Boston Mifgash – Day 7 / Thursday

First, a follow up on yesterday - I was surprisingly contacted this morning by the staff from the Walden Pond visitor center, who apparently were forwarded yesterday's blog post. They were deeply impressed by some of the photos posted, and asked to be put in touch with the photographers. I connected them with the Israeli teens who took those photos, and I am proud to say that from now on large prints of them will be shown at the autumn exhibit at the park's visitor center. That - and not the fact our teens took pictures of photos already showing at the exhibit, trimmed the images, and sent them to me as their own - is the reason why you will see some familiar images if you happen to visit the park. Glad we're all clear on that and can move on to today.

Thursday morning held a promise to provide the Israeli teens with one of their most anticipated activities - visiting an American high school. With expectations shaped by a thousand Hollywood films, our Israelis hopped on the yellow school bus with their American hosts (an experience for itself, if not for the fact we've been traveling in one all week),  straight into the glamorous worlds of Lincoln-Sudbury, Wachusett, Maynard, Acton-Boxborough, Concord-Carlisle, Nashoba, and Wayland regional and local high schools. Since yours truly did not attend any of these schools with them, these following impressions are based solely on agonizing questioning conducted once the kids were picked up from their respected schools-for-a-day.

The most notable impression is that no matter if a child returns from their own school, or from spending a day in a school run in a different language, in a new country with a uniquely different culture, the answer to the question how was school today remains the same - it was fine. Quite amazing, actually. In fact, attempts of digging a little deeper did not yield profound results either. Or perhaps they did. Perhaps the fact the what drew the teens' attention were more technical and cosmetic differences, actually means that we are more alike than we tend to think. Maybe the fact that an Israeli student from Haifa can be planted in a classroom in Sudbury and just be able to go about their day is a reminder of our shared values and traditions as Americans and Israelis. Or maybe it's just a reminder to how much our education systems didn't change since we were both subjects to English kings and queens.

One thing that was heartwarming to hear was how interested other students were in our guests. How many of them were put in the spotlight by teachers, and were asked many and varied questions about themselves and about Israel. Some of our teens reported feeling like true rock stars, telling stories about Israel, being asked for their instagram, and even have quizzes and homework assignments canceled because of them. In today's reality, it is also a relief to say that not one of them encountered any sort of a hostile interactions.

From school, the group drove down to Waltham to do a mitzvah. Not just a mitzvah in a sense of a good deed, they actually participated in fulfilling a biblical commandment, and one of the better ones too. Teaming up with the Boston Area Gleaners, our teens helped sort, clean, and pack vegetables that were collected by the the organization, based on the ancient imperative of leaving a portion of one's seasonal crops to the needed. Even though we showed up a little late and spent our first 20 minutes at the farm eating pizza, and to the astonishment of our farm gleaning guides - we were able to get through the entire four containers that were assigned to us. This activity also proved to be a very refreshing mental break from the constant thinking and processing that's been going on pretty much non-stop since the teens arrived in America.

Continuing our local synagogue tour, our teens went on to split between Beth El and B'nai Torah's educational programs, where they lead different activities revolving around Israeli culture and Hebrew, such as a wonderful matching game when the kids had to identify a picture of a famous site in Israel, and match with its Hebrew name. Just like yesterday, our teens were delighted to interact with these younger students and answer all the questions they had about Israel.

Tomorrow, somehow, is already Friday, which means we will be having breakfast with the clergy at Beth El, visit the Cohen Center and the Pre-college Programs Center at Brandeis University, go for a dip at Mayyim Hayyim, and of course, enjoy a HiBuR-wide Shabbat service and dinner at Beth Elohim.

In Their Own Words

"Today was both fun and enriching. I got a chance to visit and observe an American school, and see all the differences between us and them. To be honest I felt like I was in a movie. After school we helped sort vegetables for families who can't afford food, and it felt good knowing we did something for someone else on this trip." -Shoval

"Today we introduced our American hosts to some Israeli foods. They loved it, and it really made us feel at home." -May

"In the evening, we made our host family an Israeli dinner - Shakshukah, Tahini, and more, and it was really great seeing them get all excited about this food." -Maya

"I loved seeing how much the little kids at the temple know about Jewish holidays and about Israel, even though they don't live there." -Ori

"At B'nai Torah, we had a really interesting conversation with Rabbi Eiduson about Judaism, and about the differences between Israeli and American Jews." - Mika

"Today we went to our host's schools and it was pretty weird. Kids were different teachers were different basically every thing was different. After school we went to gleaning food it was pretty fun knowing that the food is going to people who actually need it. Then on the way to the temple we sang some songs and I think Shoni got mad at us but it was fun. All in all it was a day of realizing that our countries are different and the same, in their different ways." -Rotem

"In the evening we went to Josh's house, where I go to talk to some people I didn't really talk to before. I really enjoyed it." -Alon

 

Boston Mifgash – Day 6 / Wednesday

We started the morning having an interesting conversation with some fellow Haifa'im who are the current Boston shinshinim - high school graduates who through the Jewish Agency are sent to different Jewish communities around the world to engage with the local community for a year. And when we say around the world, we mean in - two of the four came all the way from the North Shore. In morning traffic. The shinshinim told us about what brought them here, what is their mission, and how they find living in the Boston area so far. We also had the pleasure to be joined by several members of the Boston-Haifa Committee, who work very hard on making this program come to life and took advantage of the chance to meet their creation. But as the morning weather was slowly shifting outside the windows of the JCC's 4th floor meeting room, so did we.

The general confusion began at around 9:50 am, when Mr. Sokol, the president of the Boston's JCC addressed the group with the fairly simple question - how long before you go back? The first answer thrown instinctively into the air sounded "a week". A few seconds later, "3 days". Now, you'd have to agree that for a program that is only 10 days long, including international flights, this is quite a significant gap, and that we're a bit late in the game to blame it on the jet lag. We'll get back to that.

The confusion didn't diminish as our Israeli teens tried wrapping their heads around what it actually means to be an affiliated Jew, or to choose to actively be Jewish. No one's ever asked them if they feel like they want to be Jewish, or to that matter presented them with any alternative. They were also somewhat perplexed regarding why on earth would someone pay for young Israelis to come all the way to Boston for a year to make falafel and play soccer with little kids (but maybe we can do that, too?). And what's the point in living in the land of the free if you need bulletproof glass windows and three tiers of security around your community center? You might as well just make aliyah!

One thing, however, was somewhat clear - all of us truly and deeply cherish the value of community. Reform, orthodox, unaffiliated, Israelis - we all need each other to survive, to thrive, sustain our identity, and community is the key for all of this.

And then we went to Walden Pond to learn about a guy who decided to live alone in a hut in the woods. Oy. After watching a short film about the pond and its most famous resident (I believe they got the JCC part on there wrong), we met with our tour guide who challenged us to approach the pond like Thoreau would, and walk in complete silence along the north trail, all the way to the original hut site. Now, Thoreau's writings do not include an accurate account on how many selfies he used to take during his morning hikes, so technically we can't really say how far we strayed, if at all. What we can say for sure, is that the pond was absolutely glorious today, and that every minute spent by its side was pure joy.

At the hut site, we discussed some unpredicted similarities between Thoreau's words and those of our sages, such as  ״Who is rich? He who rejoices in his lot" from Pirkei Avot and Thoreau's “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone”. Are we beginning to get a little less confused, or is the fact that lines can be drawn directly from our Jewish community-centered heritage to the beliefs of this transcendentalist just makes less sense in this world?

At this point it was a good time to abruptly pause this internal struggle, and branch out. We achieved that by giving back to the community which has been so generously hosting us this week. Out Israeli group divided itself between Beth Elohim, Or Atid, and Kerem Shalom, and in each led a variety of educational activities for the younger grade students attending their respected Hebrew Schools. Needless to say, the interaction with these young kids was a sheer joy to our Israelis, many of whom are leaders in the Israeli Tsofim (scouts) and were able to "export" activities they created there. A special shoutout goes out to our American teens, who decided to join their new friends at their temples, in a lovely act of friendship and support.

I promised to go back to that first sneak of confusion - how long have we been here for, and how long do we have left. Around day 6 is usually the time things start to blur a little. On one hand, it was just the other day that we ran into each other's arms (literally) in Central Park, and on the other, we are only a few short days from parting days again. Today's confusion did not overshadow the experience, yet as the days go by, this cloud will become more and more dense. That's why, tomorrow, we are completely branching out - the teens will start their day joining their host as they go to school, continue with a gleaning project with Boston Area Gleaners, and again will disperse between a couple of local Hebrew Schools towards the evening.

In Their Own Words

"Walden Pond - it was very nice day and interesting to hear about that guy who lived in the forest for a two years alone and to talk about things that we probably wouldn’t give up on." -Inna
"I found the story about the man who lived alone on the pond very interesting. The pond was beautiful and the foliage added some magnificent colors. The activities we lead with the kids were very joyful and educating for both sides. I was very happy to see their interest in Israel and the special questions they asked us." -Shoval
"Today was very interesting. Teaching the little kids was challenging and intriguing on one side, and lots of fun and and success on the other. I was nice seeing them ask many questions. The pond was beautiful, and I enjoyed hearing the guide's explanations. It was great walking around the JCC and speaking with the shinshinim about their roles." -Liya
"The scenery was unbelievable today! I loved seeing the foliage at the pond, and the story behind it was great too. I enjoyed meeting the kids at the temple and was glad to see they were enjoying or activities." -Maya
"Walden pond was different than most of the other locations we visited so far. Walden Pond was really peaceful and quiet. It really made me think more about myself and less about everything that's around me" -Liron
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential parts of life, and see if I could learn what it head to teach, and not, when I come to die, discover that I had not lived". -Henry

Boston Mifgash – Day 5 / Tuesday

Growing up is Israel one spends a lot of time learning one's story of origin - where did we come from, why we came here, how we got here, with perhaps the most emphasis being on the adversities our ancestors faced and their determination which led us to where we are today. In fact, young Israelis spends so much time learning about their history, that they barely have time to look into other people's stories, even though those might be of great value for them. Visiting New England for a week, and having new American friends, we thought it proper for our Israeli students to acquaint themselves with some aspects of local American history, and thus took the group for a day at Plimoth Plantation.

Without really knowing what they were getting into, literally, we ran past the herds of 4th graders and into the colonial village and homesite, where the teens interacted with "pilgrims" and Native Americans, asking them questions, hearing their stories, and observing their intriguing ways of living, seemingly peacefully one next to the other. Even though the majority of the content was, well, foreign, to our teens, the liveliness of this museum, the authentic surroundings, and of course - the perfect weather, made for a truly enjoyable educational experience.

Following a nutritious lunch, we resumed our program with a truly unique and memorable workshop. Our very talented educator, who learned about our group and understood her regular plan wouldn't exactly fly with them, made some very interesting adjustments and tied together the pilgrimage of the Mayflower, the Mayflower Compact, and William Bradford's affinity of the Bible and Hebrew, with the journey our teens are currently on. As lofty as it sounds, the discussions were very down to earth, personal, and meaningful. For the icing on the cake (or cornbread), our teens got to write with a real quill, and (some) of them weren't even bad at it.

Fast forward about three hours, during which absolutely nothing educational happened (aside from practicing the arithmetic skills of converting dollars to shekels), we regrouped, together with our American friends, at Temple Israel for a Facing History and Ourselves workshop. Shira and Stacey led the group through a series of group exercises aimed at exposing biases, stigmas, and underlying truths about the way we perceive and interact with each other, especially those who are different from us. Even though the session took place late in a very long day, the participation, respect, depth, and openness that our teens demonstrated was nothing short of admirable.

Tomorrow the teens will meet with Israelis who are serving their gap year in the Boston area (shinshinim), tour the JCC with Mr. Mark Sokol, visit the magnificent Walden Pond, and engage in the education programs at three of our partner temples. But, at least they'll be home for dinner! (Well, at least most of them).

In Their Own Words

"It was very interesting to hear about all the beginnings of Massachusetts, and how people just decided to establish a new life and leave the past behind them, and sail across the ocean for more than two months, and to see the differences between the home site and colonial village." -Inna

"Today was very interesting and I was happy to learn how everything began in America. It was an unusual and realistic experience." -May

"I truly enjoyed Plimoth today. It was a very different experience from the other museums we visited because we got to see the objects and not just read our hear about them. I bet much enjoyed seeing how things really looked like in the past." -Maya

"It was a very interesting day with are real unique experience. I found out interesting to learn about their lives, the relationship between them, and so on. The Facing History workshop was intriguing as it brought things we ask know and think about up to the surface. I also find out interesting to learn others people's opinions." -Ori

Boston Mifgash – Day 4 / Monday

It was the first day of the Boston week and the clock was pointing 8:00am. An excited group of Israeli teens arrived at Beth El, courtesy of our wonderful American parents, who officially began their chauffeur duties today. After a brief exchange about the first night with our host families, and to avoid the realization that they won't be with us today sinks in, we hit the ground running! That is, until we hit the 117. Then it was more of a very slow and painful crawl. Nonetheless, we made it on time to our first order of the day - visit to the Massachusetts State House.

 

For our visit, we had the honor to be accompanied by Rabbi Eiduson of Congregation B'nai Torah and Rabbi Breindel of Congregation Beth El, who along the tour provided the teens with their insights, as well as necessary comparisons between the Israeli and American governmental structures. After the kids learned the difference between Congress and Senate, State and Federal, and Cod and Mackerel, they had a unique opportunity to meet not one, but two representatives - Kay Khan of Newton and Adrian Madaro of East Boston. The representatives shared with us their public duties, challenges, and rewards, and didn't shy from answering some very interesting questions coming from our group.

Making our way from the State House towards Quincy Market, we took a moment to experience and New England's Holocaust Memorial, which our Israelis were very surprised, and moved, to encounter in the middle of a busy touristy area. Passing through the memorial brought up some very intelligent questions and remarks about antisemitism and the place of Jews in modern American society.

We parted ways for lunch at Quincy Market, where the teens got to experience some famous local cuisine, as well as briefly engage in the ritual of shopping. Our last stop of the day was the famous Boston Duck Tour, a must for anyone trying make sense of the city in less than a day. It's hard to assess at this point in time how much of the information our lovely tour guide fired at us actually hit the target, but all agreed that is was one cool and unique experience. With that, we concluded a beautiful fall Boston day (I am not sure exactly how I haven't jinxed the weather so far - but obviously I'm still trying).

And just when we thought this day came to its end, the powers that are this wonderful group of families were able to pull together another impromptu gathering - this time to watch the Patriots play the Jets! Without being present at the event, I can confidently report that the question "why is the ball not round?" came up at least once, and "why is this called football?" roughly around 3 times.

Tomorrow will be another day of Israelis exploring America, as we will be visiting Plimoth Plantation (a first for HiBuR) for a tour, workshop, and a an "authentic" kosher colonial lunch. Later we will explore the Natick Mall, and end the day with a workshop, together with our American friends, led by Facing History and Ourselves (Also a first for HiBuR!).

In their own words

Each day for the coming week, our blog posts will include chosen reflections, thoughts, and quotes from our awesome Israeli teens. Today's selection will include those referring to what they have experienced today, as well as over the weekend.

I had a lot of fun today! All day I was thinking how lucky I am for getting to come here and be part of this educating and memorable experience. - May

Today was filled with attractions and activities, and Boston is a beautiful city. Several times throughout the day I stopped to look around and remember how important it is to take advantage of every moment. -Liya

Today we saw the Boston area in daylight for the first time. Seeing all this fall beauty was truly moving. -Maya

Seeing everyone together dancing and being united with each other was a really powerful experience for me personally. -Noga

Simchat Torah really made me see and think of new things. It was my first time experiencing such a special event. We danced and rejoiced, it was very different from what I am used to - a great new experience! -May

Their neighborhoods are really different from the ones we live in. They are beautiful, especially with the foliage and the Halloween decorations. -Yasmin

Today I got to see the amazing city of Boston. I had fun meeting my host family and see that they are wonderful people. Yesterday at Simchat Torah I really enjoyed seeing how the Jewish community celebrates the holiday, and was very happy to be able to take part in it. -Mika

It was very interesting visiting the State House and meeting with the representatives and hearing about all the problems that they deal with. I have gained a new perspective about the immigrants issue. -Ayelet

Yesterday was my first time celebrating Simchat Torah and it was so different from what I thought it would be. It was so fun celebrating along with everyone. -Hila

Boston is way cleaner than New York and more quiet. The Simchat Torah was so much more fun then I thought it would be. Today was the first day in Boston. It was very nice to wake up in the morning and to see all the trees with the foliage and after that we went to Boston and this city is so beautiful and we were on the boat and saw where the city was found and that was so interesting. -Inna

Boston Mifgash – Day 3 / Sunday

Figuring I'd be slightly tired tonight, I decided to write this post on the (very long) bus ride back from NY. I wrote about what we've done in the city today, what's coming, and to make my life a little easier, I even pre-wrote the assumed summary of Simchat Torah celebration, as this is not my first year experiencing it (I promise everything else is written in real time - you can go ahead and read the blog posts from previous years online).

However, after arriving home tonight, I realized I can't publish it. I can't publish it because what I wrote doesn't even begin to come near a fair description of the we all experienced tonight. The warm welcome from the families and their delicious home-made food after a weekend of bagels and pizza, the energies after a very long day, the joy, dancing, singing, hugging, the togetherness, the choking up when it was time to say goodnight, they were all missing from it.

Now, let's rewind to this morning, which somehow only began 16 hours ago.
Sunday is a pivotal day for our program. We are concluding an intensive weekend spent together, away from everyone's home, and transitioning into a week in the Boston area. On one hand, intimacy will grow with home hospitality, but on the other the togetherness of the group will not be felt the same way.

The weather we experienced today was transitional as well, as the fall rain took the place of the warming sun we got used to, and the leaves changed their colors in a rapid pace as we traveled north.

We tried tying this theme of transitions into our day, as we visited the place that symbolizes transition maybe more than anywhere else - Ellis Island. The old immigration processing center, which was the last step out of the old world and the first into the new one for many immigrants, including millions of Jews, provided us with the opportunity to reflect upon our shared Jewish stories, as well as think about the transition we are currently going through as a group and as individuals.

Here's the new part. Knowing we were going to arrive late, together with the accumulating exhaustion from the weekend and the unknown that awaits us following services, made the bus ride to Beth El a little tense. The longer it lasted, the more anxious we have become, and as much as we wanted to arrive already, we also, a little bit, didn't want to.
But things changed about 180 degrees once we entered Beth El. Finding the parents sitting and waiting for all of us, with big smiles and and warm food felt like home. Even if it was our first time stepping a foot at Beth El. Even the anxiety the was built up for some of us erupted and swiftly turned into calmness. And then the festivities began.
Teens and their families from two different countries and five different congregations, as one big family, celebrated together the joyous transition between the end and the beginning the Torah reading. Rabbi Josh Breindel and Cantor Lorel Zar-Kessler honored one of our Israeli teens, May, with being Kalat Torah, and her delivery very well deserved of the huge yeshar koach she received. As the night was fading into a mix of sweets and suitcases, certain emotions of separation began surfacing, and saying goodbye to our 72 hour-long friends proved to be much more difficult than one would imagine.
Tomorrow is the beginning of an exciting week in which our Israelis will explore Jewish and American life, history, and culture in the greater Boston area, while our local teens will return to their schools and daily commitments, while playing hosts to their new friends.
Chag Sameach!

Boston Mifgash – Day 2 / Saturday

A recipe for experiencing all New York has to offer in one day: take a group of 29 amazing and and disciplined teens, throw in decent portions of history, culture, food, and scenic views, add one Dave, a ninja driver who navigates a coach bus through the New York traffic as if he was driving a scooter, turn the weather to a cool and sunny 62 degrees, and let simmer for 12 hours. Garnish with some bathroom breaks and serve.

For a step by step recipe, keep reading.

After an American-Israeli breakfast at the hostel (bagels and spread, plus freshly cut tomatoes and cucumbers), we headed down to the Tenement museum, located in Manhattan's the Lower East side. This living museum, as referred to by our superb tour guides, gave our students the chance to intimately experience the lives of early 19th century Jewish immigrants. As we were walking through the narrow hallways of the well preserved tenements, we got the chance to learn about the struggles and determination of these Jewish pioneers, as well as gain a very perspective on our current social and personal challenges.

Since the weather was in our favor, we decided to cut short the bus rides and cross the Brooklyn Bridge by foot. The brief walk turned out to be a real treat, as the views of the Downtown skyline and the Hudson River unrolled before our eyes.

In Brooklyn we paid a visit to the trendy Smorgasburg, where our teens could pick their lunch from a variety of over 40 exquisite food vendors. The picture below is the winner of our Foodie Shot competition, taken by our talented Yasmin. I'll leave it for the teens to tease you with the rest of them.

Our next stop was the One World Observatory and the 9/11 Memorial (which by the way was designed by an Israeli architect) which provided us with unparalleled views of the city, as well as a chance to discuss the significance of the tragic history of this place. Even though none of our participants were alive then, one of our American students, Ben K, shared with the group his perspective 9/11, which led to an open discussion about points of similarities and differences between our respected societies.

Before heading back to the hostel, we did not skip one more of New York's best attractions - Times Square, where our teens had some time to grab dinner and souvenirs to bring back to their families.

We concluded the day at the hostel with a late Havdallah service led by Scott, El which gave us time to reflect together on the time we've spent together so far, as well as that's to come.

Tomorrow we will compete or New York experience by traveling to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, before making our way to Sudbury for a potluck dinner and Simchat Torah celebration. Tomorrow will also be the night our American families will finally get to host their new Isreali friends at their homes.

Boston Mifgah – Day 1 / Friday

For the unsuspecting couple enjoying a romantic afternoon picnic at the park, witnessing our teens meet seemed  more like long time friends reuniting  than strangers meeting for the first time. In a matter of seconds, the feelings of nervousness and anticipation changed into hugs, laughs, and joy (tears of joy were spotted as well).
Following a first shared meal together, the teens broke the ice with a variety of games and challenges in which they learned a little more about one another, worked together as a group, and enjoyed this unexpected sunny (and even a slightly warm) afternoon at Central Park. Can't be certain what our picnicking couple was thinking when that happened.
But, HiBuR is not (all) about fun and games!  Through a series of exhibits at the Jewish Museum on 5th Avenue, including a collection of Hanukkah Menorahs and modern Jewish portraits, we discussed our own personal Jewish identities, and how sometimes art can help us express and understand ourselves better.
Before we knew if, Shabbat was fast approaching. What better New York place is there for Shabbat than Romemu?  Romemu is a vibrant reform congregation, conveniently located two blocks form out hostel. Romemu is definitely not your average synagogue, especially if you happen to be an Israeli. Singing, clapping, dancing, and laughing were all packed into our short time at the synagogue, which also happens to be a church at other times. What a delight!
An out of the ordinary day deserves an unordinary dinner. After mastering the skill of ordering an American breakfast, the Israeli's next challenge was to order a Mexican dinner at "Mexican Festival". This challenge would not be so difficult if it weren't for the fact that there are about as many Mexican restaurants in Haifa as there are synagogues located in churches. There are different accounts that at some point the house Mariachi band was singing Hava Nagilla, but it has yet to be confirmed.
Shabbat is a day of rest, but definitely not for us this weekend. From downtown to the Lower East Side and Brooklyn, a packed and exciting day awaits us tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Boston Mifgash – Day 0 / Thursday

They have arrived! Our newest Boston-Haifa HiBuR Israeli group. Those whose only existence to us for the past month were little images with their names on our phone apps and excel sheets, are finally here. Girls. Lots of them, 14 to be exact. And 2 boys. They packed their best coats and shabbat clothes, boarded a plane, and 12 hours later, landed in New York City. Emerging out of a sleepy international terminal, they were unexpectedly greeted by none other than two young bearded men at the gate asking tired and weary luggage-rolling Jews if they have shaken a lulav yet this holiday. Is that the welcome they expected to get in New York? Probably not.

There they were, smiling, laughing, and freezing in the gusty New York City morning winds, shoving their bamba-filled suitcases into the back of bus. And where else would one begin such an experience than a local Brooklyn diner? We couldn't have asked for a more patient waiter as she began taking breakfast orders in broken and confused English. Sunny-side up is referred to as an "eye" omelette in Hebrew. Pretzel with white cheese and Salmon anyone? Sure, why not!?

The food arrived, somehow as ordered, and we all loved it. And as if no one was baffled (scrambled?) enough by then, we headed into a place where every conversation is being simultaneously translated into dozens of different languages - the United Nations Headquarters. Our Chinese tour guide, with impeccable English that most of the students still struggled a bit to decipher led us through busy hallways, pointing at informative exhibits, images and posters. At times we went into large beautifully designed rooms, took some pictures, got shushed (more than a few times) and went on our way.

From there we found ourselves at a little joint serving kosher sushi-donuts and noodles to hungry New York Jews, and us.
"How do you get the plastic forks out of that weird machine?" Ah, America. Onward to Fifth Avenue - "is this a halloween store?"
"What is it the rest of the year?"
"What is halloween anyway?"
And the questions kept on flowing.
"Are the Americans nice?"
"What do they think of us?"
"Are they tall?"
"Is Sudbury a big city?"

"Have we eaten anything today, I forgot?" "Is this one slice of pizza??"
"What are going to do when we meet them tomorrow?" "Should we hug them?" "Will they hug us back?"
And to think...the program officially begins tomorrow! Stay tuned for more adventures of HiBuR 2019...!

 

 

 

Israel – Day 10

Today is a long day, but another one to remember! We woke up, had breakfast, and went outside and immediately noticed that there was far less traffic, congestion and stress than pre-Shabbat. Jerusalem on Shabbat is a true gift... a break from the tension of the big city and the complications of living in the most holy city in the world. It is as if the city itself needs the Shabbat as much as the people who live in this complex city.
 
It was cold and beautiful this morning -- with bright sun and a cool breeze... a perfect Jerusalem winter day. We departed from the hostel by foot and made our way to the Old City. The golden walls of the Old City have a commanding presence; the walls tell the stories of generations of people -- Jews, non-Jews, foreign conquerers, families, religious people of all kinds -- who lived within those walls. As much as we, in America, hear about the problems and the difficulties of Jerusalem, the Old City is actually a fine example of co-existence that has been part of the history and tradition of this walled city. The Old City is divided into 4 contiguous quarters -- with no physical boundaries or barriers between the neighborhoods. The Armenian Quarter is actually the oldest of the quarters and is the most private. The Armenians prefer to live quietly on their own so their area of the Old City is not "open" in the same way as the other quarters are open. In addition to the Armenian Quarter, there is the Muslim Quarter (the largest of the 4), the Christian Quarter (a bit smaller than the Muslim Quarter) and the Jewish Quarter (the smallest of the 4). 
 
Chen was our wonderful guide again today, and she took us through the famous Jaffa Gate. We did a little shopping just inside the gate and then walked to what is said to be King David's tomb. We saw some ruins from the First Temple period (from the 8th century before the Common Era!!!!!) and then proceeded to a wonderful rooftop where we saw a 360 degree view of Jerusalem and all of the neighboring areas. Then we walked to the Jewish Quarter. Because it was Shabbat, everything was closed in the Jewish Quarter, but we had the opportunity to see the "Cardo" -- which was the "Main Street" built by the Romans in every city in which they lived. Decorated with beautiful columns, the Cardo was like a boulevard or a promenade that ran down the center of the city and was flanked by little shops and markets. 
 
While sitting in the Jewish Quarter and watching people go by, we played a game of "Guess Who." Chen put a sticker on a volunteer's forehead who then asked a bunch of yes/no questions about who the figure was. Lots of laughs!! Following that, we went together to the "Kotel," the Western Wall. The students had written notes to put into the wall and took them down to the Kotel with them. It was not terribly crowded which was great. I was on the women's side and I saw each of our students take some time to deliver her message and to stand in front of the Western Wall of Solomon's Temple -- all that is left of what history tells us was a large and magnificent building. 
Just as we were leaving to meet the bus, it started to rain. We headed back to the Youth Hostel and had lunch and then did some packing. While everyone was enjoying the day, there was definitely a change in the air as we all realized that we were going to be leaving Israel to return home just hours later.
 
After packing everything for the flights, we took a walk to Nachlaot, a neighborhood in Jerusalem. The students had some time to "play" -- just hang out and enjoy one another's company and begin the conversation about how we were going to stay in touch. After the walk, we returned to the Hostel, loaded the bus, and ate dinner. We then began some closing rituals. We started with Havdalah -- the ceremony that marks the "separation" between the Shabbat and the rest of the week. This Havdalah really exemplified a "separation" of our own. The Havdalah symbols -- wine, spices and a twisted candle -- took on a new meaning as we thought about the separation that we were going to experience in just a short time. We shared some memories, some laughs and some tears and talked about the meaning of the HiBuR program in our lives. We boarded the bus for a night-time tour of the tunnels next to the Kotel (Western Wall) and when that was finished, we headed for the airport. 
 
Theodore Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism (1860-1904), deeply believed in creating a contemporary Jewish State, to be established in the Land of Israel that would be a homeland to Jews of all types and for all time. Despite the frustrations, despite doing what seemed like an impossible feat, Herzl did not let go of his vision. He said: "Im tirtzu, ayn zo aggadah....If you will it, it is not a dream!" Herzl did not live to see the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. But he never gave up on his dream for the world community of Jews to have a modern state of their own. Moreover, he inspired many other Zionists to carry his vision forward by creating a beautiful, dynamic, living, colorful and vibrant place in which Jews and Judaism would be preserved and human values would be modeled. 
 
If I had one message for our wonderful students -- those from Boston as well as those from Haifa -- it would be the lesson of Herzl. That is the lesson that we should never relinquish our dreams; that we should never give up on hope for a better tomorrow. Dreams come true through heart, soul, and hard work. Dreams come true when we learn to work together to accomplish our common goals and when we exchange ideas, values and hopes. Dreams come true when high school students from Boston and students from Haifa understand that they are connected through Judaism's enduring values and through our work in trying to improve the world. 
 
Thank you for sharing your children with us...Nancy, Joe and I truly enjoyed the opportunity of getting to know them and traveling with them.
Rabbi Lisa Eiduson
"On our last day, we made it to the Old City of Jerusalem. We walked around the Jewish Quarter and also got to experience The Kotel (Western Wall) and saw King David's tomb. Later we walked through Jewish neighborhoods where we compared our lifestyles to theirs and talked about how we and our lifestyles have changed over the year. It has been an amazing trip and I cannot wait to be back."
~Ethan

Israel – Day 9

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem! Everyone slept well last night and we woke up to a deep blue sky, sun, and cold temperatures. After all, Jerusalem’s is “up” at a higher elevation than most cities; you feel that higher altitude when you drive here from other places in Israel and you can see the heights and hills when you look out at the landscape around the city.
Jerusalem is a major urban center. It is crowded, it is expensive, it is international, it is large, it has terrible traffic, and it is sometimes frustrating and difficult to navigate if you are not used to it. But, Jerusalem is wonderful. As a home to 3 world religions and a city that is actually comprised of an ancient city and a modern city, it is quite remarkable. It is as if Jerusalem holds all of the religious secrets, history and contemporary problems and challenges of our world. It is said that in Jewish tradition that there are 2 Jerusalems: 1) the Jerusalem of the earth; the city that exists in reality - with all of its past history; and 2) Jerusalem of above - the Jerusalem of our imaginations, the ideal city that we wish for and we work for and that we hope will one day be at peace.
We started the day with breakfast and then got on the bus to go to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum here in Israel. It is an extraordinary living memorial to the 6 million Jews who perished at the hands of Hitler and the Nazis during World War II. It was very crowded- literally packed with people coming to learn about the Holocaust for the first time, survivors and children of survivors, international tour groups, and more. We had a fantastic guide who was originally from London and who has been guiding groups at Yad Vashem for 20 years. She told me that our group was one of the very best she has ever had!
We were supposed to go from Yad Vashem to Mount Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery, but when we came out of Yad Vashem it was really raining. So instead we went directly to Machane Yehudah, the big Jerusalem market - which is both inside and outside. It is enormous - with every kind of fruit, vegetable, spice, dried fruit, nuts, breads... in addition there are literally tens of restaurants of all types... needless to say we had some snacks as we walked and students were given some free time to explore. It was really raining for about an hour so it was unbelievably crowded inside as people were avoiding the rain. Friday afternoon is the busiest time to be at Machane Yehudah as people are rushing from work and school to the market and then home to prepare for Shabbat. There is a colorful excitement that is palpable in the market... and the sights, smells sounds and tastes of Israel all seem to meld together at Machane Yehudah in Jerusalem.
We came back to the hostel to rest and get ready for Shabbat.
We went to Kabbalat Shabbat service at the Conservative synagogue that is literally connected to our hostel which was very convenient. But besides being convenient it was a beautiful and meaningful service that was led by 2 American students — one cantorial and one rabbinic who are studying in Jerusalem for the year and will continue their seminary studies next year in the US. We had a lovely dinner together after the service. Following dinner, the students employed some free time together.
Enjoy the photos! Tomorrow will be a long day and so bittersweet. We are excited to come home, but I always say that the worst part of coming to Israel is leaving Israel. It is such an amazing and unique place....Israel has a way of  entering the heart...
Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Lisa S. Eiduson