On Eagles' Wings
Our final day in Israel dawned with the threat of rain (again). But we knew better! Although there was a brief sprinkling, the sun persistently shone through the clouds. In the end, it blossomed into a beautiful day to conclude a beautiful visit.
After breakfast, we drove to the ancient port city of Jaffa, Tel Aviv’s historic predecessor. The stretches of beach along wonderful views captivated the students; we often paused to take selfies overlooking the Mediterranean’s unusually strong surf.
We climbed through ancient neighborhoods to reach an overlook where several of the Israeli students shared their knowledge about Jaffa. One of the highlights of the morning was the Wishing Bridge; each of the astrological signs are mounted on it in bronze. Legend has it that wishes made when touching one’s own sign will come true.
Having crossed the bridge, we gathered at a lovely fountain square. The Israeli students led us all in spontaneous folk dancing! Passersby looked on with delight and took pictures of us. As the sun emerged, we remember this moment with light and delight!
As the stores began to open, we walked along a winding pathway to the old center with its beautiful clock-tower (a meeting-place for several centuries). The students were delighted to have some free time; Americans and Israelis paired up together to explore the area. Famous (and aromatic) bakeries and produce-markets lined the streets. We saw more than one student tempted by sweet baked-goods.
Gathering together, we returned to the bus just in time for lunch. After we ate, we drove to the center of Tel Aviv, the new sister port of Old Jaffa, for self-guided historical tours of the area. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect as tourists and natives walked the beautiful promenades and boulevards of the city. We were told that the Independence Trail was modeled after the Freedom Trail in Boston! The students enjoyed playing with the tablets that guided them on the tour, finding their way to multiple points of historic interest.
Our stalwart driver, Elias, picked us up from the midst of a busy street and dropped us off at the Yarkon Park. We saw today that Tel Aviv is a fusion a major urban center and beautiful natural treasures. We followed the beautiful Yarkon river through parks, zoos, playing fields and bike paths until, much to our delight, we found ourselves steps away from our hostel!
After some time to pack our bags and relax, we met in the cafeteria for dinner. Our last excursion together was about to begin. We walked to the “new port” – a cosmopolitan shopping area adjoining the ocean. Pairing up again, the students enjoyed some unstructured time to talk, take in the sea air and prepare for our closing ceremony.
We were in a somber mood when we sat together in a meeting room at the hostel. Each of us, in turn, had the opportunity to speak from the heart about the HiBuR experience. There was laughter and tears. Students slapped hands and held each other. Of all the moments that we shared, this one confirmed what we already knew: that the relationships that we formed will be an enduring blessing for us all.
As we write these words, sitting in the Tel Aviv airport, we can see our students around us. Some are dozing, some are reading and others are playing cards. No matter what they’re doing, we truly believe that they are a single group; respecting each other’s differences and supporting each other’s needs with kindness, insight and sensitivity.
When we arrived in Israel, we were a strong group. As we leave Israel, we’re a family. And we’re sad to be leaving behind members of our extended family. This is why we say, l’hitra’ot – until we see each other again – when we depart. It’s with the conviction that we will meet again because of the strength of the bonds that have woven us together.
We are so very grateful to the many people and organizations who made this opportunity possible, both in Boston and in Haifa, and especially to our hosts at Hugim - Hagit, Evyatar, and Galit, who made this mifgash an unforgettable experience to all of us. Please know that your support is helping us realize the dream of a worldwide Jewish community. We have all learned and grown through this visit to our ancient homeland. May we merit to share the gifts that we received here with our loved ones in every land.
Shavua tov from the Ben Gurion airport,
Rabbis Lisa and Josh