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Israel – Days 7 and 8

Wednesday

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.


The students went back to their host homes to pack and relax a bit and then had a fantastic evening BBQ where they celebrated their final night in Haifa together.

Thursday

What is it about Masada? No matter how many times I see this amazing site -- an entire town literally hewn out of the side of a steep sloping mountain -- it is always as if it is the first visit all over again. Today was a very long day, but a great day filled with fresh air, exercise, new experiences and things to learn. We left Haifa with our Israeli partners, together with all of our bags packed and under the bus. Our students said their thank yous and goodbyes to their host families and got on the bus at 2 am from Haifa heading toward Masada. Since no one was able to get much sleep during the night, a lot of students slept on the bus. It was dark, and we were driving south where, especially in the middle of the night, there was no traffic. It takes about 3.5 hours to get from Haifa to Masada...it is a winding road through the very dry desert. It is always very warm during the daytime and cold at night. The landscape looked like a painting and as soon as daylight emerged, many types of birds began singing and chirping.
The commanding presence of Masada can be seen from the road -- and the triple-tiered building structures that were cut right out of the rock adds to the power of this mountain and testifies to its singular place in Jewish history. Masada was built by the great King Herod, whose massive building projects are all over the Land of Israel. Masada, meaning "fortress" stands alone as one of the greatest architectural feats that has ever been accomplished. Masada is a symbol of Jewish religious freedom. Built by Herod as a place for his palace and as a secure and safe location away from major cities, Masada was built with careful attention to detail and with a great deal of building savvy and precision. It was built to keep people safe on the mountain top, and was set up to provide everything a community needed while seeking refuge away from the attacking enemies.
When the Second Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in 70 CE, Jews scattered and quickly ran from the destruction in Jerusalem, not wanting to be taken on as slaves to the Romans. A fairly large group of these displaced Jews came to Masada, and decided to use it as the Romans had intended, but for the Jews themselves: as a safe and secure place high up, that would protect them against enemy attacks. The Jews created an entire community on Masada with everything they needed: food, water, storage space for goods, and most of all, a feeling that even though they were far from Jerusalem, they were at Masada to make the point that the Jewish people are not easily destroyed.
The Zealots of Masada were Jewish "freedom fighters." They filled the storage rooms with hundreds of items, some of them perishable and some not. The Jews built Mikvaot (ritual bath facilities), a synagogue, spa and bath facilities, and enough food and supplies to literally last for years. And yet, Masada has a sad story that we discussed with the students as well on the mountain-top this morning. While it took time and many attempts, the Romans eventually figured out a way to climb up the mountain and put an end to the Jews of Masada. The Romans pushed their way up the to the fortress, and prepared for a large-scale siege in which the Jews of Masada would be killed and the Romans would have the Masada fortress to themselves again. 
But the Jews at the top had a radical response. Rather than surrender to the Romans the Jewish community of Masada decided that they would die instead of living as slaves to the Romans without their Jewish heritage or identity. The community decided that the male head of each household would kill his wife and children and then the 10 men who were left would draw lots to determine who would kill whom. And the last man would kill himself. The Masada story concludes as the Romans finally made it to the top of Masada -- only to find that all of the Jews had died of their own choosing. 
For those who come into this desert wilderness, Masada is a great story of courage and bravery; it is about what happens when Jews stand up in defense of their Judaism at all costs. Today, we ascended the Roman Ramp-- which is mostly stairs/steps on a sharp and angled incline that took us up to the top of the fortress. We explored the excavations that have occurred and that continue to occur now as archaeologists and historians try to gain more insight into this two-thousand year-old story. 
We came down Masada via the snake path, which is a slightly longer and more winding and treacherous pathway - to the bottom of the mountain. When we got to the bottom of Masada, we ate snacks, drank water and then got back on the bus to travel to the Dead Sea. From the top of Masada, we drove to the lowest point on earth - the Dead Sea. Though it was a bit cool, students enjoyed floating in the salt water of the Dead Sea and learning about what is being done to save the Dead Sea, as it is evaporating at a quick pace. After some sun, football on the rocky beach, and floating in the Dead Sea, we headed for lunch at Kibbutz Ein Gedi. Ein Gedi is a beautiful sight. It is a full oasis in the middle of the desert with a fresh water waterfall and lots of places to hike and appreciate the enormous variety of plants and the sheer beauty of this unusual green and flowering area in the middle of the desert.
After lunch at the Kibbutz, we got back on the bus and drove 1.5 hours to the Hostel in Jerusalem. We were all in much need of a little rest and shower and met one another for dinner tonight. David Strauss from Congregation Beth El in Sudbury is also in Israel... and we saw him for a quick visit tonight before dinner. It was terrific to see him in Israel. After dinner we took a short walk to the Mamila Shopping center and came back and are going to sleep!
Rabbi Lisa Eiduson
In the picture above: Hagit and Evyatar, leaders of the Israeli group, together with our Nancy Kaplan, with a sculpture made by Hagit's mother which is being presented at the Mamila promenade.
"Masada was really amazing...painfully amazing, actually. The scenery was beautiful. It was fun and interesting and I learned a lot about the community on Masada."
~Alex
"I LOVED the Dead Sea. It was so cool to float on the water and to get a little bit of sun in February."
~Juliette

 

Israel – Day 6

Today, we spent the day learning about the Druze community in Israel. The Druze are a very special group of people - a subset of the population of the State of Israel. They are Arabic speaking, esoteric, ethno-religious group that broke from the Muslim religion many years ago in Egypt. They are citizens of Israel and the only Arabic speaking group that serves in Israel's defense forces. The Druze are highly loyal to the State of Israel; many of them who are in the Israel Defense Forces actually serve as border guards due to their courageous nature and their nationalistic fervor. The Druze have a religion that is largely secret. There are two important aspects of the Druze religion that we do know about: 1) It is monotheistic and the people tend to believe in many prophets; and 2) There is a deep belief in reincarnation. That is, the people believe that their bodies are only "shells" of the soul, and the soul "travels" from one body to another over the generations.
 
Today we went to two different Druze villages in the same region - about 30 minutes or so from Haifa. The villages are: Osfiya and Daliyat al-Karmel. The villages are located high in the mountains - unusual for Arab villages which are generally lower in the hills. However because the Druze are such a trusted and trusting population in Israel, they are given the advantage of living high up in the hills and help protect the State and the neighborhoods and villages in the area. 
 
The first stop we made today was to a beautiful park and vista point which introduced us to the region. There was an entire herd of goats being shepherded by a Druze man, dressed in traditional Druze dress. Then we went to a Druze cemetery which was fascinating and taught us a great deal about the Druze ideas of reincarnation. According to Druze tradition, when someone dies, they place the body in a mausoleum-like structure for one year. By the end of that first year, the body has decayed. What is left of the body is removed from the mausoleum and any remaining bones are placed in a common pit or ditch. However, when a Druze has served in the IDF or the police, his body is buried in the same way that Jews and Jewish soldiers are buried, including Jewish inscriptions on the headstones. It is as if the souls of those who serve the Jewish State are themselves Jewish! What an amazing concept: that they feel like Jews and that they are treated by the State of Israel with high respect and honor.
 
After the cemetery we went to Osfiya where we met our Druze guides who showed us around their village and pointed out their place of prayer and worship. We learned that men and women have separate areas in their sanctuary, but that there is full equality between men and women in the tradition. Actually, women are more highly educated than their male counterparts. There is a high value placed on learning - both secular and religious -- and there are many Druze who matriculate in Israel's universities at the highest levels. We learned that the religion is only known to those who are "religious," and that anyone can choose to be religious if they wish. The "religious" and the "secular" Druze live together, are part of the same family, and do not judge one another. We went to the home of the Druze guide who showed us around. She is a secular woman who is 24 years old. She is newly married to a secular man who is from a neighboring Druze village. Only the woman's mother is "religious." The rest of her family are all secular. 
 
We actually had lunch in our guide's parents' home. She is a fabulous cook and baker; everything was made from scratch. Salads, Kebab, lentils, tomato/eggplant and chick-peas, warm breads, hummus (homemade!), rice and chicken, delicious Druze tea, and sweets for dessert. It was a delicious meal and the hospitality was actually "Biblical" in its scope!
 
When we were finished with lunch, we headed back to Haifa -- full but satisfied. 
 
Tomorrow is our last day in Haifa....we have had a wonderful time here. Our American students have been terrific - and the Israeli students and their families have been extremely gracious hosts. We feel very fortunate to have such wonderful adults and teens as our partners at the Hugim High School.
 
A few words from some of our teen travelers:
 
"Today we got to experience the Druze towns and villages -- from where and how they live to where they rest in peace."
~Ethan
 
"Today was fun! I learned about the culture of the Druze people and their living styles and their beliefs."
Robert
 
"Today we visited a Druze home and ate some delicious food including three different kids of pita, hummus, rice and noodles with chicken!"
~Alexa
"I had an amazing time today with everyone! I learned so much about the Druze!"
~Kristina
"I learned about the Druze people and their religion, history, relationship to Islam, role in the Zionist movement, and their food!"
~Sofia

"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."

~Kaila

"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"

~Alex

"I learned that the Druze believe that the soul of someone who died comes back in a newborn baby."

~Kate

More tomorrow...good night!
Rabbi Lisa Eiduson

Israel – Day 5

Today started out cloudy and gray but turned into a beautiful, sunny day! We left Haifa this morning and were in traffic pretty much all the way to Tel Aviv! The sights and sounds of Tel Aviv are that of a big city -- skyscrapers, traffic jams, crowded sidewalks, buses, trains and lots and lots of people - mostly young.
 
Tel Aviv is a major city by any standards. It has many different "personalities." There is the high-tech sector, the university students, the international influence, and the many start-ups that are thriving in the city of Tel Aviv. But there is another, softer side of Tel Aviv, too: the gorgeous beach next to the sparkling water of the Mediterranean Sea, the Bauhaus style architecture that was the building trend when Tel Aviv was being established between 1920-1940 - even before the establishment of the State of Israel. It has a very European feel to it, too: outdoor cafes, restaurants, shops, coffee houses, boutiques, parks, and a few fabulous boulevards with walkways built in the middle of these wide streets so that people could stroll up and down the newly established streets and roads and look at the beautiful new homes. So, there are cultural reminders in Tel Aviv that one is in the Middle East, but also that it is a city of immigrants from all over the world.
We started our day at Tel Aviv University, an international university of 30,000 students in total, and Israel's number 1 research university. The campus is large and very modern. We were met by Hagit's (one of the Israeli teachers) daughter, Gal, and her boyfriend, Itamar. They are both students at Tel Aviv University. They took us to a new photography exhibition in one of the galleries at the University. It is entitled "Defense Lines" and is about different "fortification lines" and the messages that they convey -- fences, walls, border, bunkers, enemy lines -- and it is a study of the way in which people and the natural landscape work together or resist one another in creating human memories. It was an interesting perspective for our times.
 
We were introduced to the Tel Aviv University campus by a young woman who has been studying here in Israel and whose family is from New Jersey. She gave the students information about herself and the many programs Tel Aviv University offers students -- both Israelis and the many international students who come to Tel Aviv University as well. She pointed out the Hillel House and synagogue on campus, and spoke about the many different types of religious events, services, and activities that take place for students and for the public as well. 
On the University campus are other museums, exhibitions, and cultural arts as well. One of the oldest and most well-known museums in the State of Israel is called Beit Hatefusot (Home of the Diasporas): The Museum of the Jewish People. Its hands-on, innovative exhibits tell the story of the Jewish people in a creative and engaging way for children as well as adults. Today, our students had the opportunity to learn independently and with each other about a variety of selected topics in a way that was accessible, fun and interactive for the students.
 
Thanks to Itay's father, we had lunch on the top floor of the Azrieli Building in Tel Aviv!!! What an amazing panoramic view of Tel Aviv. After lunch, we went to the center of Tel Aviv -- to Rothschild avenue -- for a walking tour of the city. Though we did have a guide, we actually tried something new: we had a self-guided walking tour that actually made use of tablets/ipads and that enhanced the walking tour with all kinds of interesting facts, maps, games, trivia, etc. The weather in Tel Aviv improved over the course of the day, so by the end of day, at sunset, we enjoyed some beautiful natural colors as the sun went down over the Mediterranean. 
 
Our final stop today was Jaffa, the predecessor of Tel Aviv, and one of the most important ports in the Middle East. For a long time, Jaffa was was a predominantly Arab city. But now, it has a growing population of Israeli Jews, too. Many of the newer residents of Jaffa are people in their 20s and early 30s and would like the idea of co-existence with other peoples, nationalities and religions. Jaffa has wonderful art galleries, studios, amazing food, baked goods, and just about everything one could possibly need. We saw an unusual but very fun film introducing Jaffa and its history to the audience through a virtual reality experience that included glasses and chairs that moved in accordance with the action in the film, that helped tell the story of Jaffa. We had a few minutes to walk around the famous clock-tower at Jaffa, grab a coffee or ice cream, and get back on the bus for the 1.75 hour ride back to Haifa!!! 
 
Tomorrow we meet and are hosted by some very unusual residents of Israel known as Druze or Druzim -- and we will visit two very special Druze villages that make very positive contributions to the life of the State of Israel.
 
We are having a great time and hoping that everyone at home is well and happy, too!
Rabbi Lisa Eiduson

Israel – Day 4

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 returned to Haifa to have dinner with host families and then attend a soccer game together!

We will check in again tomorrow!

Rabbi Lisa Eiduson

Israel – Day 2

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.

Israel – Day 1

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

Boston Mifgash – Until We Meet Again

The concluding weekend of the Boston Mifgash is an emotional time. Friendships that have just begun will soon have to adjust to a distanced reality. A new discovered land will turn into a memory. Newly welcomed house guests are slowly packing their suitcases. First – Shabbat, dinner, family time, are turning into last.

While trying to balance the time we spend together as a group, with the time we spend together as families, and together with friends, the weekend program included a joint Shabbat dinner and service at Kerem Shalom, led by the wonderful Rabbi Darby, a community Havdallah led by the inspiring Rabbi Polisson of Or Atid, teen concluding activity, and a farewell BBQ. The powers that are this year’s HiBuR have managed to create space and time for a bonfire and a sleepover as well. All within 48 hours.

Gathered in David’s back yard, as the airport bus patiently, yet presently awaits its role, we tried to verbalize and share our individual experiences from the mifgash. Words just weren’t enough. Another hug, another picture, another tear. A collection of teens, parents, siblings, teachers. A new community, only trying to say, Lehitraot.

Thank you.

The Boston Mifgash is a community driven event, which would not have been possible without the contribution, participation, and hard work of all the following people:

For mentoring, guiding, building bridges, and funding:

  • Marla Olsberg, Pam Weil, and Iris Schor of the CJP

For inviting us into their synagogues, learning, sharing, and celebrating with us:

  • Rabbi Josh Breindel, Cantor Lorel Zar-Kessler, Beth Schine, and Jane Johnston of Congregation Beth El
  • Rabbi Lisa Eiduson and Orna Sonneschein of Congregation B’nai Torah
  • Beth Goldstein of Congregation Beth Elohim
  • Rabbi Louis Polisson, Orna Sonnenschein, and Lauren Kaplan of Congregation Or Atid
  • Rabbi Darby Leigh and Nancy Kaplan of Kerem Shalom
  • Geri Segel of Temple Beth Sholom
  • Rabbi Andy Vogel, Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman, and Sam Blumberg of Temple Sinai

For relentlessly leading and amazing group of Israeli students:

  • Hagit Greenberg
  • Evyatar Guzner
  • Inbal Gilad

For guiding the group and traveling by bus, foot, and ferry, in New York and in Boston:

  • Rabbi Lisa Eiduson
  • Scott Newman

And last, but definitely not least, for being a source of inspiration for the program, for guiding, inspiring, inviting us into our home, and making sure everyone have the best experience they could wish for – the amazing David Strauss.

Boston Mifgash – Boston, Day 7

After 5 days in “Boston”, the Israeli group have finally made it to… Boston! They started the day with a private tour of the Massachusetts State House led by State Representative Adrian Madaro, who taught the group how the American government system works, what his role is, as well as answered many intelligent questions coming from our teens.

Walking through the New England Holocaust Memorial on Union Street, the teens made their way for a a quick visit at Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, for some noshing and shopping. From there, the group hopped the bus to Brookline, to visit Temple Sinai, one of this year’s HiBuR partnering synagogues. The teens met with Rabbi Andy Vogel, had an interesting conversation about the history of the temple, and were sent on a Jewish  scavenger hunt around Brookline.

Their last stop for the day was the Boston famous Duck Tour. After almost missing the bus (or boat) with heavy traffic in the Boston area, they teamed up with several of the American teens, and the group was able to board the amphibian vehicle and embark on this memorable tour.

On Friday the teens will meet with Rabbi Josh Breindel of Congregation Beth El, visit with Hillel and the Museum of MIT, and celebrate Shabbat at Kerem Shalom in Concord.

Massachusetts State House was incredible!! Adrian was so nice and showed us around and this is definitely one of my favorite places we visited! Duck tour was really awesome and we got to see how beautiful Boston is! This day was awesome and I had so much fun!
– Noa K

 

Today was so fun. We have been to the state house and we got a really amazing treatment and we saw things that regularly people couldn’t go and see it. For example we got out to the balcony and it was so cool. Then we went to the synagogue called Sinai it was so beautiful. Actually original it was a church and then they renovated it to synagogue.

– Ester S

 

I enjoyed the State House today especially I liked that it was a one-time opportunity
– Maya A

The duck tour was really fun! I liked when the bus got into the water and became a ship. Thank you very much today was so fun!!

– Goni A


I really enjoyed today when we went to the duck tours it was unique and very nice. Boston is very beautiful…..

– Elad A

The visit in the Massachusetts State House was very interesting and I loved the design there.
– Danielle S


Today was and still is awesome, I enjoyed the tour at the Massachusetts State House and the duck boat tour. I’m going to have a nice tasty dinner with Drew and his parents and I’m looking forward to it.

– Yarin H


Today was really fun, we met Adrian at the Massachusetts State House and he was very friendly and interesting. Quincy market was nice but we didn’t have enough time to do anything there. I really liked the tour, Boston is beautiful

– Noam S

 

Had a great time at the State House… The treasure hunt was short and quincy market was very fun. Had a blast with Yarin today.

– Nadav C

In the Duck tour at first we drove in Boston and then we sailed on the boat. It was unusual!
– Mika G

 

Today was a great day. We went to the State House and to a duck tour which was really fun  and we learned alot about the governments in USA and how they work.

– Guy S

Boston Mifgash – Boston, Days 5-6

If you are 15, it doesn’t get much less exciting than going to school on a Tuesday morning. But if you are 15 in a foreign country, or hosting a friend from across the ocean, going to school together is a very much the opposite. Luckily for our teens, this is exactly what they got to experience Tuesday morning, as our Israeli teens accompanied their American hosts to their respected schools. Among many other new things, some of them got to experience shop class for the first time.

While the Americans stayed for the second half of the day, the Israelis were picked up and brought to one of the most beautiful, serene, and poetic places in our region – Walden Pond. The Israelis practiced a silence contemplative walk along the pond (after being kindly kicked out of the visitor center for being too loud), all the way to the site of Thoreau’s cabin. At the cabin site, led by a Whitney Retalic of the Walden Woods Project, the teens discussed some of Thoreau’s teachings, and how they relate to the holiday of Sukkot, and to their lives as Jewish teens.

From the pond, the group divided into two – one group headed to Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton, and the second to Congregation B’nai Torah in Sudbury – two of the seven synagogues making up this year’s HiBuR. At the synagogues, the teens participated in their individual educational programs, interacted with the native students, as well as engaged in conversation with the local clergy.

As if this is not enough for a Tuesday, the Israelis reunited with their American hosts, and all together, along with a dozen pizza trays (courtesy of the amazing David Strauss), boarded the bus and headed to TD Garden to catch a Celtics game! Even though our local team did not end up winning, that did not seem to dim the wonderful experience our group had at the game, including making no less than three appearances on the jumbo screen!

On Wednesday, our Israeli teens visited the JCC in Newton, where they received the honor of having a private tour led by the CEO, Mark Sokol. Following the tour, the group continued to Mayyim Hayyim, one of the landmarks and prides of Jewish life in the Boston area, where they learned about this unique and pluralistic mikveh, and even participated in simulated tvila.(immersion).

As the teens were feeding their bodies with some American falafel, their souls were fed with a delightful conversation with Rabbi Lisa Eiduson of B’nai Torah and Cantor Lorel Zar-Kessler of Beth El. Together, they discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the Judaism they got to explore over the past week, as well as what they are familiar with from home.

To end the day, our Israeli group joined Congregation Or Atid’s educational program, played and sang with the young students, and had a lovely musical and spiritual experience with the congregation’s new rabbi, Louis Polisson.

On Thursday, the teens will explore Boston and visit another one of our partner synagogues, Temple Sinai of Brookline.

I was in American school today. Their school is very cool. And the American school is so different from the Israeli school. Today we went to a basketball game. Even though we lost it was awesome.

– Mika G

Well the basketball game was pretty nice I’d say because I’ve never been in one before so a NBA game as my first one is pretty special. Overall I enjoyed

– Yarin H

The arena is so big and everything is so awesome! I’m having so much fun! Thank you so much Shoni and David this is an unforgettable experience!!

– Noa K

This game is such a special experience for me thanks a lot Shoni and David!

– Maya A

Today was a very good day, I really liked Alex’s school. We saw very nice views in the lake, and I really enjoyed in the NBA game!!!!!!!

– Elad A

I started my day at Lincoln Sudbury high school, and it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be. It was really big and different from Israel in many ways, so it was interesting to see the differences, but still how much fun can you have at school?
Next, we went to Walden Pond and had a quiet hike, which means we didn’t talk for a while so we can enjoy nature, and I really liked it.
Then we went to Hebrew school at B’nai Torah , and we read the prayers with the 3rd and 4th graders.
Lastly we went to a pre-NBA Basketball game. Even though I’m usually not a big fan of basketball, I really enjoyed the vibes there and yelling with everyone things that I didn’t even understand.

– Hila A

Boston Mifgash – From New York to New England, Days 3-4

Just before leaving NYC, we paid a visit to the popular High Line Park, an old railway converted into a boardwalk. The boardwalk is surrounded by shops and restaurants, including the famous Chelsea Market, home to a chef some of are Israelis were familiar with.

Arriving at Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, we were welcomed by a delicious potluck dinner prepared by our host families, which led us into one of the most exciting events of the Mifgash – Simchat Torah Celebration at Beth El. For the past decade, HiBuR groups have been the heart and soul of this celebration, and this year wasn’t any different. Our teens danced, sang, and two Israelis teens – Hila and Guy, were honored with reading from the Torah scroll which has been rolled out around the sanctuary. This year, Beth El had the privilege of hosting, in addition to the HiBuR group, a delegation of educators from Haifa, accompanied by their hosts from the CJP.

On Monday, the Israeli group received a traditional New England welcome. They started the day by having a hearty colonial breakfast at the historic Wayside Inn, the oldest running inn in the US, operating since 1716. The teens also had the chance to visit the inn’s grist mill, a true New England landmark.

The group continued with a tour in the town of Concord, where they traced the origins of the American Revolutionary War. Following the tour, our teens joined the Boston Gleaners, an organization that helps direct extra produce from farms to people in need. The Israeli teens and their teachers pulled up their sleeves and harvested a great amount of squash, which will be donated to different local food pantries and soup kitchens.

For the evening, the teens joined their American peers for their Hebrew School, at two of our partner synagogues – Kerem Shalom in Concord, and Beth El in Sudbury. The teens met up with both younger and older American students, and engaged in a variety of educational activities with them.

On Tuesday, the Israeli teens will be going to school with their hosts, and will get to experience an American high school. In the afternoon, the teens will explore Walden Pond and it’s rich history, will visit two more religious school, and will enjoy a very special treat in the evening…

 

The breakfast was so good! We ate waffles, eggs and potatoes. and the view there was beautiful.

– Mika N

 

Yesterday was long… I had much fun with Ethan and his family and I didn’t get to stay too long on simchat torah. Today was fun… Picking up squashes was nice and our activity with the Americans was good. So was the breakfast.

– Nadav C

Day three

Yesterday we walked on the High Line in the meatpacking district. The High Line used to be an elevated subway, and the tracks are still visible. It was also fascinating because that neighborhood used to be where meat was packaged and distributed, whereas today it is a very trendy neighborhood with restaurants and shops. We then had lunch and shopped in Chelsea Market before a five hour bus ride  back to Massachusetts. Finally, back at Beth El, we had a potluck and a celebration for Simchat Torah. Both Israeli and American students read from the Torah, and then we all danced. It was very cool to be able to expose the Israelis to what one aspect of American Reform Judaism looks like. Overall, Sunday was the perfect end to the weekend, and I am very excited for what is planned for the coming week!

– Sofia R

Yesterday was fun because we got to go to Chelsea market which I have never been before and it was a cool experience. Plus playing cards on the bus was really fun too.

– Ethan G

 

Yesterday was a fun day! We had a great walk on the highline!  And a amazing adventure at Chelsea market!

– Kristina D