The past two days were really one long day since there was not so much in way of “Night” in between Wednesday and Thursday. So we will start with yesterday, Wednesday.
Wednesday was our day in Haifa. Students went to classes in the morning with their Israeli hosts. Following the time they spent in classes together at Hugim, the Israelis and Americans participated in a workshop on Jewish Identity that was facilitated by an educator from Oranim Teachers College. It was an interesting workshop that included discussion and values clarifications.
After being at school for the morning the Americans and a few Israelis went to the Baha’i Temple and learned a bit about the Baha’i religion. The Baha’i religion is based on the theme of unity - unity of religion and unity of humanity. The Baha’i prophets or “educators” are critical in connecting Baha’i followers with one another and with the Divine Presence. The Baha’i Temple and its beautiful gardens are visible throughout Haifa and represent the pluralism and co-existence that are central to Haifa’s identity and history.
At the bottom level of the multi-level Baha’i complex is the area of Haifa known as the Germany Colony. The German Colony is known by the characteristic red roofs on top of the buildings. Haifa’s German Colony was not established by German Jews, as one might expect; the Germans referred to in the case of Haifa were non-Jewish Germans from the mid-nineteenth century. The German Templars were a group of religious Christians who wanted to live in the Holy Land in anticipation of the Messiah’s arrival.
"Today was really interesting. I enjoyed learning about the Druze religion and how their members have the choice between being religious and secular. Furthermore, the food was fantabulous."
"I learned a lot about the Druze religion and they separated from the Muslims and are not Jews but are still part of the state of Israel"
"I learned that the Druze believe that the soul of someone who died comes back in a newborn baby."
The time is flying by and we are already at the end of Day 4!! We had another great day today. And lucky for us, despite the weather forecasts to the contrary, we only had a little bit of rain as we explored the north of Israel today on our travels to Tzefat and the Golan Heights.
We started out in Haifa at school, boarded the bus, and began to drive toward the north. We traveled first through the area of hills and valleys known as "The Lower Galilee." The Lower Galilee is known for its rich and beautiful farmland, where the fields in the winter are green and where, thankfully for Israel, there has been an abundance of rain this winter so far. After crossing through The Lower Galilee, we traveled through "The Upper Galilee" toward the city of Tzefat. The Upper Galilee looks different than the lower Galilee, with lots of black basalt rock from old volcanoes throughout the region and lots and lots of cows on the hillsides. We were in the area of the two highest mountain peaks in Israel: Mt. Hermon (highest) and Mt. Meron. We could see the snow on top and along the sides of Mt. Hermon -- a lot of snow!
Tzefat is one of the four "holy cities" for Jews and Judaism throughout the ages. The others are: Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberius. Tzefat is located way up on a mountain with a beautiful view of the surroundings areas just below. As Jews were expelled from Jerusalem, they tried to get as far from Jerusalem as possible so that they could preserve Jews and Judaism from destruction. Tzefat was one such place where they settled - way up in the hills and even in the caves that are found in the area. And partly due to its magnificent natural beauty, Tzefat developed a kind of Judaism that was different from the Judaism of Jerusalem. Many of those who came to Tzefat were "mystics," believers in the spiritual side of Judaism and inspired by the serenity of Tzefat and the artists' colony that was established and still thrives today. We had some time to walk around and get a sense of the atmosphere, have a snack, buy a little something, walk into some of the finest art galleries in Israel, visit the "Ari Synagogue," and take in the views and serenity of this city that has been considered "holy" for close to two thousand years.
Sofia wrote about our morning stop in Tzefat:
The first thing we did today was visit the Jewish city of Tzefat located in northern Israel. While visiting, we talked about the various branches of Judaism, including Reform Judaism, as well as the various subgroups of Orthodox Judaism, such as the Lithuanians and the Hasidics. This included discussions about the rise of Reform Judaism and how it coincided with the Industrial Revolution, making it a general period of innovation and new ideas in both secular and religious life. We also visited an old temple where Lecha Dodi was written in the 16th century. When at the synagogue in Tzefat, we talked about what unites all three branches of Judaism across the diaspora. Finally, we talked about Tikkun Olam and the importance of doing good deeds in Judaism. At the end, we were given free time to explore the neighborhood and shop, including stopping in an artisan candle store. Overall, it was a very interesting morning with some fascinating history and thought-provoking conversations.
After a break for lunch in the northern Israeli city of "Katzrin," (where the sun came out!!), we stopped to visit a unique olive oil press and visitor center. We saw how olive oil is made and learned about the variety of olive oils, cosmetics, and other household cleaning items that are manufactured and sold there. Following the olive press, we drove up to a vista point where we were able to look down and see Syria - only 1 kilometer away from where we were standing.
Becca wrote about what it felt to be on the Syrian border - a place that was very quiet today, but has been an area in which there has been a lot of war and bloodshed in the past:
The view at the Golan Heights was so cool because you could see for miles. Then, we went into a bunker and learned about the experiences of soldiers which was really interesting.
We will check in again tomorrow!
Rabbi Lisa Eiduson
It was a busy but wonderful day in Israel. Despite a loud thunderstorm in the middle of the night, the rain held off most of the day and evening today, although we did not see much sun. It was windy and cool, but it felt great to be outside after all of the airports and airplanes! Our students all said that they slept well and that they felt comfortable at their hosts' homes. The Israeli families could not be more hospitable.
Our day was divided into three parts: 1) Rosh Hanikra - the Lebanese border; 2) Acco - the City on the sea that provided strategic advantage for conquerers of the Holy Land over the years and that became most well-built and well-known as a Crusader City, much of which was underground. 3) Shabbat celebration hosted by all of the Israeli families at the Hugim High School.
We met our guide, Chen, at school and left by bus at 8 am this morning with the American group and the 3 Boston leaders; plus four Israelis together with their teacher, Evyatar. We also had the privilege to be accompanied be Melena Meron, who is the wonderful new Head of School at Hugim. Welcome to the HiBuR team Melena! (Yes, in Israel you call the Head of School by their first name)
Rosh Hanikra is a beautiful place, even when it is windy and cold. Because of the stormy weather, the Mediterranean Sea was inky blue with lots of waves and noisy surf. Israel's border with Lebanon is at the northern tip of Israel and is a land border as well as a sea border. We took cable cars to the famous grottos that the waves have carved out of the stone for thousands of years. We spoke with Chen about the strategic advantage of this area and how it has been a difficult point of entry for those who sought to overtake this northern-most tip of the Holy Land. Because of the storm, we could only see a couple of the grottos and we actually got sprayed by the salty sea water more than once as we walked along the walkways. We looked up to see the land border with Lebanon that today was thankfully serene. We took the cable car back up to the bus for our second stop today on the Sea -- Acco.
The "Old City" of Acco is a wonderful introduction to the co-existence of Arabs and Jews -- much like Haifa. While Acco is 70% Jewish and 30% Arab, almost all of those who live in the Old City are Arab. It is almost a mini-Jerusalem, with a market that has all of the sounds, smells, sights and tastes of the Middle East. Friday is a day of prayer for Muslims, so the market was not too busy, so we got a good chance to look around at all of the authentic clothing, spices, foods, cooking utensils and whatever else one might need at a typical market. Though it was wet and chilly, the market is bright and vibrant with life and in the background we could hear the Muezzin calling the Muslims to prayer -- which happens 5 times a day. We walked through Crusader tunnels chiseled out of the sandstone and the enormous city that is still being excavated. We saw the famous Acco Prison that was build by the Crusaders, but used during the time of the British Mandate for people -- some refugees -- who came by boat and tried to illegal enter the Holy Land by sea. You cannot go to Acco without eating felafel and hummus - rumored to be the best in the world! We had our first felafel today at the market in Acco -- with all of the traditional vegetables and goodies stuffed inside of warm pita.
After returning back to Haifa by bus, the students were picked up by their host families for a few hours of rest... and then we all met back at school at 7 pm for a big and delicious pot luck Shabbat dinner, Israeli style! Everyone tried new foods and enjoyed old favorites; we sang songs, were led in the Shabbat blessings by one of the Israel families, and enjoyed a relaxing and fun evening together. Students went back to their host homes full and happy. Tomorrow is a day with families as well, so we wished the students a wonderful day or rest and maybe a little exploration....they know where we are and how to reach us and we are in touch with all of them by What'sApp to check in.
Thank you for loaning us your sons and daughters. Nancy, Rabbi Joe and I are enjoying them and they definitely keep themselves entertained and laughing which is great. They are a really fun group to travel with, and the parents could not stop telling us how polite the students are and how much they are enjoying hosting them.
I think my favorite quote from today was from one of the young women who jumped in front of my camera and said: "Yes, please take my picture!! I haven't called or kept in touch much and I know that my parents will be looking for me in the pictures to make sure that I'm here with everyone!!!"
Enjoy the photos and we will check in again tomorrow night before our travel day on Sunday!
Shabbat shalom to all of you from the beautiful city of Haifa,
Rabbi Lisa Eiduson
"I loved seeing the beautiful sea when I normally only see the ocean in summer, and the caves. Also, the Falafel was really good!"
- Kaila S.
Dear HiBur Families and Friends,
We have arrived in Haifa after a long but pleasant journey together. Our flights were very crowded - both to Munich and then to Tel Aviv. But everyone settled in well, and the choice of movies and music on our flight from Boston to Munich was excellent. We were all seated in one area, and a few people actually got a little bit of sleep on that first flight. We arrived late in Munich due to some last minute snow and de-icing at Logan. Therefore, in Munich, we went directly to the Tel Aviv gates and only took a few minutes to use the bathrooms and get ready for our next flight.
Many who did not sleep on the trans-Atlantic flight slept on the 3.5 hour trip from Munich to Tel Aviv....but it was certainly not long enough!
Tel Aviv is beautiful as always...the kids compared their first glances from the air to be like Florida or California. It is definitely chilly and windy. But weather here can change at any moment. Once in Tel Aviv, we got through Passport Control in record time, and our bags came off just as we entered baggage claim. And as we walked through customs....we were greeted by our Israeli friends who had all made the trip to meet us in Tel Aviv. Lots of happy noise -- screaming and laughing -- as students and staff members reunited! After changing some money at the airport, we all got on the bus for the ride to Haifa.
The kids talked, sang, laughed, and planned together. We drove directly to the Huggim School where we were met with fantastic snacks by way of a welcome. The families of the Israeli students were all there to pick everyone up and take students home for a much-needed good night of sleep! We have checked in with the students via What's App, as planned, and everyone seems to be happy to be in Haifa.
A few picture are attached. Tomorrow's blog post will also contain some words directly from the students. My personal favorite comment of the day was Kristina's who commented on the state of the bathrooms at the Munich Airport: "That was the nicest, cleanest bathroom I have ever been in! I have never seen a towel dispenser like that in my life!"
More tomorrow....good night!
Rabbi Lisa Eiduson