Beauty and History
Despite the eternal warnings of rain, today dawned bright and clear. Some of the students were enthusiastic about the possibility of getting started on a tan!
As the students sang along together to today’s playlist, the road to Ramat HaNadiv took us past some stretches of Israel’s exquisite coastline. Dror, our stalwart guide, explained that we would see beautiful gardens and the tomb of Baron Rothschild at this nature park. Those who had been here before told us that we were in for a treat; excitement was high.
Arriving in the park, we were treated to a short film about the history of the park and the Rothschild family’s ongoing investment in the region. The students were raring to go, so we made our way to the park gates. Dror explained some of the iconography of the Rothchild crest and led us on a tour of the gardens. The flowers were stunning, as were the views.
The students grew quiet as we entered Baron Rothchild’s tomb. The subdued lighting and echoes from the cavern walls gave a somber sense to the scene.
Emerging back into gardens, the world seemed full of life and light. We took advantage of some free time to explore the garden’s different areas, including one that was designed with fragrant and tasty herbs for vision-impaired people to enjoy. The students broke off into small groups to enjoy some rare private time together.
Back at the bus, we went down into Zichron Yaakov. In its cemetery, we learned of the romantic and tragic story of Aaron and Sarah Aaronsohn. The students were utterly rapt as Dror told us their story, one known to most every Israeli student. We left the cemetery in relative quiet, reflecting on all that we had learned.
The main street of Zichron Yaakov was filled with the day’s abundant light and warmth. Shedding our jackets, most of us walked in our short-sleeves. “I can’t believe that it’s winter back home,” I heard an American say. “Well, it’s winter here,” an Israeli replied. “It gets colder!” We decided that we preferred the warmth!
We had lunch at a Chinese restaurant in the food court in the Or Akiva mall. One of our students joked with me that a mall looks like a mall anywhere in the world. It was very true – the students looked completely at home as they collected their lunch and sat together to eat. As we had lunch, we noticed that we were attracting a lot of attention. Apparently, busses of tourists aren’t a common sight in this sleepy community! The Israeli students talked with their counterparts in the mall while some of us marveled at the novelty of seeing a kosher McDonald’s in the mall.
Our last stop for the day was at Caesaria, an ancient port town and modern destination for art-lovers and tourists alike. After a dramatic film about King Herod’s construction of the city, we followed Dror on a tour of the area. Roman, Byzantine, Crusader and Ottoman architecture could be found side-by-side, and often piled together in strata! The rush of the ocean and the roar of the wind were soothing, while the jade-blue of Mediterranean was in stark contrast to the sharp angles of the Roman ruins.
As the sun sank lower, the students looked at ancient mosaics and arches. It had been a long day and our energy was beginning to flag. Sitting at the hippodrome, Dror explained some of the politics between Roman and occupied Judea. Many of us had collected shells or pebbles along the way; as we returned to the bus, we carried some of the history of this beautiful place with us.
By the time we got on the highway, many of the students were dozing; we’ve been packing a lot into each day!
“Beautiful…” “Amazing…” “Awesome…” These were some of the words that the students used to describe today’s experiences. What made it even more memorable is that today we were accompanied by the wonderful Hagit, who has been masterfully leading the HiBuR program on the Israeli side for the past three year, and created today's program especially for us.
Walking into the center of Haifa this evening, I found several of our students walking around with their Israeli friends. Perhaps I embarrassed them (no one wants to meet a “teacher” when they’re out having fun), but it made me feel good to see the strength of the connections that we’re forging in Israel.
Each day has brought us new adventures and delightful surprises. We’re looking forward to continuing to share these amazing experiences with you!
Rabbi Josh Breindel
In Their Own Words
Thanks to Katie and Josh for assembling today's photos and quotes!