of the streams without as much drama. 
    After a while, we took a break so that the judges could reveal who the winners of the MasterChef competition were. While the competition was stiff, there could only be one winner…which was…Team DSS! After a little celebration, we began the final leg of our last hike of Yam L’Yam, which was a tough climb to the top of the mountain. We motivated ourselves with music, and were rewarded with a view of the trail we had come from and a Crusader fort. We spent some time admiring the view, sang some songs, and then walked to our campsite. We spent the rest of the evening and night eating some amazing onion soup, shawarma, and s’mores, all made by Chef Dor. Later in the night, Elias built us a nice fire and Boaz supplied us with some songs on the guitar, and we spent the night singing and sharing memories. It was a great way to end our last night of Yam L’Yam. 
    This morning (Thursday) we got the pleasure of waking up to Grace yelling “BOKER TOVVV!!!” I know that sounded sarcastic, but it’s not — it was really a great way to wake up! We had breakfast and packed up the campsite, and then went to get set up with bikes, which we were riding to Akhziv National park/the end of Yam L’Yam. We had a nice hour and half bike ride through nearby towns and banana fields. Through the last few minutes of the bike ride, “Heroes” by David Bowie was playing on the speaker we had, and Sophie Fischer, Boaz, and I were riding next to each other. The three of us started talking about how the song was making us feel a sense of finality. Yam L’Yam was over, Neshama was almost over, and high school was almost over. It was a bittersweet moment, but we just started smiling and whooping and laughing — just pure euphoria. I’ll remember all of Neshama, but that moment is one that will definitely stick with me forever. 
    And then, we made it. The Mediterranean Sea. We got off our bikes, changed into our bathing suits, and walked down to the water. At the beginning of Yam L’Yam, we had filled up a bottle with water from the Kineret, and Chava carried it in her backpack all the way to the Mediterranean. Once we got down to the water, Chava made a short speech, and then poured the Kineret water into the sea. We all jumped into the beautiful water and swam around for a while before having our final meal of Yam L’Yam, falafel, which was of course amazing. After lunch, it was time to say goodbye to Dor and Noam, and after a few selfies we got on the bus and headed back to Agron. 
    I went into Yam L’Yam pretty anxious and wasn’t completely sure what to expect. There were definitely some great moments as well as harder ones, but looking back, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had."
  • Monday, May 1 - Tuesday, May 2

    “Moday at 7 am, we woke up at Nachal Amud after our first night on Yam L’Yam. We had tea and put our stuff back on the bus so that we could head back to the campsite we started at yesterday and make breakfast. My group (the vegetarians) made cream of wheat, which turned out surprisingly well, thanks to the efforts of both the Daniels and Einat. 
    After breakfast, we started the hike, which was a lot of fun. Rob had warned us that Monday would be the hardest hike, but it was also one of our most exciting days. While we hiked, we played word games and talked, but we also helped each other climb over boulders and up the mountain. We took a couple breaks along the way, which afforded us the opportunity to admire the foliage and surrounding hills that were strangely reminiscent of South Mountain Reservation. Seeing a landscape so similar to and yet so different from home made me realize how grateful I am to have the opportunity to see new places and connect to other lands. 
    After a little more hiking, we stopped at the Zeved Spring, where there was sadly no water, but we took a lot of pictures (Sound of Music style) and saw a salamander! Later, we did some solo hiking, where we kept a few hundred meters apart on the path and listened to the sounds of nature uninterrupted by conversation. Once we arrived at our picnic spot, we made lunch and relaxed a bit. Then, back to hiking! 
    At this point, the ground had flattened out a lot, and there were far fewer obstacles in our way. About an hour after lunch, we took a break to play a rousing game of Duck Duck Goose, in which Rob played with no mercy. 
    After a little more hiking, we reached the campsite. As is customary, we had some of Dor’s delicious soup at around six and then had dinner about an hour later. There were quite a few Israeli teens at our campsite, most of whom were in a Mechina, or a pre-army program, and we made some new friends and got to practice our Hebrew. Then it was time to wash the dishes and go to bed (at least for me) or hang out around the fire and chat. 
    This morning (Tuesday) we had the same wake-up routine as yesterday, except that instead of boarding the bus to drive to the hike’s starting spot, we started  right away from the campsite. We hiked for half an hour and then made breakfast on some flat rocks next to our path. My group made cream of wheat and cooked apples, which Elad, our medic, said was the best of the three groups’ breakfasts. Yay us!
    We then continued hiking, and Rob eventually stopped us to begin a game. The three different cooking groups would each receive a walkie talkie as would the staff, and we would continue our hike while trying to only hear the other groups through the walkie talkies. We staggered our timing, with Group Sumsum (Sesame) going first, then Group DDS (Dor’s Secret Service), then my group, Group Autobus Yarok (Green Bus), and then the staff group, or Group Wawa. We followed the path and described landmarks through the walkie talkies to make sure we weren’t going to overtake each other. We had a lot of fun joking around with the walkie talkies and creatively describing the various landmarks around us. 
    Once we reached our stopping point, we took a break and spent some time reflecting on the past academic year with Rob. Looking back on the first semester of senior year when we’re now nearing the end of the second felt bittersweet to me. We’ve all grown so much that thinking about who we were in September feels like looking back on versions of ourselves from years ago. After our break, we did some more solo walking to get to our lunch spot. 
    After lunch, we continued our hike, but not before beginning our Twenty Questions Tournament. Raff organized the bracket, and we spent the rest of the hike competing to think of and guess random objects. Eventually, during dinner, it came down to the finals, which Raff and Daniel Shapiro emceed. And now, the awkward moment: I must confess that I was, in fact, the victor in the 2023 Neshama Twenty Questions Tournament. I do not wish to brag, but as the assigned summary writer, it is my job to report the facts. Certainly, it was not much of a victory on my part, as I struggled to name all of the planets while Amanda (my opponent) watched me squirm. It was only my remembering that Pluto could be considered a part of our solar system, regardless of its planetary status, that saved me. However, Amanda was very generous to me and she is a worthy opponent. 
    After dinner and washing dishes, we gathered around the fire and first shared our favorite moments from Neshama and then did a complement circle, sharing what we admire and love about each other. Writing this two minutes after receiving some of the sweetest, kindest complements of my life, it’s hard to articulate how grateful I am that we have such a tight-knit, supportive group. All I can say is that I can think of no other group I’d rather be with on this trip.”
  • Sunday, April 30

    “This morning was different from past neshama mornings. Today was the day we begin the long-anticipated yam-le-yam trek. (Or as some like to say lam-ya-mom). The morning was hectic, I woke up to Sophie by my bed after she had taken her last shower of the week and was ready for me to braid her hair for the dirty adventures we had to come. Between unlocking the second suitcase room, packing, and a little bit of Sabrina procrastination from the night before, everyone was exhausted. We got on the bus greeting Rob and Yehuda after the long host Shabbat apart, and now the Jerusalem crew was headed to pick up the rest of the Neshamaniks that enjoyed their weekend in Tel Aviv.  From there we began our ascent towards the Kinneret. The bus ride was used for a much-appreciated nap time, making the most of the two extra hours needed sleep in preparation for the beginning of our exciting and nerve-wracking adventure. 
    Upon arriving at a camp site, we instantly reunited with Dor- our tour guide and chef from our Desert survival. We once again got into three groups and distributed into our backpacks the food that would theoretically last us the whole week. We made lunch which included the neshama 31 special; fire burned tuna fish. 
    After fueling up it was time to begin the hike.  It was a fairly easy walk with the occasional slippery rock here and there. After 45 mins of hiking and meaningful chatter, we stopped and went over everyone’s feelings, highlighting the excitement and fear for the upcoming week outdoors.
    There were some very valid concerns many people shared including:
    The hiking 
    The cold 
    Bathroom conditions 
    Sleep conditions 
    And the food 
    However, it was impossible to feel fearful for long because Daniel Shapiro reminded us that “We are standing in all the nature together.” We all were there for each other understanding everyone would tolerate this week differently, while validating fears but also sharing all of the things we are excited to experience as a group. Some include:
    Camping with friends 
    Singing around the fire 
    Dor’s secret soup 
    Night vibes 
    We then continue our walk until we reach a small pool of water. Here we had our ceremony where we took an empty water bottle and elected Chava to do the honors of filling up the bottle with Kinneret water. We will carry this water throughout the week and once we finally arrive at the Mediterranean Sea, we will pour it in, celebrating what we just accomplished. 
    This pool of water is a spot that Boaz and I hiked in over the summer. As we began our incline to the campground we rekindled memories, comparing the differences in the hike over the summer and the same one 9 months later. This time with new people, and new knowledge. This forced us to view the environment around us differently, creating a whole new experience from the first. 
    Once we got to the camp site we got situated in our tents and then came out to the main area singing songs with Boaz’s guitar. Finally, the time had come. We gathered around and impatiently got in line for Dor’s amazing secret soup part 2! We had no problem finishing the soup and it was just as good as the last time. 
    After the soup, Gabi and Amanda were sent out on a mission to find wood for the fire. They came back with a pile of wood in which was “mamash sketchy” according to Omri. It looked as though it was taken right from the side of someone’s house, however after much investigation, finders’ keepers. 
    Dinner was delicious as expected and then as the air got colder, we began preparing our sleeping bags while drinking warm tea in between trips to the tent. It was a long day, so everyone was exhausted and went to sleep before 9:30! 

    Nonetheless a successful first day for Neshama 31 on yam-le-yam. 
    1 down 4 to go!

    Each day will test our limits and bring us closer together as we experience stepping out of our comfort zone together as a grade. Tune in tomorrow to hear about our second day!”
  • Monday, April 24 - Tuesday, April 25

    On Monday morning, we were surprised to see a“Beitar Jerusalem” branded black and yellow bus that will be our bus for the day, as Yehuda our usual bus driver couldn’t be with us. It was an interesting twist. From Jerusalem we drove for about 30 minutes to Castel National Park. While initially this seemed like simply a big park alongside the major highway connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, we quickly realized that the history of this park was immense. On our way up the hill, we learned more and more at each stop along the snake path leading up to the summit. In addition, there were fun games that we played at each curve along the way, which apparently IDF soldiers do when visiting the park, such as human checkers and other games that are a bit hard to explain without a diagram or picture… Anyway, as we climbed the hill, we oriented ourselves better and realized that this hill is directly adjacent to Highway 1, the main road connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. After learning more history, we realized that this road was not a recent construction, but it is actually a historic road and was fundamental to Israel’s history during the Independence war. We learned that Castel was a critical location during the Independence war since there were blockades on the major highway below that prevented food and essential medication from reaching Jerusalem, which became extremely dangerous for the people living in Jerusalem. We learned about all the battles that took place on the hill between the Israelis and the Arabs as they both tried to gain control of Castel. This was an important stop for us as we learn more about these soldiers who risked their lives to save Jerusalem eventually helping to lead the country to independence. 
    After visiting Castel, we drove a few minutes across the valley to the Kiryat Anavim military cemetery. There were tons of soldiers all learning in preparation from Yom HaZikaron that night and the next day. Even with essentially the entire cemetery full of people visiting, we walked around and learned how this cemetery is different from a traditional one. The graves often had at least 3 soldiers buried together, each showing where they came from, when they made Aliyah, where and how they died, and more. We were also all told to find one soldier in the cemetery and to decipher the Hebrew on the tombstone to understand the background of the individual. The soldier I found was named Yitzhak Davitsher and he made Aliyah from Poland in 1932, as a baby, and died in 1948 at the age of 16 years old. Each mishpacha then sat together on the grass and we went around sharing each soldier we found to honor their memory. The purpose of this was to have at least one specific soldier in mind as we go into Yom HaZikaron. 
    We continued to a restaurant in Abu Gosh that we all loved the last time we went to it, on March 8, Hummus Abu Saeed. Everything at this restaurant is phenomenal and we all love the hummus served there. We then went next door through a gate to a crusader church in Abu Gosh. This building and the surrounding garden were stunning. It truly felt like a European church except we were the only people there so it felt even more serene and beautiful. Abu Gosh is a pretty tightly packed Arab Village so it certainly didn’t feel real to have this expansive and quiet church right in the middle of town. The complex was surrounded by trees and a fence making it seem private and special. We went inside the church and noticed the amazing acoustics. As we know, Rob loves good acoustics, so we of course had to take advantage of them. We all sat down and started singing and our voices sounded spiritual echoing off the walls of the church. And don’t worry, Rob made sure to explain that we were being respectful by only singing excerpts from Psalms, like Tov L’hodot and the Ashrei, which are also said in the Christian religion. To conclude Erev Yom HaZikaron, we went to Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem for an evening event. To begin the event, we heard the siren that is played nationally throughout the country, and we all stood in silence together as we heard the sirens echo off all the mountains and cities in the distance. There were beautiful songs and sad stories told by several people who lost close family and friends who were in the IDF. The tekes was a beautiful way to honor those who have fallen and we continue to the next day as Yom HaZikaron continues. 
    On the next day, we arrived to Har Herzl, and it was absolutely flooded with people. The sirens once again went off but at 11 AM on this day. It is genuinely surreal to experience the sirens in Israel as you see cars stop on every major highway, busses and taxis pull over, and every person standing in silence for two minutes. It brings a resounding sense of unity throughout the country and it is very important to take this time out of a Memorial Day to just be in silence together. Walking through Har Herzl surrounded by tens of thousands of people packed together shows how many people truly care and have connections to this Memorial Day. It is a sad day for the entire country and honoring the soldiers who have fallen like we did by going through the military cemetery in Har Herzl was certainly important. 
    Lead by Omri, we had an activity after lunch where we discussed how we remember events that occurred in our past. It was quite a fascinating discussion since we realized that we attribute certain emotions immediately after experiences in our past and that is how we remember them. This discussion about how our memory works as humans made us realize how we should approach future experiences. It is important to make the most of an experience by living in the moment and this also applies to being around someone throughout their life. After a loved one passes, which we focus on during this day of Yom HaZikaron, all our memories with that person unite and we are left with a big bubble of emotions and images with them. We must take every moment with our family and friends with gratitude and make the most of every single day as we truly are lucky to live the way we do and getting to spend time with our loved ones. 
    On a more positive note, our night before Yom HaAtzmaut was something we were all looking forward to. As Rob gathered us in the amphitheater to explain how the night will go at 7 PM, I looked around and saw the buildings of Jerusalem surrounding us and felt an energy all around. It was as if the spirit and joy was flowing from the people of Jerusalem through the air. We all went to a beautiful ceremony with thousands of people where a Maariv and Hallel service was recited, but with much more dancing than what is traditionally done for the Tefillah. This made the transition from Yom HaZikaron to Yom HaAtzmaut quite interesting since we were still saying prayers but began to lift our spirits by dancing before the night of fun began. 
    After the ceremony completed, the excitement became radiant and we made our way over to Mamila Mall and onwards up to Ben Yehuda Street. The streets were flooded with people so that the trams could not even run down the road. There was so much excitement for Israel’s 75th birthday all around and this continued as we went to the main performance in the park just across the street from the hostel. Famous Israeli artists performed in this park and the fields were jam-packed with thousands of people so that you could barely get in and out. The music was loud, and the lights were bright and everyone was incredibly excited to celebrate this joyous occasion of Israel’s birthday. 
    Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut are back-to-back days, which is quite controversial. Life drastically switches from the saddest day of the year to the happiest day of the year in the same night. Most Israelis have a connection to Yom HaZikaron since it is very possible that their family or friends or someone they know closely had passed away in combat. This makes the transition particularly difficult. Just one day later, the entire country and Jewish people around the world celebrate how incredibly lucky the Jewish people are to be able to call Israel their home, no matter where one might live across the globe.
  • Sunday, April 23

    “Another great day today on Neshama! After a restful Shabbat filled with great vibes (the best one in my opinion), today we sadly left Kibbutz Deganya. After savoring the last breakfast there (getting my fill of chocolate pudding), we got on the bus and drove to a farm called חווה ואדם  (Adam and Eve) ready to do some work in the field. We even got to spend time with Rob’s son there, Avinoam! We split into groups, and all had different jobs. In my group, we helped harvest garlic and celery and helped clear the weeds in the soil. I had a lot of fun and definitely got my hands dirty! After all that hard work, we drove to a nearby shopping mall in Modiin for a pizur lunch. After searching for a while, me and my group found a pizza place that was AMAZING, almost as good as New York pizza, which says a lot. For dessert, I got a drink from Aroma called Iced Shoko, which was basically an iced chocolate drink, similar to Dunkin Donuts frozen hot chocolate. After this wonderful lunch, we drove back to the farm and split into two groups. First, we received a tour of the farm, where many Israelis and Americans spend gap years. On the tour, we learned about how the farm generates energy, how they make compost, and about the plants on the farm. After the tour, we had the opportunity to make herbal cosmetics on the farm which I thought was so cool! We made a special cream that is soothing for the skin made of beeswax, oil, and my group decided to add something called hadas a bit of lavender for scent. After a busy afternoon, I was excited to go back to Jerusalem because we haven’t been at Agron for at least 2 weeks. It’ll be nice to be back! After taking some time to relax and eat dinner, the day concluded with an activity led by the madrichim in honor of Yom Hazikaron. Each madrich chose a song about a specific solider that died while fighting for the state of Israel. I found this activity to be incredibly meaningful, and a unique experience, especially because each of the madrichim also served in the army. This made me feel a closer connection to Yom Hazikaron. It will definitely be a powerful day for all of us, especially because it is most of our first times being in Israel for Yom Hazikaron. 
    I learned a lot today, especially about the importance of taking care of the environment. There were 2 things in particular that stuck out to me today. This morning, after working on the farm, Rina, the woman who helped lead our activity this morning said that something really important in life is “forming a community together through individual work”. This sentence resonated with me because it made me think about the strong community that we have formed on Neshama, which I am so grateful for. I am really excited to continue to strengthen this community over these last few weeks of the trip and strengthen many bonds with my classmates! The second thing that stuck out to me today was in the afternoon, on the tour of the farm, Sara, our tour guide talked about where trash ends up when it goes to a landfill and why it is bad for the environment. I never had an interest in compost, but this inspired me to become more curious and interested in compost. 
  • Friday, April 21 - Saturday, April 22

    Tali wrote about Neshama’s experience on Friday and Shabbat:
    “Taking some time to get used to the chill in Gamla National Park, Neshama embarked on one more hike to conclude a fun-filled week in the North. With a break or two to observe the site’s signature vultures above us, we headed to a lookout spot and began learning the story of Gamla, which took place on the steep, pointed hill before us. Recorded by Josephus, Gamla was an ancient Jewish city in the Golan. Built on the hill for protection, the city was ultimately seized by the Romans (a story fairly similar to the story of Masada). We saw the remains of the synagogue, oil presses, and a mikvah. Before heading back to the bus, we sang a niggun, and after a few minutes of intense stair-climbing, we boarded the bus to head to Mitzpa Shalom-Kfar Haruv.

    There was a gorgeous view of the Golan, and a perfect vantage point from which to discuss the Six Day War and its relation to the area surrounding us. Especially heading into Yom HaZikaron, it’s always important for Neshama to understand more of Israel’s history. 
    After a pizzur lunch, Neshama had a unique opportunity to meet early pioneers. At the Kinneret Cemetery, where many early pioneers are buried, Betty, Boaz, Sabrina, and Raff took the lead in teaching fellow Neshamaniks about the lives of four pioneers. I gained new appreciation for how Israel’s pioneers persevered through difficult circumstances and remained focused on their commitment to the creation of a Jewish state. Following the same themes, we read a passage from A.D. Gordon’s “Logic for the Future,” which outlines how we should connect back to nature and “get our hands dirty” in order to connect back to ourselves. This was a core tenet of Labor Zionism, and an important reminder for all of us.
    Shabbat this week was filled with student-planned activities, beginning with Shabbat-O-Gram exchanging planned by Sabrina and Grace. It was great to begin Shabbat reading thoughtful notes from our friends. After Kabalat Shabbat and a delicious dinner, Sophie F., Daniel Schiffman, Shayna and I led a spirited Shira (singing), a wonderful memory and Neshama moment.

    In Deganya Bet’s Beit Knesset, Daniel Shapiro began leading Shabbat Shacharit. Sophie F. continued with a beautiful Hallel for Rosh Chodesh, followed by a Torah service with excellent Torah readers. After Shacharit, we had lunch and headed off for a fun and relaxing Shabbat afternoon. Bringing back a Class of 2023 favorite, many Neshamaniks played a game of foosketball (football-basketball), while others played card games with the madrichim. After some downtime and rejuvenating Shabbat napping, we gathered for snacks and an activity planned by Daniel Shapiro and Ilan. We divided into three teams to debate a variety of topics. Who knew debating whether we’d rather be a duck, goose, or swan could get so heated?
    We concluded Shabbat with some more singing and havdalah. We left for our dinner pizzur, excited for the week to come. Shavua Tov!”
  • Wednesday, April 19 - Thursday, April 20

    Sophie’s update. 
    "I started this glorious Wednesday morning with Grace, Kelly, and Shayna, as we all scrambled to make it from our room to breakfast on time. Breakfast was a feast of delicious foods, including a fancy coffee maker, which I made sure to stop at. After a quick bite to eat, I packed some sandwiches for lunch and made my way to the bus. The bus ride was a full hour, to Neshama 2023’s joy. We love a good bus ride. 
    Yehuda, our Nahag, drove us all the way up to the Israeli-Lebanon Border where we met Sarit, creator of Alma Center, a center for education about military and political situations on Israel’s Northern borders. We were given binoculars and were able to see exactly where Israel ended, and Lebanon began. Then, we went to Alma Center Headquarters where we split into five groups of five and simulated decision making on the Northern Border crises. Each group acted as a different Israeli Government branch and debated solutions to a few different security crises. I had never really understood Israeli government, so it was super interesting to learn about its inner workings. 
    After the simulation, we went rafting on the Jordan River. The water was a bit chilly, but that didn’t stop us from jumping from raft to raft and “engaging in some moderate horseplay and rough housing” as Boaz would say. After we finished rafting, we all got our ice cream fix and hit the road for the Helicopter Tragedy Memorial site. Our very own Tali and Isaac became our tour guides and led us around the site. I learned so much from them and was really impressed with their tour guide skills. The memorial was really moving and special. 
    We went back to beautiful Deganya Bet and ate dinner at the kibbutz. We had our first Zman Mishpacha since coming back from break where we discussed our emotions and goals of the last month of Neshama. 
    I’m very excited for tomorrow’s activities! Stay tuned! 
    Welcome to another beautiful day on Neshama! Like yesterday, my roommates and I struggled to climb out of our cozy beds and get ready for the day. But we were all excited for today’s activities, so the struggle to motivate was less than yesterday. 
    Just like yesterday, I went to breakfast and ran to the coffee machine before getting the yummy food. I made some sandwiches for lunch and moseyed on over to the bus.  We had a short bus ride to Yehudiya National Park for a 3 hour hike. We walked for a while before reaching two amazing pools of water. Of course, because of the promise I made to GOA alum, Michael Lurie, I went into both. The Every-Body-of-Water challenge is still going strong! The water was really refreshing, and I loved jumping in with my swim buddy, Amanda. However, my favorite thing about the water was floating on my back and looking up at the beautiful blue sky. I felt so lucky to be in this beautiful place with all my friends. 
    After spending about an hour in the water, we dried off and continued walking. Amanda had the genius idea to play Hamilton while we walked, so naturally a rap battle ensued. Once we finished the hike, we bought more ice cream and prayed Mincha. Then, we drove to a nearby beach and dipped our feet in the Kineret. I also read some of my book and tanned in the grass next to my friends. 
    We went back to Deganya Bet for a bit before heading back out for a Pizur dinner in Tiberius. Boaz, Amit, and I ate some delicious kebabs and walked around the streets of Tiberius. 
    Now, as I write this, I am sitting around a picnic table with some of my fellow Neshamaniks as we discuss the trip, our futures, and our past GOA experiences. Today has been one of my top five Neshama days of all time and has made me so grateful for this trip. It has been an all around perfect day and I am so happy to have had this experience. I cannot wait to spend Shabbat in the North and look forward to returning to Jerusalem this coming Sunday. Shabbat Shalom!”
  • Wednesday, April 26 - Thursday, April 27

    Wednesday morning, we had our first late wake up in a while, so we all woke up in a pleasant mood! After a long day of commemorating Yom Hazikaron and celebrating Israel’s Birthday at night, it was nice to wake up and not have a lot on the agenda. Around noon the grade headed out to the park where we set up for a BBQ. We listened to Hadag Nachash on Ilan’s speaker; in the same spot we had just seen them in concert the night before! Overall the vibes were incredible; sitting picnic style, eating fresh fruit, and reminiscing on fun memories from the night before. The rest of the day was pretty smooth sailing. I went to Mimila mall and got Aroma, then slept for the rest of the day. By the time I woke up it was around 5:30 and we had zman mishpacha. Our Mishpacha debriefed Yom Hazikaron and had a meaningful discussion on the differences we felt experiencing Yom Hazikaron in Israel for the first time. 
    On Thursday, we visited Ammunition Hill for a more in-depth tour and understanding of the battles that were fought there during the Six- Day- War. Being here on erev Yom Hazikaron for the ceremony and then coming back to learn more history put a lot of ideas into perspective as well as helped me internalize the experiences of each soldier and trying to understand them for their individual stories, not just their uniting commonalities of being soldiers fighting in battles. We walked around a spherical room that displayed hundreds of the soldiers that died in the battle. There was also a glass structures around that had many of the artifacts that were used during the time. One included a passage from a journal in which our Madrich Omri translated into “Loose lips, sink ships.” It was super fascinating to see! Later we roamed around Machane Yehudah market where I tried not to get lured into every single food place, however I was able to get free halva covered pecans so I guess it all worked out.
  • Monday, April 17 - Tuesday, April 18

    Ilan wrote the update for Monday’s rappelling adventure followed by Yom Hashoa (Tuesday):
    “Lean back”, the man holding the rope told me. The harness squeezed painfully around my thighs, but I did as I was told. As I scaled down the irregular cliff-face, pebbles loosened, rolled, and then fell down into the crater, the bottom of which being a hundred feet below. Amanda and Amit (the boy) waited for me underneath while my classmates cheered me on from above; the man with the rope told me to straighten my legs. In quick spurts I released and then grabbed the slack, my head whipping back with every change in momentum. Suddenly, I realized that there was nowhere left to put my feet - the mountain carving into itself like the sides of a jagged vase. “Do not use your feet!”, I heard from somewhere above. Taking short and deep breaths, I leaned back. Cool shade crept in to loosen my face, and my legs, and then my feet. And then I floated. It felt completely unnatural, but I could tell that the hard part was over. For the first time I saw the town in the distance through a massive hole in the right side of the crater. The roads formed a figure-eight around sunny houses and bright green fields, as cars seemed to move in slow motion through the thick surrounding trees. And now it was time to drift. Down, but constantly being pulled upwards.

    It took more than an hour for the rest of the grade to join us at the base (some coming down more gracefully than others). We watched in awe as Isabelle swiftly maneuvered her way down to us, and cringed as Boaz lost his footing and swung to his knees. We heard a scream as Kelly’s hair painfully got caught somewhere in the tangles of the ropes and harness. The growing number of us waiting below weren’t completely safe either, the tufts of sharp nettles growing haphazardly in between cracks in rocks. Not watching where she put her hands, Rachel plopped down on a small gathering of leaves. For the next 30 minutes, burning red dots seared her palm; after that we were all much more careful. Last to come down was Rob, and after a
    quick water break, we exited the cave in the direction of the town. We were all out of breath as Elias read us the story of Ehud Goldwasser. In 2006, while patrolling the Lebanese border, Ehud was ambushed and then abducted by Hezbollah terrorists. He and his fellow soldier Eldad Regev were made hostages. This eventually sparked the second Lebanon war, and in 2008, a series of bombing campaigns from both sides. Ehud and Regev were killed sometime amidst the rocket fire. Israel claimed Lebanon responsible for their deaths, while Lebanon shifted the blame onto Israel. The day he was taken was Ehud’s last day of reserve duty.

    Kibbutz Lohamei HaGetaot was founded in 1949 by the survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Within the Kibbutz was a Holocaust memorial museum by the same name, the first in Israel. The museum seemed unusually busy with visitors, but then I realized that tomorrow was Yom HaShoa. As we made our way through dark hallways and shadowed exhibits, I realized that I wasn’t experiencing hardly any of the same sadness I felt more than a month ago in Poland. Memorials usually feel hopeless, memories taking precedence over action. In the museum, resistance and remembrance coalesced. They fought for their life, and most lost their lives, but at least they got to choose.

    We found ourselves in a dark room with a massive cage of metal bars placed squarely in the center. On the far wall, short quotes translated into Hebrew, English, and Arabic cycled through a slow projector, giving each phrase time to leave its imprint: “I was a tool in the hands of stronger forces”… “I had to follow orders”… “it was according to my oath of allegiance”… “a mere subordinate”. We learned later that they were all spoken by Adolf Eichmann during his trial in 1961. He did not deny his crimes, instead choosing to shift the blame onto higher ranking members of the party. Only there was almost no one higher up than Eichmann. Maybe you could make the (weak) argument that the average Nazi soldier was just following orders, but not
    Eichmann. Adolf Eichmann made the rules. There was no one but him, overseeing mass genocide and ethnic cleansing. He saw us weak, and he saw our trust, and cut the rope.

    In the morning, the siren for Yom HaShoa blared for two minutes while we were in Sfat. We stood in silence and reflected on the Shoa, taking in the views of the city. The birds were less still, blindly circling the sky as if to get as far away from the sound as possible. Later, we toured two ancient synagogues, learning about their deep connections to Jewish history. The first was the studying place of Joseph Karo, the creator of the Shulchan Aroch (the Sparknotes version of the Gemara). The second was a recreation of a famous synagogue in Spain, some even believing that the original lifted, and flew all the way to Sfat. After a Pizur, we meditated with a goofy Hasidic man, singing songs and learning about Jewish Mysticism.
    We ended our day in Sfat listening to a Kabbalic artist explain to us the basics of Kabbalah, the much more spiritual facet of Judaism. By inputting the sound waves of a shofar into a computer
    software, he was able to create beautiful paintings. He gave us a chance to buy some art, but I’m pretty sure everyone passed.
    Throughout the day, Rob repeatedly asked us what we thought the meaning of life is. Instead of putting more effort into my summary, I decided to pool everyone’s answers together into a fun
    little list. Those that didn’t answer I ambushed later in their rooms. It is not in any specific order: 

    SadieThe meaning of life is becoming the best version of yourself and helping better the world around you.
    Talia SilbermanTo me, no one is born with a meaning to their lives. As people grow up and go through life experiences, they discover their meaning of life and what they should be doing in
    their lives.
    RachelI think the meaning to life is to be the best version of yourself in order to help everyone around you be the best version of themselves and leave the world better then you found it.
    GabiI don’t really know if life has a meaning but if it does have one I think it’s to experience it to the fullest. There’s so many people and each person is unique, and I think it’s important just
    to live life in their own way and hopefully leave a positive impact once they’re gone. I don’t really know how to explain it well lol but that’s the gist of it.
    Daniel Shapiro: To improve the lives of others in the short time we have upon this verdant orb.
    Shayna GoldwasserMy answer is idk and 42. Like I have no answer and I'm fine with that.
    Sabrina SmoklerThere are two ways in which life can go: always searching for something greater and never feeling fulfilled until you’ve reached your end goal, or following a code of values you choose to follow and allowing yourself to thrive within those values.
    IsaacTo have kids.
    SamI think the meaning of my life is to make art to improve myself and the world around me.
    DashI think that there is no meaning of life. That we are here for no rhyme or reason whatsoever. We are simply just here by chance. So make the most of it and don’t let someone
    else tell you how to live your life.
    Raff: Meaning of life is to fulfill your dreams and take the right (moral) path to achieving them.
    Kelly: Spreading kindness and treating people with respect.
    Isabelle: I think the meaning of life is to leave the world better than you found it, even if incrementally.
    Other DanielMeaning of Life:
    1. Fulfillment for one’s self.
    2. Making an impact on the world (anything from a huge discovery to the smallest act of kindness).
    BoazThere is no meaning, it is on you to search for fulfillment in life
    Sophia: To experience and understand as much as you can.
    Tali: Appreciating our natural capacity for kindness. Recognizing this capacity in not only yourself, but in others. Action will spout from gratefulness and trust.
    Grace: The meaning of life is finding happiness and continuing on your legacy in the world.
    Sophieto add a little bit more goodness and kindness into the world, no matter how big or small the gesture.
    SaraThe meaning of life is to be kind.
    Elias: I think that the meaning of life is for people to make a lasting impact on the world while they’re here, hopefully positive, and I also think that as long as the human can be raised in a decent environment, it is our responsibility to have kids to create future generations.
    Amanda: The meaning of life is to be happy and live life to the fullest and experience everything.
    Betty: There is absolutely no inherent meaning, but in order to effectively live, we must first look inward and learn about ourselves intimately, since you’re put on the planet with yourself as sole
    eternal companion. so what do you care about, what informs your behaviors, what will you spend your life pursuing? etc. and only when you’ve established a solid relationship and foundation with yourself can you really look outward to find direction, make genuine connections with others, & learn how to channel your passions - sort of making a center of balance, for everything to revolve around. so, otherwise short, “know thyself”.
  • Sunday, April 16

    Daniel Shapiro:
    “We began today with a pleasant stroll along the Mediterranean coast line, beginning at Hof Bonim and concluding at Hof Dor. As a person with somewhat of a vested interest in the geological sciences, seeing the rocky coastline, with its weathered rocks and shell dotted rocks made appreciate anew this wonderful globe we all rest upon. The sea was calm and a most serene shade of blue. After this most mediative experience, we then boarded our bus and set off for the small town of Zikhron Yaakov, a community founded by the first aliyah in the late 1800s. There we perused shops and sampled the local frozen milk confectioneries. After our bellies had been filled with sugar and delight, we set off once more for the port city of Haifa, specifically to visit the Baha’i Gardens. Upon our arrival at the garden’s, we were greeted with a most beautiful sight. A multitiered garden flowed down the hillside before us. The spring foliage in full bloom. We were then given a tour of the site, and proceeded to learn about its history, how it was fully completed in 2001, as well as how the remains of the first Baha’i prophet, known as Bab, were interred in the shrine there. We also learned about Baha’i beliefs, such as their desire for humankind to unite, and for humanity to progress and improve. We ended our first foray into Israel’s northern half by sojourning at ANA Akko for the night. That is where I leave this entry, the experience of today’s events was a splendid way to get back into the swing of things so to speak, after the extended leave of Passover break. Oh, it was also Boaz’s birthday, happy birthday!”
  • Friday, April 14 - Saturday, April 15

    Sara wrote about Friday and Shabbat:
    “I woke up Friday morning so excited for the day ahead! I packed my beach bag and ate breakfast with my friends. The group then got on the bus to attend a graffiti tour in Florentine. The graffiti tour showed us tons of different cool artwork! We saw pieces from a range of artists and then at the end we got to do our own graffiti as a group! I saw many pieces of graffiti I liked, including a piece of pizza, a silly looking dog, and a wall of hearts.
    After the tour, we took the bus to Shuk HaCarmel and everyone was so excited to be back! This shuk definitely has a different vibe than the shuk in Jerusalem and it was quite busy! There was a lot going on with everyone in a rush getting food before shabbat or just doing some shopping. For lunch, I shared nachos with some of my friends and enjoyed a mushroom bereka, both were delicious. I did a lot of walking around and taking the environment in and thinking about how there is nothing like the shuk in New Jersey and how special it is. We also got to see the Nachalat Binyamin Street craft fair and admired the beautiful crafts made by many talented individuals. We hopped on the bus again and some of the group went back to the hostel to relax while some others and I went to the beach! The water was too rough to go into, but we all laid on the sand and walked around the Tel Aviv port. When I’m at the beach I’d rather sit in the sand instead of go in the water, so I had a great time relaxing and listening to music. 
    Later that night we had Kabbalat Shabbat and Rob’s wife and kids joined us! Everyone was so excited to meet his family and reunite with his daughter Daliah who was our madricha on Na’ale! We all welcomed in Shabbat together and then sat for a nice dinner. I love how you can hear everyone laughing and chatting while recapping the past week and catching up after break during dinner. It is so nice to all be back together! My mishpaha planned Friday night’s Oneg Shabbat activity, we played “where the wind blow”s and did a version of “speed dating” and got everyone talking about the past four years in high school and what is to come in the next four years at college! 
    Saturday morning everyone slept in and hung out in their rooms. We then had lunch as a group, there was a big family also there so the dining hall was super busy. I always try to sit with new people at meals so I can hear from everyone. After we had the choice to hangout in our room or go to the park. I went to the park and hung out with some of my friends while we enjoyed the nice weather and admired all the cute dogs that walked by. We then had Mincha where everyone did a great job leading and reading Torah. Amit’s mishpaha led a game of follow the leader and we all had a lot of fun. Then we said goodbye to shabbat with Havdala and celebrated Amanda’s birthday! Everyone had a great weekend in Tel Aviv but we can’t wait to go to the North and for the week ahead!”
  • Thursday, April 13

    “The dough became smoother, less knotty, the more we kneaded it. In a way, the dough represented us Neshamaniks; unformed and uncooked, taking shape with each passing day of experience. However, the egg-and-flour compound would later be boiled into pasta which we would eat and digest, so that parallel may not have actually been completely sound.  

    Such was the process in our culinary workshop, a former warehouse in Tel Aviv that now gives youth groups the opportunity to learn how to cook classic Italian meals, from fettuccini to tortellini. Since Pesach had ended the previous day, Rob had deliberated, there would be no better way to celebrate than with literal pounds of carbohydrates (he was right). 

    Now, I’ve a confession to make: I suck at cooking. Between a lifelong case of dyspraxia and an omnipresent anxiety nipping at my heels, the fast pace of most kitchens can sometimes freak me out. Nevertheless, I did my best to adapt to the situation. As I flattened dough and chopped veggies, I felt a thrill that only really comes from looking your insecurities in the face and saying: “No. Cut it out.” 
    Our food was exquisite. Noodles topped with rosé sauce, lushly prepared salads, and trusty slices of pizza filled the table. It tasted even better than it looked, probably because we’d all helped make it. I may not be a five-star chef, or even a two star one (alright, I’m not even a chef), but I believe that meals have an intense and profound power to bring people together. 

    I’ll admit, it was tempting to succumb to the resulting food coma, but with our visit to Save a Child’s Heart coming next, I fought through the drowsiness to hear a fascinating, heartwarming, and melancholy story. 

    Save a Child’s Heart was founded by Ami Cohen, an American heart surgeon who made Aaliyah and built the hospital from the ground up. Using volunteer surgeons and large donations, he created a hub of technological innovation, saving the lives of children from around the world. Thousands arrived at the hospital in poor condition, and thousands left with excellent cardiac health. 

    In 2001, he died of a heart attack while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. An ironic and cruel fate.  

    And yet a question I had to ask myself is: was it really all that sad? I thought about it as I played soccer with one of the hospital’s patients. He was clearly a fan of the sport and had memorized the technique behind the game, but at the present moment he was a little too clumsy to back up the knowledge he’d worked to accrue. Cohen had spent the better part of his life fixing the hearts of young people, and in a strange way, this might have meant he didn’t have enough strength to fix his own, older heart. He might’ve died so that this kid in front of me, who was kicking the ball with pent-up skill, could live to become the greatest athlete of all time.  

    I left with more questions than answers. But such is the Way of The Dough. We are all unformed and uncooked, but each day we take a bit more shape.” 
  • Monday, April 3

     "We began the day in the cover of darkness to watch the sunrise from the top of Masada. Einat sported a snake braid (created by yours truly) to match the snake path we followed. At the top, we watched the sun rise over the distant mountains and celebrated the victory of reaching the top. We walked through the partly reconstructed ruins of Herod's palace and learned about the Roman faceoff with the Jewish rebels hiding in the abandoned palace in 73 CE. In the end, the Jews committed mass suicide to avoid capture. We descended Masada and with our legs quaking, we stumbled into a breakfast buffet already serving matzah--what a reward! 
    After a short bus ride, we arrived at the Vert Hotel, a fancy resort alongside pool 5 of the Dead Sea. We had so much fun floating, especially Elias who stood completely straight without touching the bottom without any effort: "Guys! Guys! It's like I'm a buoy!" We alternated between the sea, the pool, the sauna, and the jacuzzi. Again, we were served an already kosher for Passover meal. I tried all of the cakes--3/10 were edible and possibly enjoyable. 
    Exhausted from the hike and the water, we drove back to the kibbutz we were staying at to nap. After dinner, some of us made a variety of charosets, the Ashkenazi one with Apples, the Moroccan one with lots of Dates and another one with lots of nuts.  
    For this morning, we had a choice between an easy hike and a hard hike. Some people chose the hard hike, but I listened to my heart and soul (and the hour later wake up time) and chose the easy hike. We took a short stroll to a small waterfall and played in it for an hour. On the way back, we merged with the rest of our group. We enjoyed a lovely, prepacked lunch at the entrance and exchanged stories of our trials and tribulations. 

    We are now on our way to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to disperse for Passover break. We'll all miss each other but it will be nice to see friends and family."
  • Sunday, April 2

    “The day began with me mistakenly having a near panic attack over a missing bag that was in fact not missing. After an 8am breakfast, we then embarked on the bus towards our hike at Nachal Arugot in the Ein Gedi Reserve, where upon arrival, I again mistakenly believed that I left a different bag on the sidewalk in front of the hostel (it was in fact on the bus’ overhead shelf). 

    We had visited Ein Gedi on Naale, but in the four years since, the memory of how staggering the reserve was had faded. The trail follows a water stream up a canyon, shaded by trees and plants with incomprehensibly grand cliffs surrounding it on all sides. The trail is filled with multiple pools and even a waterfall for much needed breaks during the fairly taxing hike. 

    Afterwards, we visited and prayed at the Ancient Synagogue of Ein Gedi — it’s mind-boggling to contemplate how the structure dates back to the Byzantine rule in the land, particularly in an oasis in the middle of a desert. 

    Finally, we checked into the Kibbutz Almog, a serene community with adorable guest houses. Neshama was thrilled to discover that the outdoors pool was already open in April. 

    After dinner, we had an educational session on the history of Masada and analyzed Josephus’ account of the siege, as we will be out the door by 4am tomorrow to hike up Masada and watch the sunrise.” 
  • Thursday, March 30

    Boaz wrote the update:
    march 30
    After waking up, I quickly packed and made my way to breakfast. At breakfast, Ilan and I presented Rob with a leftover pita we had saved from our culinary extravaganza last night. Rob kindly rebuffed, saying he’s on a diet and that the pita was probably stale and hard. Ilan quietly took a bite of the pita and found that Rob was very correct. 
    After breakfast I took one last look at the beautiful views of the sun kissed Jordanian mountains and hopped on the bus. We had a two-hour bus ride to the city of Dimona. The ride had endless views of desert and gray sky, every once in a while, broken up by a date farm or F-16 fighter jets. 

    Following a quick stop at a mall for snacks, we arrived in Dimona. Rob explained that Dimona is an interesting city. It’s fully in the middle of nowhere and received a lot of money from the state in the fifties to develop itself. During that time, and still today, a lot of poorer people and new immigrants go to make a new life. It’s also home to Israel’s nuclear research facility, where they definitely don’t make the 40-80 nuclear weapons that Israel does not have.

    At our destination, the “Peace Village” of the African Hebrew Israelites, our guide, dressed in flamboyant African dress, welcomed us to his village and to Northeast Africa. He explained that “Middle East” is a colonial term from the British Empire and that in reality, tectonic plate-wise, we are technically in Northeast Africa. 
    We were given a quick tour on the way to the common space where we sat down. The space was decorated with pink and gray ribbons everywhere and a couple hanging plastic disco balls. Our guide began explaining their movement. They believe that around 70 CE, when thousands of Roman centurions invaded Judaea from the north to squash the Jewish rebellion, Jewish rebels fled south to Egypt and Ethiopia. Carrying their religion and culture only in their hearts and minds, these rebels slowly made their way across Africa, eventually reaching West Africa hundreds of years later, just in time for the slave trade to pick up. And who better to take as slaves than the Jewish newcomers? These supposedly Jewish slaves came to America and the rest of the story we all know. 

    In 1966, in his apartment in Chicago, their movement’s founder had a forty-five second long visit from the angel Gabriel who told him to make his way to the holy land. He gathered a group of 400 people willing to make the journey with him and made their way to Liberia in 1967. In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. In his last speech, he made reference to Black people going to the promised land, which their movement took as a message to go to Israel. In Israel, they were not recognized as citizens until the 90s, and lived in poverty without access to schools or healthcare. Now they have both. 

    They believe that they are not Jews, but Judaeans, living the way Judaeans lived. They say they are not religious, but spiritual. They call themselves Messianic, but instead of believing in a single Messiah, they believe that any person can be a Messiah. Pretty cool, I guess. They also vehemently disagree with many of the views of Black Hebrew Israelites in America, which is good.

    Preventative health is of utmost importance to them. They are vegan, use as little salt as possible, and have weeks where they don’t eat any added sugar and weeks where they only eat uncooked food. We got a tour of their garden with all their medicinal herbs like aloe, worm root, and the moringa tree we ate from yesterday. We later learned that they did not vaccinate against coronavirus. After some questions, we all got up because it was time to dance. At first there were some grumbles about not wanting to and having two left feet and yadda yadda yadda but soon enough, everyone was dancing. Even Rob got into it, dancing in the middle of our circle.
    We then toured their village, seeing their store, homes, memorial park, and their basketball court, where every person who tried to score a basket utterly failed. Oy. Not our best look.

    After the tour we went back to the common room and ate a vegan lunch of a sandwich with seitan-based salami. Pretty tasty. 
    Once we ate it was time for my favorite activity, a long bus drive. After about an hour of views of the rolling Judaean desert hills and the Dead Sea, we arrived at Kfar HaNokdim, where we would have our Bedouin tent experience. We dropped our bags off in our shared tent and explored the place, seeing their dogs, cats, bunnies, and peacocks. 

    We gathered inside a tent where we were to experience Bedouin hospitality. A Bedouin man adorned with a keffiyeh explained to us the rules of Bedouin hospitality and answered our questions while another man handed out cups of sweetened tea and strong cardamom-spiced coffee. Some people didn’t like the coffee. I drank theirs.

    After the tent and some free time, we ate a scrumptious dinner and some of us met a very enthusiastic group leader of a Birthright trip. For those of you who have watched the show Community, he acted and looked exactly like Dean Pelton, just with a long beard. 
    Once we ate, we gathered around a campfire built and controlled by Daniel Shapiro. I brought my acoustic guitar and the lyrics of “Here Comes the Sun” and “Ventura Highway” filled the night. Slowly, we left the campfire and went to sleep on the foam mattresses in our tents.”
  • Friday, March 31 - Saturday, April 1

    Our morning began in the Bedouin village of Kfar Hanokdim where we spent the night all sleeping in one big tent that was able to accommodate our entire grade. While it was no five-star hotel and many of us spent the night shivering, that didn’t stop some of us from declaring the experience as “glamping”. We woke up to the sounds of birds chirping and ducks quacking and we emerged from our luxury slumber (by and large) well rested. On this trip I have uncharacteristically been a bit of an early riser, and spent my morning before the rest of the group woke up observing the goats kept in the village with Raff and Amit and we even got to see one of the goats get milked. 
    Following a solid tent breakfast, we were ready to seize the day and experience all that Neshama had to throw at us. Today, the desert beckoned us, and following an information and safety video, we mounted camels to explore the vast and majestic desert landscape surrounding the village. As we rode through the desert, we wasted no time growing connections to our camels, giving them creative names such as Yehuda and Lawnmower. The experience was intimate, unforgettable and most of all fun, reminding us of the way our ancestors traveled in the past and the long journeys that they went on. Following the camel rides we packed up, said goodbye to the massive tent and hopped back on the bus. 
    Our journey continued with a visit to the home of Einat, one of our Madrichim. Once we arrived in her hometown of Meitar I was struck by the beauty and modernity of the area. Immediately after walking through the gates to Einat’s home, I was given a warm and hospitable welcome by her family (her mother, father, and of course, her dog Milky). We were greeted with a great table of food to help ourselves to and the beautiful garden and home where Einat spent her years after moving back to Israel from New York. We sat down and listened to stories of Einat’s upbringing and family, learning more about our madricha than we ever had before. We heard stories from her mother, father and sister as well as Einat herself. Our visit to the hometown of one of the counselors we have grown so close to was a great glimpse into the life of Israeli families in 2023. To me, it was a valuable experience as we got to learn about what it’s really like to just be a normal family in this country without politics or the religious aspects of life being a main focus, unlike many other parts of the trip. 
    Following our quick visit to Meitar, we continued our trip back to Jerusalem for Shabbat, we made a stop at Machne Yehuda market for the second time this trip. Immediately after stepping in, we were immersed in a sea of colors, smells, and sounds, a cacophony of experiences that tantalized our senses. The market was a microcosm of Israel's diversity, with stalls selling everything from fresh produce to handmade crafts. As we forged our way through the large crowd all confined to a very compact area, I felt like a was getting the true Israeli market experience.  Finally, we returned to our home base of Agron to prepare for the Shabbat ahead. 
    Shabbat was a very relaxing one. The day began with sleeping in late, which is a rarity on this trip. I personally spent the day in my bed catching up on rest, broken up by a classic Agron Shabbat lunch that weirdly features ice cream. For a Shabbat activity my family, led by Amit (the girl) ran an activity that was a fusion of hide and seek and 1 on 1 conversations. Shoutout to Ilan for being crazy enough to think of an idea like that. I would say it went pretty well and led to deep meaningful conversations or “DMCs” as they are called on this trip. Among the things discussed were how the trip is meeting up to our expectations and if the trip is strengthening our connection to Judaism. 
    During the day, many of us got the opportunity to meet Amit’s parents and her dog Gucci. I unfortunately, slept through this but from what I heard it was a great experience. As a dog obsessed person, I am understandably saddened by missing out on an opportunity to meet a new friend. 
    Following the conclusion of Shabbat and Torah readings by Izzi, Sabrina, and Boaz, we were sent out to go to a restaurant of our choice. While many of us went to Raff’s all-time favorite restaurant, Pizza Flora, I went with Betty and Julian to an Italian restaurant at First Station, which was equally as delectable. 
    Reflecting on the events of the last two days, I think that our experiences had been like a symphony, each element playing its part to create a harmonious and unique whole. Our days in Israel had been a reminder of the power of culture and community, and a look into all that this country has to offer. Our Shabbat experience was a reminder of the importance of rest and restoration of our bodies. Meeting the families of two of our Madrichim gave us a great look into the Israeli life that Rob passionately pushes on the daily.” 
  • Wednesday, March 29

    Boaz shared yesterday’s adventures:

    “I woke up today to another beautiful Ketura morning. Sun shining, birds chirping, my roommates slowly grumbling themselves out of bed. After breakfast and packing sandwiches for lunch, we piled on the bus. 

    After a short ride, we arrived at Timna National Park. We hopped off the bus and began the “Arches Hike.” The hike was strenuous, dusty, and blisteringly hot. I loved it. We had to climb through narrow passages, up cliffs with metal ladders, through a small cave, and as the name of the hike suggested, through stone arches. Once we were up the mountain and had enjoyed the desert views, we had to climb back down through more narrow passages and ladder-assisted descents. In a small valley created by millennia of floods, Rob took some time to explain that three thousand years ago, Timna was the site of a bustling copper mine run by Egyptian slave labor. Rob pointed out that we could even see the copper in the stone around us. We then got a chance to explore the abandoned mines. I was way too tall to appreciate climbing through the very short mine. 
    Once we got back on the bus, we had a short ride within the park to the site of what we learned was a production site for copper. After a short demonstration of the copper making process from Sophie F and yours truly, Rob began talking to us about modern Biblical criticism and analysis. We started talking about this back in Hebron when discussing the authenticity of the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob storyline, but being here, with ancient remains and arid surroundings instead of a modern city like Hebron made me think more about what Exodus could have been. Rob told us about a letter that was found from the Egyptian governor of the area of Timma, begging for help with a civil revolt. Rob explained that some theories claim that this was where the Exodus story happened, not in the Egyptian mainland. Rob’s information got me thinking. On the bus to the hike, I read a section in Daniel Schiffman’s copy of Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind by Prof. Yuval Noah Harari about the myths that unite people, how humans are unique in the fact that we share beliefs in non-objective facts, and how cognitive dissonance about these non-objective facts is not a weakness but one of the reasons civilization can exist at all. At this point I had to stop thinking. It was really hot out. 

    We then walked a short distance to a mushroom shaped rock formed by millions of years of rushing flood waters. Rob asked us about how we see the future of humanity and if we think people will survive the near future. Heavy stuff, I know. I liked it though. I love futurism and climate discussions. 

    After some pictures we loaded up on the bus and went a short distance to a small manmade lake with a small restaurant in which we ate our packed lunches. Something about the lake made me angry. Maybe it was how out of place it felt, a lake with fountains and swan-shaped paddle boats, in the middle of a pristine and expansive desert park. I was also tired, so I may have just been grumpy. So it goes. 
    From there we had a relatively short drive to the store at the Yotvata kibbutz, where we could get ice cream made at the kibbutz’s dairy farm. Because of my allergies, I couldn’t have any ice cream, but I was quite happy having a bag of chocolate milk with Grace and an apricot ice pop.  

    After we all had something to eat, we went to Lotan, a kibbutz that specializes in eco-tourism. Sitting on benches in a wigwam-type structure, our guide told us how they view trash not as waste but as a potential resource. She informed us that the benches we were sitting on were made by stuffing tires with trash like plastic bottles and covered with mud. I wouldn’t have been able to tell had she not told us. Throughout the rest of the tour we were visited by Shoko, a very friendly dog, and Shoshie, a cat that couldn’t seem to get enough of us. We were given a demonstration on how the mud bricks that much of the kibbutz is made out of are made. Our guide took us around more of the kibbutz, bringing us to a large hall made out of hale bales covered in mud, and through the garden. She picked some leaves off a tree and told us that they were from the moringa tree and that the tree had immense healing power, for physical and mental ailments. I doubt that was true, but it would be nice if it was. 

    Moving on, we got an explanation of what compost is and how it’s made in nature versus on the kibbutz and how they make methane for cooking from small amounts of vegetable scraps. We then had an activity where groups raced each other to build arches out of rocks and mud bricks and shocked ourselves when three people could stand on the arch without them falling. 

    When we came back, I immediately took a very needed nap. I woke up to the unmistakable smell of garlic cooking. I stepped into the kitchenette to see Ilan cooking mushrooms and garlic. He told me he was making mushroom garlic cream sauce pasta. I jumped in and helped him with the sauce and the pasta, and soon we had a delicious meal that we shared with our roommates. We ate outside and others came over to ogle and beg for a taste, but for the most part we just let them watch us eat. 

    After some time soaking the dishes and read a bit, it was time for the real dinner. The kibbutz served us make-your-own pizzas. Ilan and I only had salads, because we decided earlier that we needed to cook more to finish all of our ingredients. 

    After dinner was an activity that the kibbutz called Schnitzelborscht. I know. I don’t understand the name either. We were split up into our mishpachot (families) and we each were given a board with questions about Israeli food, tech, geography, and history, and we tallied up how many points each group got right. My mishpacha won. Woohoo.
    After that, it was time for karaoke. We all laughed, danced, and sang along to countless Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and even a Hadag Nachash song. 

    Ilan and I quietly left to begin our second home cooked dinner of the day. We had a lot of extra flour from the sauce we made before, so Ilan started working on some pitot. I used leftovers from today’s pasta and grilled cheese from a few days ago to make a garlic cheese sauce to go with the pasta we had left. Shoutout to Betty and Sophie F who helped by cooking the pasta and pitot and cleaning up. We had a lovely late dinner outside with all my roommates and Betty and Sophie. 

    Quite a good day.”
  • Monday, March 27 - Tuesday, March 28

    “Starting our first full day in Kibbutz Ketura and the surrounding area, my roommates and I groggily walked to breakfast at around 8, as the sun started to feel hot but the morning was still cool, a remnant of the colder desert night. 
    At breakfast, we discussed the latest news in the Israeli judicial reform, that Prime Minister Netanyahu fired his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, who spoke out against the reform. Our madrichim, Amit (הבן the boy) and Omri, told us about how this is a glaring sign of a dictatorship and that the nation had erupted in protest over the night, with roadblocks and universities closing across Israel. Amit said flatly, “I am sad about this country.” Meanwhile, relaxing elevator music played in the cafeteria and rays of sunlight shone through palm tree leaves and in through the windows in the one-story building which had a beige exterior akin to a Florida housing complex. Our pleasant setting, but difficult conversation, at breakfast, set the tone for our first day in Ketura. It was truly wonderful, to take in some of the best natural beauty in Israel in a resort-like kibbutz, relaxing and hanging out, a vital part of appreciating what Israel has to offer, but at times, being so remote and far from the center, it felt like we were not experiencing the most politically charged day (so far) of one of the most politically charged moments in Israel’s history. 
    Though I spent some idle moments struggling with the tradeoffs of our getaway in the south, that certainly did not mean I did not experience and enjoy our packed schedule of fun in nature. Our first activity had two options: a bike ride around the kibbutz or a painting workshop in the desert. I went on the bike ride. On the ride, we smelled the sweet, woody scent of the kibbutz’s date orchards and felt the bumps of the gravel agricultural roads. It allowed us to get our bearings on the layout of the kibbutz and to grasp the various projects constantly in action here. 
    As the excitement of our bike ride fizzled, our group was snapped into a worried buzz when we got the news that the general strike in response to Netanyahu’s firing of Gallant had shut down Ben Gurion Airport. I felt removed from the massive protests in Tel Aviv, the boisterous protests that usually keep us awake with car horns and chants when we stay in Jerusalem, because in Ketura, in the middle of the desert, there was no outcry, just sunshine. 
    However, just as quickly as the news came, we were on to our next activity to learn more about the utopic kibbutz. Our next stop, was the “off-grid village” where the kibbutz researches and displays efficient solutions to help people who live off the grid (without access to a system of water, electricity, and sewage) like a drip irrigation system powered by solar energy that requires much less water pressure or an oven heated by the sun (we even tried sun-baked cookies). We had been told about the kibbutz’s value of social action, but it was amazing to see a genuine intersection of social action, environmentalism, and Israeli innovation. It was an impressive example of Ketura’s commitment to its goals. 
    After lunch in the communal kibbutz dining hall, Amanda and I did some stretching in the astroturf courtyard near our rooms. We heard the notes of one of Ilan’s signature jazz playlists as the smell of sautéed onions wafted into the courtyard from my room. My industrious roommates, Boaz and Ilan, had gone to the kibbutz store and were taking advantage of the kitchenette in our room, preparing for gourmet grilled cheeses later that night. 
    Following the free time, everyone was feeling a little bit more rested and ready for our afternoon hike. However, on our way, we were reminded again of the political turmoil exploding almost everywhere else in the country, when our madrichim Omri and Amit (הבן the boy) announced that they would be making their way to Eilat to demonstrate. They felt they could not stand by, trekking through the isolated desert, and not have their voices heard in their democracy. 
    While Amit and Omri set off to protest, we set off for an iconic GOA Neshama activity: the hike up to the sand dunes. While we trudged along up the steep path, Sophie, Isabelle, Tali, Rob, and I discussed our opinions on how we could improve Shabbat on Neshama, while ahead of us, Elias told an apparently shocking and hilarious story of a Craigslist mishap. Finally, we arrived at the dunes where we ran the soft sand through our fingertips as Rob talked to us about the spiritual value of the desert in its history, purity, and serenity. Afterwards, we ran, rolled, jumped, lounged, and climbed in the dunes and took pictures. When we were tired out, we took some time to sit by ourselves in silence and contemplation. Looking out over the vast desert it was hard to believe how empty it was, how if I had been there alone, I would not have seen a single person and very few signs of human civilization until the horizon in every direction. Also, the unchanging landscape that must have looked nearly identical thousands of years before and will look nearly identical thousands of years in the future was difficult to wrap my head around. To end our meditation, Rachel blew a shofar which echoed out across the desert mountains, and we packed up and headed back to Ketura. 
    After resting for a while, we went to dinner prepared by the Ketura staff outside of the kibbutz in the desert, where we made our own pitot over fire and ate hummus, salatim (salads) and more. We sat at low tables around fires eating our dinner and then s’mores. The darkness surrounding us in the desert, the filling food, and the smoky smell made for a homey, satisfying meal after a tiring day. As people were roasting marshmallows for s’mores, I heard Omri pronounce, “Ben Gvir will have his own private militia!” People started pulling out their phones to check the news as Omri explained the deal. The judicial reform would be delayed a few weeks and in order to appease far-right extremist national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir, Netanyahu would approve a large budget to establish a “national guard” (a portion of the police) solely under Ben Gvir’s direct control. As we started processing the news, words like “crazy” and “fascist” started flying around. It was monumental and scary news, an even more glaring sign of dictatorship than the morning’s events. I could tell Omri was upset he could not be in a major city in the center of Israel during this enormous moment, by his frustrated facial expression and his repeated sentiment that the protest he and Amit had attended in Eilat was “cute.” 
    After dinner we walked back to our rooms at around 8:30. The official programming of the night might have been over, but my night activities were set to begin. First, was tasting Boaz and Ilan’s delicious grilled cheese for second dinner. My compliments to the chefs. Second, Ilan, Betty, and I sat outside in the courtyard in anticipation to watch the first episode of season four of Succession. 
    In looking back on the day, at the forefront was lots of fun, whether it was taking in the nature of the area or casual homemade fun amongst friends, but on the back burner were reminders of the real-life political educational experiences we were missing 3 hours north, and more importantly, reminders of the dissatisfaction in an undemocratic government, and subsequent fiery exercising of democratic freedoms, that gripped the country. 
    March 28: 
    To start our second full day in Ketura, we headed to breakfast and packed sandwiches for our hike in the Eilat mountains. There was a palpable excitement for our day in Eilat. Also, after the agreement had been reached in the government, though problematic, the country was somewhat calmer which added to the relaxed vibe of our vacation-type day in the south. 
    We hiked in the desert mountains, through gorges that many of us exclaimed looked like they were out of a Star Wars set, and up steep rock faces where we had to use all four limbs to hoist ourselves up. The sun was hot, and some of us faced our fears of heights, but good conversation and the motivation for the rest of our day carried us through. It was a 2-hour or so hike with a great view in the middle, and few complications or complaints from our group, evidence that we are starting to gain a rhythm and an appreciation for hiking together. 
    When we came back to the bus, we quickly ate lunches on the drive to our next destination: snorkeling in Eilat. Until that point we had done a surprisingly small amount of swimming on the trip as a whole, and considering the dust and sweat we had acquired on the hike, we were all enthusiastic to jump in a beautiful body of water as we drove into Eilat. After some safety training, we strapped on our snorkels and hopped in the bluish, emerald green water. It took some time to adjust to breathing through our mouths, but when we did, we floated on our stomachs and looked at patterned coral reefs and fish of various shapes and sizes in pink, green, dark purple, sandy camouflage, and rainbow multicolor. Growing up swimming at the Jersey Shore, the clear water alone was luxurious, not to mention the captivating wildlife. After we finished snorkeling, we had about an hour and a half to sit in the sun on the beach, swim more, and eat some ice cream bars and french-fries from the food stand. It was one of those afternoons of pure relaxation that are rare on Neshama and we much appreciated it. 
    Our relaxing, vacation esque afternoon continued into evening with a whopping three hour pizur in a boardwalk-type shopping plaza right on the water in Eilat for an early dinner and shopping. Sophie, Talia, Boaz, Rachel, and I went for poke bowls and smoothies. The palm trees and views of the water made for a picturesque backdrop for dinner. But perhaps the best part was that we left to return to Ketura at only 6:30, and after many days in a row of early mornings we were ready for an early night to catch up on sleep. 
    All in all, our second full day in Ketura was one of the few Neshama days where we did not encounter a controversial Israeli social issue or listen to a lecture from a speaker. Unlike the encompassing political tone of the day before, it was a day just to spend time with each other and envelop ourselves in the beauty of the land of Israel.” 
  • Wednesday, March 22 - Thursday, March 23

    Raff wrote about Wednesday and Thursday:

    Wednesday, March 22: After a nice night in Gvulot, I woke up to another breakfast of some fried eggs, chocolate pudding, and some spectacular orange juice. Our first activity was going to Merchavim High School to talk with students in 11th grade; we later found out that the students were on strike for teachers' salaries. When we got off the bus, the first thing I saw was a bomb shelter; a normal sight to see in areas around the Gaza Strip. 

    We met with our guide, a student named Eliran, and his father Simchi, who teaches at the school. Unlike our school, they had an entire complex of buildings, including a high school, two middle schools, science, and technology buildings. Another noticeable difference were the iron bars on the windows to prevent burglary and students from jumping in and out. We were then allowed to tour around the school which featured classrooms with whiteboards, projectors, desks, and a computer. Along the walls was artwork which compared to the murals along the walls of our school. We then walked past a fence that was written, “Merchavim + Golda Och 2017”, and posed for a photo. We took a quick look at the technology building which had several computers, and highly sophisticated systems we concluded the visit at a small visit to an elderly home within the complex. 

    Next we went to a Mechina (military academy), a bridge from high school to the military. We were given a short tour of the house they live in, and it gave off a college frat house vibe. Then we were paired up with a member of the house, I had Noa. We walked around the neighborhood as she told us her daily life in the Mechina and certain policies they have to follow. After our tour of the Mechina, we went to a shul in the city of Ofakim which was different than others because there was no mahitzah; a rare sight in Israel. We finished our visit in Ofakim by going to a park and having a pizur. We capped off our day by going on a hike, over the B’sor, a water stream with a huge bridge where we sat to talk about the symbolism and significance of bridges.
    This morning, Thursday, we had our final breakfast in Gvulot, they have the most amazing orange juice!. We departed for Shivil HaSalat, the salad trail, which were green houses that had fruits and vegetables. Our tour guide gave us a brief background about the beginning of Shivil HaSalat and her story. We then got to eat fresh tomatoes, carrots, and tangerines. We ended our time with messenger pigeons, which we were allowed to hold and then let go as we watched them fly. 

    We then went back to Sderot for another pizzur; I had penne with rose sauce. Our final activity before the free weekend was a bike ride around HaYarkon Park in Tel Aviv. We rode through the park, a small forest, past playgrounds, and made it to our destination with some breaks to fix some bikes. The Mediterranean Sea was a beautiful sight to see, and after some pictures, we rode into the free weekend”
  • Monday, March 20 - Tuesday, March 21

    Shayna wrote about Monday and Tuesday:

    On Monday, March 20,, we visited a Bedouin city. A man from Rahat by the name of Jamal told us about what the Bedouin lifestyle in 2023 entails. We found out that Bedouins can be any religion, and the idea that they only live in the desert and sleep on the ground is a stereotype. Each family - known as tribes in Bedouin culture - has a family head called the shech. Nuclear families are of little importance, and the extended family is the main family unit. A tribe, or multiple tribes called a hamola, live together in one town.
    Next, we visited an unrecognized Bedouin village (which we viewed from the bus). There are 35 Bedouin villages not recognized as towns by the Israeli government. This means that they don’t always have running water, suage, bus stop or any other municipal services. Next we made our way to a mosque. Our tour guide, a twenty-something year old student, taught us about Islam and took all of our questions. Afterwards, we ate a delicious meal of chicken and rice and salads, and listened to a woman as she told the heartwarming and triumphant story of starting a business to support her youngest child, a boy with special needs. I felt a strong connection to her story, as my brother is autistic, and I find it extremely important to support other families with kids with special needs.
    At Chavat Naot, a beautiful goat farm nestled in a valley, we learned about the history of this independent Jewish farm. Starting out with an empty plot of land, they began operating out of a tent, which grew into a trailer, which grew into an expansive campus. All the while, they maintained good relations with Bedouins, helping them learn English and benefiting them with money earned through tourism. Goat cheese in hand, we headed back to Gvulot for a wonderful program led by Boaz and Sophie F. 
    Tuesday (March 21) was "Good Deeds Day", an international day of doing good (it's in the name). Gimilut Chasadim, Tikkun Olam, and social action all take precedence over everything else, inspiring people to volunteer and make change. In this spirit, we spent the morning at an organic farm, twisting the stems off a seemingly endless supply of strangely shaped radishes. We met a young woman named Moriah, and learned about Hashomer Hachadash, an organization that helps protect farmers from agricultural crimes. From setting hay on fire to stealing a few apples off a tree, the criteria for what constitutes an agricultural crime is vast, although one thing is for sure: crimes like these cost farmers millions of dollars every year.  At the greenhouse, I used my crocheting skills to trellis plastic strings over pepper saplings to allow them to twist and grow up to the ceiling. 

    Later we met with Ayala Jones, a GOA Alumna, as well as my former bus mate. It was surreal seeing someone I knew wearing IDF uniform: ceremonial pins stuck to her chest and a gun draped over her shoulders. Ayala did her two years of service in the iron dome. She first started out reloading rockets into the advanced machine’s turrets during the infamous Guardians of the Wall, but eventually graduated to the more senior role in the actual tracking and then intercepting of  enemy missiles. The way she confidently and affectionately told the story of her service was very reassuring as I want to make Aliyah after college.
  • Sunday, March 19

    Sadie’s write up about Sunday.
    “After a restful Shabbat we were excited to continue exploring Israel. My roommates and I woke up around 7:30, packed our things, and headed down to breakfast. Afterwards everyone went on the bus and our journey for the day began. We had a long bus ride, our favorite kind. 

    Once we arrived in Sderot, we got off the bus to meet Rabbi Ari at a park. He taught us about the history of Sderot and saw different areas of the town. Afterwards we visited a memorial for IDF soldiers with a lookout to the Gaza Border. It felt crazy to me that we could be so close to the border and still be safe.

    One of our madrachot, Einat, explained how the Iron Dome worked because she had experience working with it during her army service. I learned a lot of new information about the Iron Dome which was important because it plays such a vital role in protecting Israel. After our tour ended, we had pizur lunch. A few of us went to a cafe and the food was very good. There were also fun stores in the area to walk around in.

    We then had about a 15-minute bus ride and headed to Netiv HaAsara. After walking learning about the Moshav (agricultural settlement), we watched a video about a woman who lives there. She talked about what life was like in Netiv HaAsara and how important peace was to her. We then received ceramic shapes to write notes/wishes on that we’d be able to put on the peace wall, the border between Gaza and Israel. This wall had cameras everywhere and a Hamas tower in the distance, which felt unsettling. Getting to go to the wall was a meaningful experience. After we said goodbye to Rabbi Ari, our tour guide, we headed to Kibbutz Gvulot. We had some free time before dinner so a bunch of us decided to go to the indoor pool. Later in the evening we had zman mishpacha. We debriefed about what we learned, and it was nice to hear everyone’s perspectives. I learned a lot today and am excited for tomorrow!”
  • Friday, March 17 - Saturday, March 18

    Talia for Friday and Saturday: 
    “After the exhausting, yet fulfilling, two-day desert experience we had, it was finally time to travel back to Agron. The long bus ride was exactly what we needed to get in the sleep we lost from the previous night. As a reward for our hard work and pushing through the obstacles of the trail, we made a pit stop to get some ice cream and go to a small grocery store.
    Once we arrived at Agron and got to our rooms, we had the best showers of our lives. Never had we needed it more. We used the next hour and a half to get ready for Shabbat, which was plenty for the boys and not even close to enough for the girls.

    Once everyone was ready, we took some cute photos, lit the Shabbat candles, and headed to the office at Agron for Kabbalat Shabbat. Before we started, Rob hit us with a question: “What is something new every one tried over the last two days?”. There were so many different answers, from sleeping in a tent for the first time, hiking with everything we needed for a couple days on our backs, and going to the bathroom in nature for the first time. Huge Yasher Koach to Shayna for leading us in Kabbalat Shabbat. During Kabbalat Shabbat there was singing, dancing, and smiles on everyone’s faces. Omri, one of our amazing madrichim, gave us an impactful prayer that he felt so connected to in remembrance of one of his dear friends who tragically died 6 years ago. Following this, I led Maariv.

    Once all was over, we made our way to dinner. We had a great meal and almost everyone went to sleep early.

    Saturday morning was late wake up with the first thing on the schedule being lunch. We had a nice afternoon with people shmoozing together at Agron, continued catching up on sleep, and some went to the nearby park to read and relax.

    We were joined by Rob later in the afternoon where we had our learner’s minyan. Tali and Gabi did a great job leading us with the new Nigun we learned for Mincha. Rob gave us thorough explanations as to why we do certain things during the service and taught us the right way to receive an honor. Overall, the service was wonderful and then we made our way into Havdallah, which was a beautiful ending to our Shabbat.

    For dinner, we had Pizur. Some people went to Ben Yehuda Street, some went to get delicious pizza, and some got incredible sushi. I went to the sushi restaurant and went on a girl’s night out with Amanda and Betty. Then everyone headed back to Agron and we ended the night there. Today was a restful day for all and it was desperately needed.
  • Thursday, March 16

    “We had a wake-up time at 7:30, but of course I wake up at 7:15 having to finish packing up my things. I didn’t have much time, luckily though I made it downstairs in time for breakfast with also having to try and find my lost air pods (which I did thankfully). Thinking to myself before leaving on the bus. 2 days one night. 1 hiking trail to a camping ground. It’s time for the Desert Experience to begin. Finally getting on the bus with my backpack full of water, clothes, and other belongings. 2 hours of thinking what is this experience going to be like? Will the hike be hard, or will it be a breeze? Will I be freezing or warm? I had no idea what to expect. Time passed. 30 minutes listening to music such as Country and Pop. Another 30 minutes going through my phone, a 10-minute bathroom stop and 50 minutes of napping. When finally, I open my eyes and there it is, the desert. As we walked off the bus, we were split into 3 groups to carry the meals for the 2 days and make lunch. I put some tuna, toilet paper, garbage bags and crackers into the bag they supplied us with.

    My group made sandwiches for lunch. They were surprisingly really good!  It took teamwork to make it happen and working together was fun and rewarding. After lunch we went back on the bus for another 15-minute bus ride to the starting point of the hike. After getting off the bus we start the 5 kilometers hike. Finally reaching the summit of the mountain was breathtaking and rewarding. We felt so accomplished, took pictures, and learned about the different types of rocks you can discover throughout the desert and how to tell time by the shadows from the sun and most importantly how to know what direction you are heading.  Finding your way in the desert isn’t an easy task as taking a left at the Sandy hill, isn’t going to cut it. After some rest we continued with the hike. During the hike, before we stopped for another break, we had to walk down this very rocky mountain.  I almost fell but luckily made it down. Surprisingly going down is a lot trickier that going up! We finally stopped together for prayer lead by Sophie. It was a beautiful, peaceful moment. It was nice to all be together on the side of the mountain sharing a new experience. We had a little snack and then headed back on the rocky trails. We found the camping ground with a whole food setup and tents. (Meaning great food, not A Whole Foods!) We had this amazing homemade soup from a pot bigger than I’ve ever seen. There was still more food to go. While waiting for food everyone hung out talking in circles getting to know each other on a deeper level. We all sang around the fire pit and toasted marshmallow. Finally, bed at 11:30. In my tent with Gabi and Chava the chatter and laughing is taking up the quiet desert. I wake up to an exciting new day of hiking again. At 6:00 am to a loud boker tov. Standing around the warm fire waking up in the cold. Trying to figure out how to keep the fire going. The bus arrives and some of us sit on the bus take a break listening to music before starting the hike of the day. Climbing up and down many sides of mountains we make it to a rest stop to make our breakfast. We made jam and chocolate sandwiches. As we continued the hike our guides give us deep questions to ask our friends and have us create secret handshakes as a bonding activity. I hope Amanda and I will remember ours forever. Seeing the bus from the distance when we finished our hike was thrilling! We made it back to the campground where we began and made another yummy lunch, all together. We had a closing program and said goodbye to our survival guide.  But being in Israel, we definitely couldn’t end the day without a quick stop for some ice cream!! (Everyone loves Ice Cream here!) Even though it’s been challenging, I feel proud and accomplished. I survived my first camping trip and bonding with my classmates and surviving together was the best feeling! To top it all off, I think we also all conquered our fears of heights. (At least for now).”
  • Wednesday, March 15

    Issac shared the day’s experience:
    “Wednesday was supposed to be the first day of our desert experience, but it was canceled because of the danger rain posed to our hikes. So instead the staff decided that we needed a day of rest, we didn’t have our first activity until 12:45 which was lunch. After lunch we visited the Gush Katif museum in Jerusalem which focuses on the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip that were evacuated in 2005. We were guided by a South African man named Abner. Abner was extreme in his views and Rob along with some students challenged his beliefs. Especially regarding his views on women and the recent government reforms. If we had listened to him two weeks ago I think our reactions would have been a lot different but after many faces week we were able to filter the facts from the lies. However, it was still interesting to learn about how settlers developed areas of Gaza and how they were evacuated.
    After the museum we made our way to a mall called “Cinema City”. As the name suggests this was a movie theater but there was also a mall surrounding it with restaurants. We did a Pizzur dinner there and then we saw a movie. The movie was an interesting experience as I have never been to an Israeli movie theater, and I found it cool to see all the movie posters in Hebrew. The movie experience itself was good expect for some loud Israeli children in the theater.
    This ended our day, I very much enjoyed the extra rest and going to the mall and the movie. The rest was much needed as tomorrow morning we wake up early for two days and one night in the desert hiking and camping.”
  • Tuesday, March 14

    Issac wrote the update for Tuesday, the last day of the Many Faces of Israel Seminar:
    “We woke up at 8:00 today for an 8:30 breakfast at Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, where we spent the last two nights. We packed our suitcases and boarded the bus. We then headed to meet with a group called Shoreshim (roots) that brings Palestinians and Israelis together to have civilized dialogue. The group was founded after Palestinians and Israelis noticed that there was too much fear, animosity, and ignorance between the two sides. We heard from an Israeli named Myron and a Palestinian named Khaled. They talked about their efforts to bring Palestinian and Israeli teenagers together. After two days where we heard both sides passionately present their narrative, I personally was relieved to hear from people who are considered more moderate.
    After this we went for a Pizzur lunch in Efrat, which is an Israeli settlement. After learning about settlements for two days, it was interesting to see what they actually looked like and how the people there act and look. What I found was that other than a higher security presence it looked the same as any other Israeli city. After lunch we made a quick stop at the “Lone Tree” which, prior to 1967 was a symbol that motivated some of the early settlement in the West Bank to reclaim the area. Visiting the tree was a good way to wrap up our learning about Jewish settlement in the West Bank as the tree is in the center of the four large kibbutzim in Gush Etzion. 
    For our last visit in the West Bank we went to Har Etzion Yeshiva - a modern, eagle-shaped building on a hill overlooking Gush Etzion. In this yeshiva, students both serve in the IDF and study at yeshiva. We talked to some students (one of whom was a friend of Boaz’s) who told us about the yeshiva and their army service. I found it interesting to learn about what kids our age do after high school in Israel and how different it is from America. After a tour of the yeshiva some of the group did Mincha, and we boarded the bus for a much need 45-minute ride back to Jerusalem.
    Back at Agron in Jerusalem we met with a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem named Firas. Firas was educated in the states from his senior year of high school until he graduated from the University of North Carolina, so he spoke near perfect American English. Firas presented a similar Palestinian narrative as Issa on Monday, but he focused more on the future of the conflict. I still personally disagreed with him on a number of things but not as many as I did with Issa. To end the day we had a panel discussion with our Madrichim to hear their perspectives, as average Israelis on the speakers we heard and the conflict in general.
    This concluded our second part of “Many Faces” and it left different impressions on different students. Some of their opinions moved farther left, some of them moved farther right and for some their relationship with Israel is stronger than it was before. I personally haven’t yet figured out what effect this week had on me. But what I have learned from this week is the position of privilege we are in as Americans. After this week, I have learned to humanize the people involved in this conflict. As spectators from thousands of miles away we have the privilege of treating this conflict almost like a game. We get to choose which side we root for and watch on TV as the conflict plays out. Obviously, it is different for us as Jews and we have more connection to Israel than the average American, however far too often we still can forget that these are humans with emotions, hopes and dreams. They are not characters in a TV show, they are not athletes playing a game, and they are most certainly not pieces on a political chess board.”
  • Monday, March 13

    Betty shared her experience from Hevron :
    “As we began the day reading the narrative of Abraham purchasing the burial plot of Ma’arat HaMachpelah, I was arrested by the fugitive sensation of sitting at a little wooden desk, learning the same story over a decade ago. The stylized, sepia-toned illustrations in our Ariyot books were populated with simple figures comprehensible to children: a grey-bearded, robed Abraham; an adolescent Isaac; hands clasped; father and son buying a cave in an empty field.
    Accompanying our reading on the weathered benches of Kfar Etzion was the crowing, pecking, and buzzing from the wandering birds of the kibbutz— a medley which seemed peaceful interlude before we boarded our bulletproof bus. 
    Choking a section of the road to Hebron were hillocks of garbage, stacked so high they obscured the stone foundations of the Palestinian homes through which the street cut. However, just as quickly as jet plastic crowded my view, the intricate and sprawling vineyards and olive groves threaded their way through the mountainside terraces, crowned by the red-roofed, shining limestone complexes of Israeli settlers. The stark distinction spoke for itself.
    We were brought to the gravesite of domestic terrorist Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Muslims in prayer at Ma’arat HaMachpelah. Silent, I considered the weight of the dozens of stones sitting atop it, and the spitting of my classmates. I figured that warranted him too much merit. The sun illuminated the lies inscribed in his memorial plaque, decidedly characterizing him as a righteous martyr. I shuffled dirt, and looked toward the fragmented landscape of Hebron. We read aloud Yitzhak Rabin’s censure of Goldstein, the “errant weed”, before leaving.
    We’d then arrived at the “main event”, if you will: Ma’arat HaMachpelah. A proud Herodian structure strikingly reminiscent of the Kotel, with the very same tufts of caper bushes sprouted along its face, it seemed to suggest a natural relation to the holiest structure in Judaism. Walking through the limestone halls, what I found most striking were the extant impressions of changing hands across millennia left on the building. The basilica built on the grounds by the Byzantines; The florid Arabic calligraphy curling along the towering walls of the inner tombs; the blue velvet curtains draped along the entryways, beautified by Hebrew embroidery. An imam’s languid noontime call to prayer warbled through the air when we exited the building. 
    Our first speaker was Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum: a spry, sweater-clad man with that unmistakable reedy New York accent. He acted as a sort of tour guide through the Old City of Hebron’s Jewish Quarter, interspersing throughout his history a number of anecdotes recounting the latent tensions of the area, and how he has endeavored to become a “man of peace”. With that, he led us toward the Avraham Avinu Synagogue, explicating the mystical etymology of its name.
    With the humble ark of the synagogue opened— a building once devastated by the 1929 Arab riots— Rabbi Hochbaum gathered us together and led us in Etz Chaim Hi, our voices and hums floating around the small room which appeared to embrace our presence, with its downy pews and short, softly pointed arches built to cradle the congregation. Outside, we passed by blocks of bright cerulean shutters, railings, and benches— even basketball hoops— coloring the facades of Israeli buildings. It seemed purposeful rejection of the forest green ornamentation of the Arab buildings, especially those shuttered along Shuhada street. How interesting it was, how paint made perhaps the most minute yet resolute distinction: of attributes designating allegiance of property.
    Crossing past the Bab al-Zawiya checkpoint, we saw an affecting scene: a uniformed IDF soldier kicking a ball around with three Palestinian boys, teasing them and messing with their hair as though they were brothers. It’s a picture I haven’t shaken.
    We continued our walk toward Beit Hadassah, the site of the first Hadassah hospital, which now serves as a museum chronicling the history of Jewish life in Hebron. The large, lighted timeline weaved along the vaulted ceilings of the restored building, which was painted in a vivid, Impressionistic style depicting vignettes of the city’s Jewish presence. We commenced the visit in a gift shop.
    As we discussed questions to ask our final speaker, Palestinian activist Issa Amro, the mid-afternoon call to prayer lilted through the winds of Hebron, distant birds chirping in accompaniment. With light dust blowing at our knees, the group trudged up the hill, with Issa’s home situated at its peak. Around the path sat a panorama of H1’s crowded buildings blanketing the swell of the landscape; there was the Palestinian-controlled section of Hebron, whose car horns and familiar city bustle rang through the air. 
    Upon crossing into the gates that bracketed his gardens, my peers’ first remarks were that of shock and disbelief: hanged on an olive tree was a hand-painted sign reading “FREE PALESTINE”, one of many throughout the property. The same sentiment, of course, was expressed through Issa’s decorative choices for his patio— where we all gathered— the wall of which being painted with quotes from the Geneva Convention’s Article 49 alongside a towering Palestinian flag. Directly behind my seat was a poster commemorating every victim of Baruch Goldstein’s terror attack in 1994— one of whom being a young boy which Issa had often played soccer with, before his death. The patio was caged in, with metal sheets pinned along its perimeter to prevent vandalism as well as further harassment.
    I hesitated to divert my attention away from Issa even to scrawl out notes. He was the most arresting and compelling speaker I had ever bared witness to, relating his experiences as a prominent and outspoken proponent of Palestinian human rights— from being physically beaten on multiple occasions by settlers and IDF soldiers stationed in the city alike— to being unlawfully arrested and detained many more times over. I believe his candidness, though, was what epitomized his ethos. 

    Openly expressing the brainwashing and manipulation he had experienced in adolescence, he then illustrated the obligation of youth to harness the critical access available to a world of resources and to educate themselves on both sides of any given issue, without permitting preconceptions to take root and inhibit progress. Issa later spoke of the crucial nature of nonviolent resistance and demonstration, for violence inevitably begets more violence. And what use is bloodshed, save to impede upon the dignity of man?
    Many of my friends and I shook his hand as we departed: an unbroken stream of “Thank you, sir. Thank you very much.”
    Walking along the largely empty thoroughfare to the bus, we had an impromptu meeting with an IDF officer named Elishai, who had been stationed in Hebron for the past few months. He gave brief insight into an average day for soldiers in the city: four hours of patrol, four hours of rest. Input, output. He fiddled a bit with the gun hanging loosely off of his right shoulder, an almost mindless underscore to the cordial exchange. I wondered if he and Issa had traded such pleasantries. 
    Shortly after, as we pulled out of Hebron on our bulletproof bus, we saw a group of young IDF soldiers and Palestinian teenagers walking toward one another. Then the bounce of a rubber ball. 
    Another soccer game had begun. 
    In reading the myriad plaques that glistered through the city, I kept seeing two words repeat themselves: חברון, and חורבן. The former, of course, is simply Hebron; the latter describes destruction. How poignant, I thought to myself, them being anagrams of the other. And how closely they seem to be related, despite their lack of a shared root: constituted by the same letters, the way in which they came together seemed to perpetually engender unrest, violence, and loss. Time and time again, חורבן  swiftly followed חברון: the slippery reflection of a funhouse mirror.
    Yet, laying in my bed, I was once again arrested by an image: of IDF soldiers playing with the Palestinian children. Gathered together, half a kilometer from stifling checkpoints. Despite artificial division, brothers with brothers. 
    After all, I’m told Abraham had two sons.”
  • Sunday, March 12

    Sophia K wrote about her experience: 
    “I woke up to my alarm ringing at 6:30 am and dragged myself out of bed. I was out for the free weekend so I needed to leave the apartment I was staying in at 7:10 am to make it to the Eretz Yisrael Museum in Tel Aviv on time to catch the bus back to Agron at 7:45. Luckily, I made it with 15 minutes to spare. After some delay we departed to meet the rest of the group. After reuniting with my friends who I hadn’t seen in what felt like an eternity but in reality, was only 3 days we lugged our suitcases to the bus and headed off. 
    To continue our many faces seminar, we ventured into the West Bank to Khaled Zakariya, a small Arab village in Area C to meet with a United Nations officer, Hamed, and an American volunteer, Amara. Hamed and Amara, told us about the many problems Palestinians face in Area C of the West Bank and their ideal vision of a two-state solution. Next, we went to Kenyon Harim for a pizzur lunch. I must say the Japan Japan sushi was not bad! With full stomachs we drove over to the Kibbutz Kfar Etzion to the audio-visual museum and watched a film about what happened to the kibbutz during the Independence War. Afterwards, we took a short bus ride to Oz VeGaon park to meet with Nadia Matar, a settler living in Area C of the West Bank. She informed us about the settler perspective of the conflict and her solution of a sovereignty plan where the West Bank becomes a part of Israel. The speakers we heard during the day gave us a broad insight into the varying opinions and living situations of the people who live here the history of Gush Etzion and the complexity of life here. 
    Next, we headed to check into our accommodations for the night in Kibbutz Kfar Etzion. Following the long day we went back to our hostel for dinner. To conclude the day we met in small groups to debrief about everything we learned and heard for the day. We readied ourselves for a good night’s rest and another informative day.”
  • Wednesday, March 8 - Thursday, March 9

    Gabby wrote the update:
    “Yesterday, we started our morning a little later than usual and had a relaxing breakfast, and then got on the bus to go to Ein Raffa. There, we met Yasmin, a British woman who had converted to Islam in her 20s. She brought us to her house where we listened to her explain her path to Islam, as well as the rules and most important parts of Islam. We also got to meet her husband Mousa and son Ali, who brought us some delicious tea and crackers. After talking for a while, Yasmin brought us on a tour of her village, and we were able to see how big a role family plays in life in the village. It was really interesting to me to learn about the similarities and differences between Islam and Judaism, as well as to learn about how strong a role family plays in daily life as a Muslim. After the tour, we went back to Yasmin’s house to talk and ask more questions, because the more time we spent with Yasmin, the more interested we became, and more questions came up. While the whole morning was a highlight, an extra fun touch was getting to play with the baby sheep that Yasmin and her family were raising and definitely made the whole experience even more memorable. 

    After saying goodbye to Yasmin and the baby sheep, we got on the bus for a short ride to Abu Gosh. We went to a family-run restaurant with amazing hummus, and we all ate way more than our fair share. 
    After eating our body weight in food, we headed to Yad HaShmonah, a Messianic community. We got a tour to the community from one of the people who lived there, named Gershom. He told us about the history of the community and showed us some of the tools that were used in biblical agriculture, like grape presses and a threshing floor. At the same time, Gershom encouraged us to admire the beauty of the nature around us. We also got to ask him questions about life as a Jew who believed in Jesus. We learned a lot in just a short time with Gershom, and it was clear that had we spent more time with him, he could have spent all the time he could teaching us and it was special to see his love for the community and its history.
    We said goodbye to Gershom and Yad HaShmona and headed back to Agron.  We had a few hours of free time before dinner, and then after dinner we had the option of either joining a discussion circle with Omri about “Before the Law” by Franz Kafka, or watching a movie about an Ethiopian IDF soldier. I chose to be a part of Omri’s discussion group, and we had a great conversation about power, control, and bureaucracy. It was a pretty packed day, with a lot of different kinds of conversations and a lot of learning.

    This morning, we woke up earlier to pack up our rooms and check out. We had some time for breakfast, and then began our intro to the Many Faces section of Neshama by having a discussion about the West Bank. Rob explained the history of the area and showed us a lot of maps from various time periods, and then we discussed how we felt about Israel’s relationship with the West Bank and various proposed solutions to the current situation. 
    After our discussion, we took a quick break and were then able to talk to Rabbi Nava, who is the rabbi for the synagogue next to Agron. She talked about how she became a female rabbi, but also about how she went from being part of an ultra-orthodox community to a conservative one and the kind of community she wants to build. It was really interesting to hear about her experience finding the way she connected to Judaism best. 
    After our discussion with Rabbi Nava, we headed to the Haredi neighborhoods for a pizur lunch. We then went to the Belz Hasidic Synagogue and met with Yeheskel, who talked to us about the synagogue and about life as a Hasidic Jew. Once we left Yehezkel and the Belz Hasidic Synagogue, we had some time to express any thoughts we had about what Yehezkel had told us, and reflect about the past week. It was a long, packed week, but was it was nice to remember everything we did and the fun we had. 
    We then got on the bus and headed back to Agron, where we had a short but sweet (literally—she brought us candy!) surprise visit from Rabbi Kallush, and then split up to our different locations for the free weekend. While we won’t all be spending this Shabbat together, getting to celebrate with our host families is also exciting and I’m looking forward to more new experiences next week. Shabbat Shalom!”
  • Monday, March 6 - Tuesday, March 7

    Izzy wrote updates about Purim (Monday and Tuesday):
    “On Monday, we traveled to South Tel Aviv to learn about the refugee community there. Our guide Leilach told us that while refugees do receive a lot of benefits from the state of Israel, actually getting refugee status is quite difficult. Instead, most people are classed as asylum seekers and consequently receive far fewer benefits. We also saw how gentrified the neighborhoods of South Tel Aviv were becoming. Right next to a building that looked like it hadn’t seen maintenance since before I was born would be a building that looked like it had been built an hour ago. 
    After our tour, we met with Adam Achmud, who had fled Sudan in the midst of the Darfur conflict, and he shared his story with us. After living in Egypt for a few years, it became unsafe for him to stay in a country with a relationship with Sudan, so he made the difficult journey across the Egyptian-Israeli border. Once in Israel, he was frequently in an unstable situation, sometimes facing threats of deportation, with the Supreme Court being the main force protecting him and other asylum seekers. Adam explained to us that he is especially concerned now that the Supreme Court is under threat because of the reforms, since without the Supreme Court, asylum seekers are less protected. Adam is now a teacher, seeking a PhD, and a prolific writer. Talking to him was a wonderful experience, and I felt immensely grateful to hear his story.
    After we heard from Adam, we davened Mincha in the botanic gardens of South Tel Aviv and then got on the bus to go to Shuk HaCarmel.
    At Shuk HaCarmel, we had a pizur lunch and shopped for Gamad Anak (the Israeli equivalent of Secret Santa) as well as for other Purim preparations. It was a beautiful day, and Chava, Tali, and I had a great time exploring and people watching.
    After our time at Shuk HaCarmel was over, we boarded the bus to head back to Jerusalem. Once we were there, we had dinner and continued to prepare for Purim tomorrow. We’re all super excited for Purim tomorrow, but I think it’s also been a day of seeing so much apathy towards people in need that it was a little difficult to get into the joyous mood. Regardless, Purim in Jerusalem is sure to be a special experience.
    Chag Purim Sameach! Today was full of celebration and fun. After breakfast, we all finalized our costumes and put enough glitter on our faces that I will likely be finding glitter in my hair for the next month. 
    We then got on the bus to visit a senior citizens’ home. We sang and danced with them, and I talked to Anna, who after dancing with us more joyously than almost anyone else in the group, cried as she told me her story of survival during the Holocaust. Later, I learned that the only thing that makes her happy anymore is when young people visit, and I felt so glad that we had come and brought her what happiness we could.
    I also met Ezra, who used to be a chazan. He fell asleep a few times while I was talking to him, but when he woke up, he would smile, open his hands, look up towards the ceiling, and sing softly. When I spoke to him, I wasn’t sure if he could hear me all the time, but his smile told me that he understood. 
    After our visit to the senior citizens’ home, we had a break before we went to synagogue for Megillah reading. Then we once again donned our costumes and redid our makeup and loaded onto the bus. The Megillah reading was a lot of fun. Three members read the narration at once while other members of the synagogue read characters’ voices. Of course, there was a lot of noise whenever Haman’s name was read, and we all shook our groggers made of plastic cups and beans. One individual who will go unnamed did not have a grogger, and instead used their voice as a grogger, saying things like, “I don’t like this Haman guy!” and “Haman is stinky!”. It was a wonderful experience. After we left the synagogue, we headed back to Agron for our own celebrations.
    At Agron, we had dinner and then shared our gifts with each other. I would be remiss if I did not mention Ilan’s incredible gift of a head of cabbage to Daniel Schiffman, complete with it’s own Instagram account. Many tears were shed over such a thoughtful present. After presents, we preformed the skits we had prepared, which were based on our costumes. The topics varied from cats and Israeli snacks to plants and frogs. While everyone did amazingly, I think Omri’s musical performance blew us all away. 
    After our skits, we wound down the night and some of us went to bed. Other, more ambitious Neshamaniks (not me, I was tired) went out to celebrate Purim with the madrichim at a street party. Unfortunately, I cannot provide many details about this party, as I will definitely be asleep by the time everyone gets back, and I need to turn this summary in. Purim has been a wonderful experience, and I’m so glad we got to spend it in Jerusalem!”
  • Sunday, March 5

    Rachel wrote about Sunday's experience: 
    "After an intriguing and warm week getting to know Jerusalem, today was an exciting day. For the first time since we touched down in Israel, we were traveling to explore a different part of the country: Tel Aviv. Due to the fact that on na’ale there were rockets in Tel Aviv, this was many peoples’ first time ever exploring all the city has to offer.   
    After my room of four spent hours cleaning up the earthquake that occurred in our room, the morning was filled with suitcases flying every which way. We quickly ate breakfast, made sure we all got everything out of our rooms, turned in the keys, and then it was time to get on the bus! 
    Rob enthusiastically told us the schedule for the day and we only got more excited for what was ahead of us. The bus was filled with good vibes and fun music that got everyone singing along to. 
    We then arrived in Tel Aviv and began a history lesson of Tel Aviv through different foods and locations. The first bakery we went to had been there since 1879! This means it was here before Israel was even a state. The owners decided that the bakery will continue to live in the modern Jewish state, and respect the Jewish country by closing on major Jewish holidays to show coexistence and respect. We all munched on their well know Persian dessert named “sambusek”. It was delicious and something I had never tried before. 
    We then walked around old Jaffa further discussing how the big city of Tel Aviv came to be, and how gentrification is taking over making everything more expensive, consequently kicking out lower income families. 

    Our next stop was a very old church. The architecture was unlike any we saw in Jerusalem and the room was made for voices to collaborate and create a loud and beautiful sound. You can feel the history of Israel just through this one place. After that quick visit we sat in the shade for a while discussing the cause for the gentrification and flee of Arab families from Jaffa, bouncing questions off each other to gain better understandings. 

    We walked along the pretty Mediterranean Sea while taking pictures of the clear water that clearly reminded us, we aren’t at the Jersey Shore. 
    As the day progressed, we continued grubbing, switching between sweet and savory having no problem finishing all of the plates put in front of us. This was especially exciting for me because I am vegetarian and Tel Aviv is known as the most vegan friendly city in the world! As Israel evolves over the years, the variety of food increases drastically. Us going on our “food tour” throughout the day showed us many different foods that even people who consider Israel their second home have never tried. It proved how far the country has come. I enjoyed this because everyone was so excited for each stop anticipating the next thing we were going to put in our mouth. It was a positive and informative morning.  Some would even say it was bussin.  We then left Jaffa and head to the Tel Aviv beach to cool off from the hottest day us neshamaniks have experienced thus far.  We all took advantage of this opportunity and bonded in the clear ocean while throwing a frisbee, despite the sunset being covered by clouds. 
    To conclude our night, we headed to Serona market and had another pizzur dinner. (Never too much food)! Serona is a historical compound once filled with Germans. Eventually the location was taken over and turned into a military base up until around 20 years ago. Now it is a beautifully lit place filled with many different shops, restaurants, and desserts that we can enjoy. I ate wok to walk, my favorite restaurant to visit when in Israel. Today made me feel very grateful for all of the different foods that I was exposed to, as well as the excitement that continues to further bond our group today and every day."
  • Friday, March 3 - Saturday, March 4

    Sabrina shared her experience: 
    "I have gotten quite used to morning routines this far into the trip. Isabelle and Tali being my human alarm clocks, giving me an adequate amount of time to get ready, but me convincing myself time freezes this early in the morning, so I always end up fully getting out of bed with a good 7 minutes to get ready. Maybe a little inefficient, but it works. But alas, the day awaits for the exciting and unpredictable adventure, Neshamaniks will embark on today!  
    Emphasis on the unpredictable part, because today was filled with new scenery and discoveries of people’s cooking skills?! It started off with a drive to the Jerusalem Hills. Everyone was looking forward to our first hike of the trip. Frankly, I was just finally excited to be in nature without the constant worry of being late to something (don’t worry I am working on my time management skills). It was a nice and pretty easy walk through the trail, learning about shvil Israel (Israeli trails). There were a few out of breath moments (from walking uphill and of course looking at the views), but it was all worth it when we finally made it on top of the hill looking at panoramic view of the more “greener” side of Jerusalem. Staring out into the open valley of trees while soaking up a warm breeze had to be one of the most top tier feelings I’ve had so far on Neshama. There was one point during the hike where Rob told us to be silent for 30 seconds and listen to the naturistic sounds around us. Listening to the simple sound of birds chirping and leaves ruffling made me realize how we as people tend to always get caught up in stressful and busy moments, disregarding the solace the exists arounds us. This moment changed my mentality I want to have for the next few months—soaking everything in, even if it’s just as small as hearing flies’ buzz.  
    Once we made it to the camping ground destination, we started to prepare for our grade BBQ. Everyone was assigned different jobs, to ease the process. Special shout-out to Ilan, who gave a step- by-step demo of how to make pita the Israeli way. Elias was the grill master, cooking at least 100 burgers, while Shayna and Daniel used their camping skills to start a fire. It was a communal and fun as well as rewarding activity to do before getting ready for Shabbat!!  
    Our first Kabalat Shabbat in Jerusalem was super special. Getting ready for Shabbat while blasting Yeshiva Boys Choir, with my roommates will be a weekly ritual from now on. We sat outside singing and prayer, matching our nature theme for today. Kabbalat Shabbat was filled with Ruach and vitality, with everyone forming a dance circle every few songs.  
    Saturday morning, our grade went to the Synagogue attached to Agron. It had a “hippy” vibe, which, I guess fascinated our group. The rest of the day kind of flew by after the 3-hour nap I took and an activity our Madrichim lead titled “what is the protest about”. We learned the variety of reasons many Israelis are protesting against the government’s decisions. Shabbat was concluded by yet another energetic and graceful Havdallah. We even got to merge with the Lefell school (Schechter in Westchester) which was extremely fun and contributed to the energetic ambience our grade had already created. Later, we headed out to Ben-Yehudah Street for some much-needed Shawarma and shopping!! There was also a dance party some people in the grade went to happening right near the Agron, as the aftermath of a peaceful protest.  
    The last few days have been amazing, thrilling, breathtaking, and can’t wait to see what the next week has in store for us. We are looking forward to a fun-filled day in Tel Aviv tomorrow!!  
  • Thursday, March 2

    Tali wrote today's update:
    “For our first few days in Jerusalem, we have been exploring the Old City and the different religions and cultures within it. Today, we began with learning about Islam at Har Habayit, or the Temple Mount, where the Dome of the Rock is located, among other mosques. We discussed why Har Habayit is a holy space in both Judaism and Islam, as well as controversies related to the space. When we went up the stairs to the Dome of the Rock, I was struck by the vibrant, detailed mosaics and the curvature in the architecture. Our journey in gaining the important understanding of how different religions connect to the same land continued when we met with Nahla, a Muslim woman, and Sister Rita, a Catholic nun. Hearing about their respective experiences living and working in Jerusalem was fascinating. Both emphasized the need for peace and love between neighbors. I hope that by talking with them, our group contributed to their goal of encouraging dialogue between religious groups in a mutually holy city. 
    After meeting with Nahla and Sister Rita, we spent some time in the Arab shuk before heading off to the Jewish Quarter for a pizzur lunch. From there, we visited the Temple Institute, which focuses on preparing for the potential building of the Third Temple in modern times. A young woman named Elisheva gave us an interesting and energetic tour, showing us reconstructions of objects and clothing items that were used in the Beit HaMikdash. After visiting the Temple Mount earlier in the day, where both temples once were, the history we learned regarding the Temple took on even greater importance.
    To top off the day, some Neshamaniks headed across the street from Agron to buy ingredients for tomorrow’s outdoor barbecue! We are all excited for tomorrow’s hike and for our first Shabbat in Jerusalem!”
  • Wednesday, March 1

    Grace wrote about todays experience; her summary is a reflection of how unique Jerusalem is, how it brings together ancient and new, noise and scilence, harmony and disharmony at once:  
    "Today was a day filled with lots of learning and fun! We started off the day by walking through the Mamila Mall to the Christian quarter of the old city in Jerusalem and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which we learned is one of the holiest places for Christians to visit. There, we walked around the beautiful church and learned about the rich history of Christianity and even its connection to Judaism! Even though I am not Christian, it was so interesting to learn about another religion and make personal connections between myself and another religion. After this, we headed over to the Jewish quarter where we had a pizur lunch which is where we split into groups and have the option to choose a restaurant to buy food from. I got a burger from a restaurant called Burgers Bar and it was so good! Other people got Schwarma, falafel, and bagels. After lunch, we went to the kotel which was a meaningful experience. There, we wrote notes and put them inside the wall. After visiting the kotel, we went to Ir David (The City of David) where we learned about the beginnings of Jerusalem as a city. We were able to see ancient rocks dating back to years ago. My favorite part of Ir David was walking through the underground water tunnels where about half of the group decided to walk through in the dark, and the other half of the group decided to walk through with flashlights. We had so much fun in the tunnels. We were singing songs and learned the importance of communicating with one another while in uncertain circumstances. Following this, we went back to Agron where we had free time and dinner. In the evening, we had the option of attending an Israeli protest taking place close to where we were staying. I went to the protest, and it was a great experience. We were able to learn about the current political situation in Israel and the tension surrounding it through reading the many signs' people were holding and talking to other Israelis at the protest. I learned a lot today and am very excited for tomorrow!"
  • Monday, February 27 and Tuesday, February 28

    Sara wrote a reflection from Monday and Tuesday:

    “On Monday we ended our time in Poland at the Jewish Historical Institute. The Institute showcased information about the members of the Oneg Shabbat community. We then got to learn more about how Ukraine refugees have come to Poland and connected with the Jewish community there. After that we said our goodbye to Poland, our bus driver Sebastian, security guard Adam, and coordinator Ryfkah.

    On the plane I sat with Jadon and Sophie while we talked about what we learned and saw in Poland and what we were looking forward to in Israel! When we got off the plane and saw the sign that says 'Welcome' in English, Hebrew, and Arabic, it felt so comforting to finally be in the Holy Land! We loaded up the luggage on the new bus and our bus driver Yehuda drove us to the Agron Hostel. Being back at Agron made all of us nostalgic and brought back memories from Na’ale. Everyone went to their rooms to get settled. For dinner, we had a choice of either falafel and hummus or a burger. Then everyone got into bed and rested after an exhausting travel day. 
    Our first full day in Israel started off with a delicious breakfast in the Agron dining hall. We had a Neshama meeting to go over some information and to safely put away our passports. Our madrichim took us to a park nearby so we could have some goal setting and bonding time! 

    We came up with a list of group goals and expectations for Neshama. Lunch was back in the Agron dining hall. From lunch we boarded the bus to explore Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem. Rob led us through multiple churches and taught us about Christianity. We visited the Dominus Flevit Church, the Grotto of Gethsemane, and the Tomb of Virgin Mary. It is important to learn about other religions that co-exist in Jerusalem. We walked the extremely steep Mount of Olives and learned about the history of the area and the Jewish cemetery. 

    Today we also had our first pizur dinner at Ben Yehuda Street. I enjoyed a falafel platter from Moshiko with some of my friends. We spent the rest of our free time walking around and exploring different stores. The night ended with a program about our personal connection to Israel led by our amazing madrichim and celebrated Sophie Fischer’s birthday! It was a great first day in Israel, and we all cannot wait for the many more to come.”
  • Sunday, February 26

    Elias wrote a powerful reflection of today’s visit to Auschwitz: 
    "Another early morning. We woke up at 6 am, prepared for yet another day of walking in the blistering cold. Unlike New Jersey, we witnessed snow here which consisted of the largest snowflakes I had ever seen. To be completely honest, Boaz, Sam, and I ended up waking late - just 30 minutes before our departure from the hotel this morning. While others may not feel the same, I strive to be on time and having to finish packing our bags, get dressed, eat breakfast, pack lunches, and load the bus in 30 minutes from opening my eyes to sitting ready to go on the bus certainly made me stressed. I was running around the breakfast area preparing my food, and I was nervous about being on time. 
    We pulled into Auschwitz-Birkenau in the gloomy, cloudy weather and all my stress from getting ready in the morning rapidly vanished as all of that became a distant focus compared to what we were about to experience. On the one-hour drive, we all enjoyed seeing the snow fall to the ground. As soon as we arrived, the snow began to dissipate and the sun finally poked through the clouds in the sky. The entrance was full of buses and various tour groups, which made me happy since I saw how many people were being educated about the horrible events that occurred during the Holocaust. Our tour guide was excellent. Even though we have spent countless hours in school learning about the Holocaust, she offered great information based on what we saw. She made an interesting point about how deliberate the Germans were with what information they released to the public. Contrary to popular belief, the tour guide explained that they actually made information about the concentration camps public. When being sent to a concentration camp, people believed they knew what to expect and had no idea about the worst that can happen. This is why we have many examples of what the labor sectors of concentration camps looked like via pictures but never any content about the gas chambers, since the Germans made sure to keep this a secret.

    To add onto this, we saw images of people disembarking the trains at Auschwitz-Birkenau, beaming with joy as they are reunited with their families and now they believe they will simply work together at this camp. The heartbreaking fact is, most of them had absolutely no idea what was to come. Since the gas chambers were kept so secretive, the people just didn’t realize they would be put to deaths only minutes after being reunited with their families. Most likely until the last second, they still thought they were just going to take a shower until they realized their fate in the final moments. 
    We walked into one of the ‘blocks’ at Auschwitz and saw pictures lined against two walls. Imagine 8x8 picture frames, five rows tall and stretching across an entire long hallway. Each person had a name below their picture, despite being given a number to replace their name once they arrived at Auschwitz. At first, I ran my eyes quickly along all the pictures as I felt overwhelmed by how many there were. Halfway in, I decided to go one picture at a time. I noticed when they were born, observing people both young and old. I also noticed the dates they were deported and the dates they died. Unfortunately, I noticed that many of these individuals died a month or so after arriving at Auschwitz although there were certainly others that survived longer. Every picture showed a person staring directly at us. I looked at some of these individuals right in the eye. Although they could not hear me, I said in my head to them, 'I will not disappoint you and all of us are here to forever remember the past.' 
    Auschwitz (Auschwitz I) and Birkenau (Auschwitz II) are actually entirely separate camps even though people commonly believe that there is just one ‘Auschwitz,’ which I initially thought as well. While Auschwitz was mainly comprised of military barracks which had already been built by the Polish Army, Birkenau was essentially entirely built during the war by prisoners since it was an expansion to Auschwitz I. Upon arriving to the camp and walking along the infamous train tracks, I was shocked by the vastness of the camp. The trees blended with the horizon in the distance, and I couldn’t believe this entire complex completely revolved around killing innocent people. As we walked around, it almost felt like we weren’t moving/making progress because we felt so small in such a large place. We could barely imagine how small one of the thousands of people felt like when living at Birkenau. To expand on the theme of vastness, we saw the exhibit that contained the largest book we would ever see. The museum partnered with Yad Vashem to create a catalog for the Jewish people who passed away during the Holocaust. We spent a long time trying to find our family names and these several feet tall pages filled with names made me realize how many lives were taken during these years. I realized how long it would take to read through all the names in this catalog versus how quickly the Nazis could mass murder the Jews in a gas chamber. So many lives were taken in such a short period of time. 
    The snow picked back up again. Our mispachah was preforming our Tekes (ceremony) by one of the destroyed gas chambers as we read aloud inspirational poems and sung several songs. As Sophie beautifully sang one song, I took a second to take in the surroundings. Trees stood still, and the buildings surrounded us. The rate of snowfall picked back up again. I felt like the countless snowflakes in the air represented a small fraction of the number of people who perished in the Holocaust. It’s hard to imagine six million people, but seeing the seemingly infinite amount of snowflakes surrounding us really put it into perspective. The snow continued to fall faster as we recited the Hatikvah as a grade and it felt beautiful to be surrounded by snow in this moment, relating it to all the souls of the people who passed away during this time. 
    You might have read Ilan’s summary the other day and seen him quote my observation from all of these experiences towards the end. While everyone gets emotional at these memorial sites for various reasons, I am always hit by one fact: No matter how horrible these sites we go to are, and no matter how dangerous it was for the people at the time, we can always walk away. At a concentration camp where 1.1 million people died inside, we can walk across the grounds observing the camp and we can still simply get off the bus, walk around and return. We can walk into gas chambers that were filled with Zyklon B gas and the blue stains are still all over the walls, yet we can walk into the room and walk out unharmed. We are incredibly lucky. Our ancestors persevered through these exceptional times so that we can see this concentration camp as a museum rather than ever having to experience it as reality. I will always get emotional coming to this observation and appreciating the fact that hundreds of thousands of people walked through the same places we did, yet could not make it out alive like we easily could."
  • Friday, February 24 and Saturday, February 25

    Sophie F. wrote reflections about Friday and Shabbat:  
    “Shabbat was an incredible experience. We started our Friday with a tour of different synagogues in Krakow. The architecture was stunning and transported us back to a time before the Holocaust. We then travelled the beautiful streets of Krakow and learned about Polish culture through our stomachs. Personally, I had some of the best pierogis of my life. 
    We prepared for Shabbat and made our way to the Krakow JCC where we sang Kabbalat Shabbat and prayed Ma’ariv. I felt incredibly connected to my grade and to my Jewish ancestors while singing along to my favorite Kab Shab tunes. At Shabbat dinner, we met the director of the Krakow JCC, Jonathan Ornstein, who told us about all of the work they do. We found out about a rally being held in the square in support of Ukraine. After dinner, we decided to join and it was a surreal experience. To be a part of something bigger than myself, my grade, and my community felt important and was one of the most memorable parts of this Shabbat. 
    On Saturday morning, our grade split in two. One group went to a Krakow synagogue for Shacharit, while another group stayed behind and spoke about Righteous Among the Nations, bystanders in the war, and morality as a whole. I was in the discussion group, and it was incredibly interesting to hear the many opinions of my peers and the madrichim. After our tefillah activities, the grade came back together to hear a story from the daughter of a woman who helped a Jewish woman, Helena, escape the Krakow Ghetto and survive the war. It was very moving to see the papers that saved Helena from the ghetto. 
    We ate a delicious Shabbat lunch and then made our way back to the hotel for some much-needed rest time. Books were cracked open, naps were taken, snacks were eaten, and many good conversations were had. 
    After a few hours of rest, we split into small groups and discussed God’s role in the Holocaust. This topic has always baffled me, so it was very interesting to hear what my friends had to say about the ways they view God, God’s role in life, and God’s role in the Shoah. 
    Then, one of my favorite parts of Shabbat arrived, Havdallah! Standing outside our hotel, with our arms wrapped around one another, singing songs and greeting the new week was truly magical. We ate a yummy dinner and went off to bed to prepare for an early Sunday morning. 
    Overall, our Shabbat in Krakow was peaceful, fun and full of bonding moments. I have never felt so connected to myself, my grade and my religion before. I cannot wait to make more memories in the weeks to come.” 
  • Thursday, February 23

    Daniel Shapiro wrote todays update.
    “Today we went to the synagogue in Lancut, and met Mirek, the Polish caretaker of the synagogue. His Hebrew was perfect and the fact that a non-Jew would dedicate his life to preserving the history of the Jews of Lancut at both times astounds me and warms my heart. Learning that we will be remembered even if there is no Jews to do the remembering is one of the best experiences I have ever had. As we entered the Beit Knesset in Lancut, the overwhelming sense of history hit me at all once. The tall cream-colored arches stretched up like they were gently sheltering us. The Aaron Kodesh sat pristine as we sang our tffilah. And as we chanted our Nigguns and danced around, arm in arm, I felt an immense sense of joy. The Jews had, for however briefly, returned to Lancut. There were passages of prayer written on the walls, and while most seemed to be restorations, there were a scant few that seemed to be much older. Perhaps they were original, perhaps they were older restorations. We may never know. But I choose to believe that those few prayers were original to the synagogue, and that our tffilah brought some joy back to the old walls. 

    Next we travelled to what I would consider the hardest part of our trip so far, Zyblitovska Gora, which was the mass graves of Jewish children. As we stood over the mass graves of 800 infants, and hundreds of other children the profound weight of the Shoah hit all of us. Almost all of us were in tears, and we all began to understand the true magnitude of the atrocities committed against the Jews. I was struck with the staggering unfairness of it, that these children would have their lives, their very potential cut short. In that spot, I heard birds chirping, and on one of the mass graves, mournful white flowers were poking their heads out through the dirt, which served as a small symbolic comfort. When we were at the child graves, I found a piece of cloth with a name written on it. Chana Aberstein. I want to believe this was the name of one of the children murdered there. I will remember that name for as long as I can, to attempt to honor the lives taken from our world. After processing what we had just experienced, we traveled to Krakow, and here we toured the city. Unlike a lot of the other cities we had seen so far (perhaps due to the weather) Krakow was alive, buzzing with hundreds of people walking to and from. We toured the castle of the city and got to freely walk around the town square. The architecture was magnificent, hundreds of years of style mixing in an enchanting wordless symphony. Today represented to me, a fundamental aspect of Holocaust education and remembrance. We are at once saddened and horrified by what has happened and at the same time delighted and uplifted by the fact that these people lived, and that we are here. I will never take for granted, for as long as I am on this Earth, that I am here.”
  • Wednesday, February 22

    Ilan wrote today's update:

    “Elias and I had only 30 minutes to get ready for breakfast. Thirty minutes to collect the dirty clothes (mostly mine) scattered aimlessly throughout our hotel room. Thirty minutes to brush our teeth - to shave and whine about the schedule. Thirty minutes to get dressed in clean clothes. Thirty minutes to discuss the idea of showering, then resolving at “nah." And 30 minutes to wipe the crust from our eyes and prepare for whatever fabulously depressing escapade Rob was planning for us that day.
    But instead, we listened to Rihanna.
    Now, if I’m being completely honest, I’m not a big Rihanna fan. I mean I’ll happily listen to her whenever she comes on, but I’m not actively seeking out her music. But Elias…Elias is a Rihanna zealot. Whether it was the hook, bridge, or Eminem’s lightning-fast verses, he knew every word. Treblinka hurt us both so much, causing us to relentlessly ask ourselves deep, dark, philosophical questions. But for now, everything was just Rihanna, and maybe a bit of Eminem, so all that emptiness we felt and saw at Treblinka melted away.
    I think Rob got it too. We started at Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin, reciting together a page of Gemara in the synagogue once used to teach the students of Rabbi Meir Shapiro. “The walls can hear you," Rob told us. We argued through the intricacies of the text, saturating the dull vacancy left there in the long-abandoned synagogue. It acted as a breath of fresh air from the inhumanity we witnessed the previous day, and recharged us in advance of our next stop.
    The first thing you notice at Maidonick is that it looks like a concentration camp. The barracks lay out endlessly like fallen dominos, claustrophobic even from the outside. Rocky paths surrounded by electric fencing serve as the only way of getting from one place to the other.  Guard towers loom over the entire operation, silent and oppressive. In Treblinka, there was nothing, in Maidonick, everything. 
    The shower heads were rusted, and the walls were stained blue. Behind glass, pellets of gas sat stacked on top of each other, and I could feel my throat clench. It smelled like camp - the old, humid wood and dusty bunk beds, but the ceiling was dark blue, the walls pastel. We walked outside, and it was cold again. Shavings of ice melted on our skin and jackets, the path extending out past my comprehension into the clouds. We passed a small group of tourists as we made our way down to the clouds, and into another barrack. Daniel and Alec huddled with Rob, Strangely, they were smiling. 
    “He’s here," Daniel informed Rob. “Wow!” Rob exclaimed. “We just thought you should know," Alec added proudly. How can they be so apathetic? I thought. Did they not see the showers, the blue walls…? I approached Daniel and asked him what happened. “Jesse Eisenberg is here."
    Now, I’m not a big Jesse Eisenberg fan. I mean, I’ve never seen the Social Network, and even though I watched Now You See Me, I wasn’t really that impressed with his quirky performance. As Alec cleverly quipped on the bus later in the day, “Jesse Eisenberg is not an A-lister - but he’s definitely on a list." But I think that was enough for me. Actually, I think it was enough for all of us, as we spent the next 10 minutes packed together in  Barrack 3, giggling about the craziness of the situation. Rob asked us what our next move should be.
    “Should I say anything?” he asked between chuckles. “This is so wrong,” objected Sam and Daniel Shapiro with big fat smiles on their faces. “Okay, how about this?" Rob said. “I’ll go over there and tell him that my kids all recognized who you were and were wondering if you could explain to them what you were doing here.” Huddled there in Barrack 3, we all agreed that this was both the most appropriate and responsible course of action for us to take. Rob left, and when he came back, Jesse Eisenberg stood before us craving fans as a God. 
    You can ask your son or daughter how that interaction went. I’d love to elaborate on every minute detail of the actor’s quirky demeanor (how he awkwardly said, “see you soon” as his final words), but I still have half a day to cover, and Rob is not so happy that it’s taken me this long to finish what was supposed to be a short summary. 
    Next, we listened to Sophia and Talia tell us their families’ Holocaust stories in front of thousands of lost shoes of the dead. The beds behind Talia looked cramped, and even more so when Rob explained that nine people would have to sleep together in one bunk. Again, that nostalgic smell of camp.
    I remember that I became nauseous when I saw the pile of ashes. It felt too solid when everything else was so untenable and gaseous. I put my back to it and listened as some of my friends recited honoring texts. We were all freezing, but none of us felt like complaining. 
    In the town of Lejansk, we sang niguns by the grave of Rabbi Elimelech. The guys and girls stood on opposite sides of a Mechitza, re-enacting the Acapella battle scene from pitch perfect (it was very Jewish). 
    We ended our day at a memorial commemorating the Ulma family and the other righteous among the nation. Alec read us their story, and we had a long discussion about what it means to be a bystander. 
    On the way back to the bus from the dome of ashes, Elias said something to me: “What gets me is that we can just walk away." His eyes were red and distraught, and I could feel all his pain. But it kind of stuck in my mind: “What gets me is that we can just walk away." To be Jewish is to be eternally hurt. It means that you inherently have this dark part of yourself that’s always clinging to the left or right side of your brain. But to be Jewish is to also be a survivor. It’s that we’ve been given this chance to live, to love, and when we can, to walk away. We can go to a concentration camp and completely forget why we’re there. We can sit there in barrack 3 and lose ourselves to silliness. We can sing songs 20 feet away from a grave, and read Gemara, “the walls can hear you." The tragedy and beauty of being Jewish is that the walls are always stained blue, but Rihanna is on, so we’ll jam - even if it’s just for 30 minutes.”

  • Tuesday, February 21

    Sam reflected on his experience: 
    “The trees in Tykocin have no bark towards their tops, maybe because of the intense wind, and what wood lies under their gray exterior is a soft orange. It almost looks like a sunset is throwing light at them, regardless of the time of day. The noon-evening in all of its chilly beauty hovered dormant above us as we stood in a circle around a mass grave. The dissonance between setting and context was surreal.
    Thirty minutes earlier, we traveled by bus the same route that thousands of Jews had by Nazi convoy. We held our tongues for perhaps the first time since we arrived. A bit of sun shone through the clouds, which some of our ancestors weren’t able to see through the opaque walls of their train compartments.
    Right before we entered the forest on this path, I saw a dark-feathered bird glide towards the ground in a spiral so smooth that it almost appeared performative. I caught a glimpse of it on the ground, standing as if waiting for applause. We left it behind.
    Treblinka was our last stop before the hotel. The trees there, also stripped of their bark on top, swayed as if davening. The hundreds of stones which served to memorialize fallen communities and enclaves received these prayers without giving feedback.
    Before any of this, there stood an oft-used synagogue. It is now a museum, beautifully-preserved, holding no minyan but those from tour groups like ours.
    I am not someone who believes in ghosts, even if I know they exist."
  • Monday, February 20

    Chava wrote a reflection of their day in Warsaw:
    “We visited the Warsaw Jewish Cemetery, the Monument of Nathan Rapoport, the Nozyk Synagogue, and the Ghetto Heroes Monument. While much of what we see in Poland is surrounded by tragedy, the fact that we are able to see all of these sites are testimony to the Jewish community in Poland before, during, and after the Holocaust. The Jews that died were a wide range of people who all lived different lives. Visiting these sites is a saddening experience, but it also allows us to learn about the diversity in the Jewish community as well as how they showed resistance against a great disaster.”

Photo Albums

Israel - May 16

Neshama 31 - May 16

Israel - May 14-15

Neshama 31 - May 14-15

Israel - May 12

Neshama 31 - May 12

Israel - May 11

Neshama 31 - May 11

Israel - May 10

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Israel - May 7-9

Neshama 31 - May 7-9

Israel - May 3-4

Neshama 31 - May 3-4

Israel - May 1-2

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Israel - April 25-27

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Israel - April 23

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Israel - April 20-21

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Israel - April 18-19

Neshama 31 - April 18-19

Israel - April 17

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Israel - April 13-14

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Israel - April 4

Neshama 30 - April 4

Israel - March 31

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Israel - March 29

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Israel - March 28

Neshama 31 - March 28

Israel - March 26-27

Neshama 31 - March 26-17

Israel - March 23

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Israel - March 22

Neshama 31 - March 22

Israel - March 20

Neshama 31 - March 20

Israel - March 19

Neshama 31 - March 19

Israel - March 15-16

Neshama 31 - March 15-16

Israel - March 12-14

Neshama 31 - March 12-14

Israel - March 8-9

Neshama 31 - March 8-9

Israel - March 6-7

Neshama 31 - March 6-7

Israel - March 5

Neshama 31 - March 5

Israel - March 3

Neshama 31 - March 3

Israel - March 2

Neshama 31 - March 2

Israel - March 1

Neshama 31 - March 2

Israel - February 28

Neshama 31 - February 28

Poland - February 27

Neshama 31 - February 27

Poland - February 26

Neshama 31 - February 26

Poland - February 24

Neshama 31 - February 24

Poland - February 23

Neshama 31 - February 23

Poland - February 22

Neshama 31 - Febraury 22

Poland - February 21

Neshama 31 - February 21

Poland - February 20

Neshama 31 - February 20