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.