Category Archives: Israel 2017-18

Israel Days 9-10

We could not have imagined a better day to seal our Israel journey. Between the planned and the unexpected, the nature and the people, the anticipation and the concern, Jerusalem has revealed itself to us in all its beauty, complexity, and diversity.
We did not begin the day inside the walls the Old City, but rather at the first Jewish neighborhood that was built outside of it, Mishkenot Sha’a’nanim, overlooking Gai Ben Henom, the valley which used to be the border between Israel and Jordan, the old city, as well as parts of East Jerusalem, peeking from behind a different kind of wall.
With our new and ultra-energetic guide Noam, we made our way into the Old City through Jaffa Gate, unraveling one after the other layers of history, tradition, myth, and culture. As we approached a point which provided us with the first glimpse of the heart of the city, the Kotel, Noam asked those of us who are about to see it for the first time to close our eyes, and put our trust in a friend who will safely lead us towards the view point. Seeing them open their eyes was a true awe inspiring moment. As our tradition guides us, we sat to write notes to place in the Kotel.
As we were walking down and past the security check point, we were faced with a dilemma – which Kotel do we go to? The Kotel area is divided into three sections – the men area, the women area, and the egalitarian area. This was one of the most significant moments on this trip in which our progressive set of beliefs came clashing with the ancient Jewish tradition as it appeared right before our eyes. We decided to begin together as a group at the egalitarian section, and then allow the teens to visit the separate areas as well. The conversations that were sparked by that moment began as we were walking towards the Shuk and lasted well into the night. This was what HiBuR is all about.
The plan was to return from the Old City to the guest house, have lunch, and spend the rest of the day resting, packing, and unwinding. But we are in Israel, and it is our last day, so plans don’t mean much. Together with Noam we came up with one more thing to make this day even more unforgettable.
At 8:30pm, as the city began to come to life after the Shabbat, we boarded our bus and headed to a night tour of Meah Sha’arim, an ultra-orthodox enclave right in the center of Jerusalem, home to tens of thousands of Haredi Jews. It is very difficult to describe the hour we spent inside Meah Sha’arim, as too many things, both below and above the surface took place. It is a very safe to say, however, that our teens got to face a Jewish way of life which they would not have been able to anywhere else in the world.
Before heading back to guest house we stopped at the First Station, an Ottoman train station converted into a hip dining and shopping complex for some very well needed down time. At the guest house, we came together to share some last words, thoughts, and feelings. We sat together around the candle light – Americans, Israelis, and staff, for two hours that were filled with laughter, joy, open hearted conversation, and many, many tears. 
We are now over the Atlantic heading to Boston, Looking forward to reunite with our families.


“Jerusalem was amazing to be in. I felt that being at the egalitarian section of the western wall was very important for me. And that is the portion of the wall I left my note in. Rather than the traditional area. I felt that this section of the wall was very important to me since it represents the future. The traditional wall represents the past to me and I as a reform jew wasn’t comfortable with placing a note with things I want for the future, in the past, meaning the traditional part of the wall.” – Jacob Lord

“Jerusalem was really powerful, especially mea shearim because it was the first time this trip that I truly got to experience life in Israeli from an orthodox perspective. It is always so intriguing to learn about different Israeli lifestyles because the population is so diverse.”
Seth Goodman
“What I found most interesting about the last day, was the ultra orthodox community we went to. We weren’t welcomed by some, and we were welcomed by others. It was an eye opening experience, and I will definitely never forget what happened that night.”
Melody Kaye
“Visiting the ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. Seeing the little kids swearing at us to get out seemed horrible on the outside, but once I thought about it I could kind of understand why they were taught the way they are. In addition, I am glad that we met someone as nice as Avi because it shows that not everyone in the community is like those kids.”
Justin Lewitus
“Can I do HiBuR again next year?!”
Arielle Silver

Israel Day 8

Jerusalem has been the subject of Jewish prayers and yearnings for thousands of years. L’shanah haba’ah b’yerushalaym (next year in Jerusalem) we say. But what does one do when they finally arrive? before rejoicing, it might be a good idea to look back and reflect on how they got there.

After visiting the Herzl museum last night, we began today with a tour of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum and archive, and Har Herzl, Israel’s national military cemetery and the resting place of great leaders of the nation. It is the custom to begin the tour the the Holocaust memorial, and make the way up, literally and metaphorically, to the cemetery, thus following thenarrative of m’shoah l’tkuma (from destruction to revival). In an interesting interpretation we have switched these two around, allowing us to discuss the different ties that exist between the Shoah and the modern state of Israel.

Following this very emotional morning, we headed to the Mahne Yehuda Shuk (market) to join what seemed and felt like every single person in Israel for some pre-Shabbat food shopping. As of every time on this trip, our teens were all back at the meeting point exactly on time, as well as our heroic bus driver, Elias, who got us out trough some streets that were not meant for buses, back to the guest house.

With the Shabbat climbing up the eastern slopes of the Jerusalem hills, we quickly changed into our finest clothes and headed to Kol Haneshamah, a reform congregation located in the picturesque neighborhood of Baka. Just before service, we were lucky enough to have a talk with several teens from Noar Telem, the congregation’s youth group. Even though it was a brief meeting, it seemed to have had a great impact on our teens, as they have seen a “hybrid” version if you will, of both of their lives.

We concluded the day with a very peaceful and reflective 3 mile walk through the quiet streets of Jerusalem back to our guest house. With our trip being just over 24 hours before it’s end, our teens took the opportunity to have some meaningful talk with both new and old friends.

Tomorrow is our last day in Israel. It seems like everyone was too busy to realize it, but it is starting to hit. We will be spending most of

our day in the Old City, will have some time to relax, reflect, say goodbye, and will be heading to the airport very early Sunday morning. It will be a bittersweet update to write.

Shabbat Shalom

“I found the children’s memorial at Yad Vashem particularly powerful for its simplicity. Also, it was really interesting to see how similar the reform synagogue in Jerusalem is to Beth El.” – Justin

“I liked going to the market today. It was a bit less scary than the one in yaffo a few days ago.  It was also interesting to go to the cemetery Har Herzl to see the where most of the important figures in the history of Zionism and Israeli history were buried.” – Jacob

“I thought the tour today was long but the hall of names and children’s memorial were really powerful and moving. I enjoyed how the service at the reform synagogue reminded me of Beth El because it was so chill and welcoming.” – Seth

“I really loved the Shuk, and having the experience of buying food, and having some independence on getting what I need in a very busy place, with people screaming to buy their food.” – Melody

“Today was great!! I had a lot of fun in the market shopping and hanging out with friends.” – Arielle

“I really liked going to the synagogue because it was interesting seeing the similarities and differences of this synagogue and Beth El.”-Hannah

Israel Day 7

Hard to say exactly where yesterday ended and today began, as we spent the night driving south from Haifa allthe way to Masada. At Masaada, two extremely rare things occurred – first, it rained on us. Second, a group of Israelis were early. So, after waiting at the gate of Israel’s most popular National Park, we began to hike up the Roman Ramp chasing the sunrise. We caught it, but unfortunately the clouds made this event somewhat less dramatic. Meeting again with our fantastic guide, Adam, we learned about the ancient people who inhabited Masada, Jews and Romans alike, and of course the heroic-tragic story of the fall of Masada in 73 CE.
We drove from Masada through Arad to Ein Bokek, one of the more beautiful beaches of the the Dead Sea. Not threatened at all by the Israeli winter, our teens jumped (or more accurately, waded) into its salty water for about an hour of relaxing floatation. We didn’t leave before some of our teens put to the test the therapeutic qualities the Dead Sea mud. The results were unclear.
From the Dead Sea we finally began our ascend towards Jerusalem, to begin the last weekend of our Journey. After a quick lunch break we checked into our rooms at the Bayit Vagan Guest House, and continued to the Herzl Museum, where we learned via a highly interactive exhibition about Theodor Herzl, his life, vision, the the reality into which it has turned.
We are ending this rich day with dinner at the guest house, followed by some free time at the hustle and bustle of the Jerusalem promenade. After what will for sure be a very good night sleep, we will be spending Friday visiting Yad Vashem, Har Herzl, Mahne Yehuda Shuk, and have a Shabbat service at Kol Haneshama, a local reform synagogue.
“I liked hiking Masada early in the morning because I felt like I had accomplished so much before the day had even started. It was interesting learning about the different people that had been to Masada. I also liked the museum because I thought it did a good job if explaining the life of Herzl in an interesting and engaging way.”
“My favorite thing today, was seeing Masada and being with my friends watching the sky change color.”
– Melody
“I really enjoyed watching the sunrise on the Masada and I also liked the Dead Sea a lot that was super cool”
– Olivia

Israel Day 6

On our last day in Haifa, our teens finally got the chance to join their Israeli peers in class, attending the first two periods of their school day. Most of our teens started the day with PE, followed by History, Hebrew, or Tanach. The Hugim teachers were very accommodating, providing explanations in English and making our teens feel comfortable.
While the teens were in class, our staff met with Dalia, the head of school, and representatives from the Israeli side of the Boston-Haifa Partnership. All parties involved are very excited about HiBuR, and it is important for us the strengthen the relationship, especially with the departure of Rabbi Thomas at the end of the year.
After school, our teens had the rare privilege to tour the Elbit Systems facility in Haifa. Elbit is one of the top 30 Hi-Tech security companies, manufacturing electronic systems for fighter jets, as well as other military and commercial products. We had a conversation with one of their senior engineers, and even tried out some of their equipment ourselves! From Elbit we continued on for a short dip and a stroll at one of the beautiful beaches in Haifa, before heading to the mall for lunch and some essential shopping.
The teens took advantage of their evening off by going to the movies, relaxing, and even a girls night out! We will be leaving to Masada at 1am tonight, arriving for a scenery view of the sunrise over the Jordan mountains. view the sunrise! From Masada we will continue to the Dead Sea, and on to Jerusalem for the concluding weekend of our HiBuR journey in Israel.
 “It was super fun being in school with the Israelis because it is pretty different. At least the two classes I went to were almost all lecturing, but it wasn’t a boring lecture because the classes were also more energetic in general. Also it was pretty fun to try to understand what was happening with my very broken Hebrew.”     – Lev
“It was really interesting to see how different the Israeli School was compared to our school.”
– Justin
“Elbit was a really cool experience. I’ve always wondered how pilots operate and the presentation really gave me an immersive experience and deeper understanding of what goes on behind the scenes. Wearing the helmets was really cool and learning about the different technologies and how they’ve progressed throughout the years was very interesting as well”. 
– Jesse

Israel Day 5

Peace or security? Freedom or equality? Which of these values are more important to us, as humans and as Jews, both in the States and in Israel? This is one of the questions our teens discussed this morning in a fascinating workshop dealing with their Jewish identity.
From the workshop we proceeded to the Carmel Forests and paid a visit the memorial for the 43 victims who lost their lives in the horrific fire of 2010. We met with a guide from the Jewish National Fund, and after learning about the fire, its causes and its affects both on people and on the environment, we rolled-up our sleeves and got to work by help protect young pine trees from dehydration by spreading mulch around them.
From the Carmel Forests we drove up to Isfiya, a Druze village nestled on the highest point of the Carmel mountain ridge. We were greeted by a local family who taught us about the brave and historic connection between the Druze and the Jewish people, and invited for a rich traditional Druze lunch.
Our activities ended relatively early today due to the fact that Tuesday is the day many of the Israeli teens go to the Scouts, a widely popular youth movement in which our Israeli teens take great pride in. The day was concluded with a BBQ hosted by the grandparents of Yonatan Cohen, one of our Israeli participants.
Tomorrow our teens will go to classes with their Israeli hosts in the morning, they will visit Elbit Systems, check out the Haifa beach and mall, say goodbye to their host families, and be on their way to Masada…!
“Today I went to basketball practice for Jonathan Cohen’s team. It was probably the scariest thing ever because he wasn’t there and only 2 people spoke English well. It was really fun though because basketball can be played with any language. It was probably the coolest thing to bond with people I legitimately don’t know about a sport we all love.”
– Aaron
“It was amazing seeing the Carmel mountain with amazing views, and helping rebuild the forest from the terrible fire 7 years ago was a great experience. Using your bare hands to make a difference is something I will take for the rest of my life.”
“I especially liked doing the foresting in the Carmel. It not only made me feel some kind of satisfaction that I was helping fix something but also it was just a general fun experience to do work together with all my friends on the trip.”
“I liked learning about the Druze and learning about their culture.   The food was also good. Best hummus I’ve had so far!”

– Arielle

Israel Day 4

HiBuR Day 4

The city of Tel Aviv was named after a book written by Theodor Herzl, Altneuland, (Old-New Land). Tel in Hebrew is mound, which represents the old, while Aviv means spring, standing for the new. On Monday, we attempted to discover both of these layers that  exist in the first Jewish city.

Starting at the Independence Hall on Rothschild Boulevard, we sat in the exact same room which 70 years ago (minus three months), David Ben Gurion declared the establishment of the Jewish state and initiated a new chapter in the Jewish story.

At Rothschild Blvd, we met  with Ale, daughter of David Strauss who currently serves in the Israeli army. Ale shared with us her unique story from Beth El, through HiBuR to the IDF, and answered many great questions from our teens.

We continued to Yaffo, the ancient city from which modern Tel Aviv sprouted from. Our Israeli teens guided us through the old city, and we concluded with an incredible Israeli lunch at the renowned Dr. Shakshuka restaurant, followed by some free time at Yaffo’s famous flea market.

For our last stop we headed north to the Palmach museum. The Palmach, or the Striking Units was one of Israel’s paramilitary organizations which helped establish the Jewish state. This very engaging museum helped our teens get a better understanding of the struggle behind the establishment of the state, led by people who were only about as old as our teens.

Have a great week and keep following us!

“My favorite part of today was going into the little markets and buying some souvenirs and bargaining (w/Olivia) because it was very interesting to me.”

– Maya

“In the morning we went to the independence hall and learned about Israel becoming a state and when they played the recording of the first time they played the national anthem it gave me chills.”

Israel Day 2

Day 2 – Shabbat morning came and the HiBuR group spent the entire day with their Haifa partners. Though the day was extremely rainy it didn’t stop the group from out and about! Many went exploring the city’s fine dining and decided on sight seeing! Some caught up on their homework (so we were told!), others felt a little more inclined to go bowling and even go-carting, and a few who felt the mall was a perfectly well way to spend the stormy day! By evening, here in Haifa, many groups of partners organically came together to spend time with one another before preparing for a very eventful Sunday!

Day 3 – Rise and shine! With a beautiful early morning golden sunrise the day clearly had a touch of magic to it already. We boarded the bus and by 7am our little troopers were in full swing heading to Tsefat to meet with our incredibly knowledgeable tour guide, Adam! With both excited to see one another we went straight into soldiering through a bit of rain as we toured the mystical city of Tsefat. It was an amazing exchange of culture weaving through the streets and Adam was not short of creative stories about this old city. Strongly engaging with the group, he inspired so many thought provoking questions which sparked the minds of all who were in attendance, making for substantial conversation and wonderment.

A very special event took place which I can confidently say bonded the group to its highest form. Jacob Lord from Beth El had the honor to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah in the oldest active synagogue in Israel, the Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue dated back to the 16th century! It was filled with so much love and will be a great memory for years to come for all who attended.

From exploring a current archeological dig site to seeing the world’s largest Havdallah candles we learned so much during our walks through the quaint streets. Too end our day in Tsefat we visited the Abuhav Synagogue that withholds in it the oldest kosher Torah scroll in the world at the ripe age of 600 years old!

Onward to Golan Heights after a perfect lunch in Gadot. This extremely beautiful land is so green and majestic in the winter that it looked as if we were teleported to Ireland! Yet this land was riddled with ruins and military bases which revealed to us he war torn history of this region which lies beyond it’s magical views. We then trekked to the top of Mount Bental, one of the highest points in the Golan. Here, we learned much about the history and current humanitarian crisis of one of Israel’s neighboring countries as we stood listening and overlooking into Syria.

“I really liked the Golan Heights since it really put everything into perspective in terms of the different countries.”– Rachel

“Heading to the Golan Heights was really cool, as it made all of the news and history that we see seem really real.” – Justin

“I really found the Golan Heights to be my favorite part. I find the Middle East conflicts very interesting, and this is what I wanted to hear. Also the lunch was so good.” – Melody

“TODAY WAS AMAZING!!! It was so fun. We visited Tzefat and Jacob had his Bar Mitzvah and I’m so proud of him. I really got closer with a lot of people today while learning cool history at the same time. It was a perfect combination of experiencing history up close & having fun with friends. I think I laughed more today than I ever have. We saw the old city of Tzefat being actively uncovered, and saw Syria less than a mile away. The historical and modern day connection was so cool! Today has been one of the best days ever.” – Rebecca

Israel Day 1

Hello from Israel!
Everyone was refreshed this morning from a good night’s rest and a nice dinner the host families provided.
After a long 20 hours of remarkably smooth traveling, we were all eagerly ready to begin experiencing Israel! By 8am we were on a bus making our way north from Haifa to the ancient port city of Akko situated on the the Mediterranean sea.
Everyone was in great spirits as we set off on the walk to meet our amazing tour guide Adam, who would be showing us around.  We talked about the rich history of the area and why it is so legendary. The HiBur group didn’t shy away from engaging with Adam,  asking many many curious questions about Akko, and interacting with the vast sights and diverse culture!
We ventured down to the old city where we found ourselves squeezing and ducking through underground  tunnels and into beautifully architected subterranean fortresses.  One of the highlights was visiting the Tunisian Synogogue with the interior made entirely of detailed mosaic art, everyone was in awe.
There was a lot of excitement and high energy from the group, especially… when they found out we were on our way to lunch!  Falafel it was in the old city market place!
From there we returned to Haifa where the host families picked up the Americans and spent quality time together,  until everyone met back up at the school, Hugim, in the evening where each family brought a homemade dish to share and celebrate Kabbalat Shabbat!
Shabbat shalom!
The HiBur Crew
“It made me feel excited for the week to come because it was a good balance of educational and fun time.”
-Hannah Goodman