Monthly Archives: February 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."

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

Israel – Days 7 and 8


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.


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 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."
"I LOVED the Dead Sea. It was so cool to float on the water and to get a little bit of sun in February."


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."
"Today was fun! I learned about the culture of the Druze people and their living styles and their beliefs."
"Today we visited a Druze home and ate some delicious food including three different kids of pita, hummus, rice and noodles with chicken!"
"I had an amazing time today with everyone! I learned so much about the Druze!"
"I learned about the Druze people and their religion, history, relationship to Islam, role in the Zionist movement, and their food!"

"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."


"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"


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


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