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Israel Mifgash – Day 10

On Eagles' Wings

Our final day in Israel dawned with the threat of rain (again). But we knew better! Although there was a brief sprinkling, the sun persistently shone through the clouds. In the end, it blossomed into a beautiful day to conclude a beautiful visit.

After breakfast, we drove to the ancient port city of Jaffa, Tel Aviv’s historic predecessor. The stretches of beach along wonderful views captivated the students; we often paused to take selfies overlooking the Mediterranean’s unusually strong surf.

We climbed through ancient neighborhoods to reach an overlook where several of the Israeli students shared their knowledge about Jaffa. One of the highlights of the morning was the Wishing Bridge; each of the astrological signs are mounted on it in bronze. Legend has it that wishes made when touching one’s own sign will come true.

Having crossed the bridge, we gathered at a lovely fountain square. The Israeli students led us all in spontaneous folk dancing! Passersby looked on with delight and took pictures of us. As the sun emerged, we remember this moment with light and delight!

As the stores began to open, we walked along a winding pathway to the old center with its beautiful clock-tower (a meeting-place for several centuries). The students were delighted to have some free time; Americans and Israelis paired up together to explore the area. Famous (and aromatic) bakeries and produce-markets lined the streets. We saw more than one student tempted by sweet baked-goods.

Gathering together, we returned to the bus just in time for lunch. After we ate, we drove to the center of Tel Aviv, the new sister port of Old Jaffa, for self-guided historical tours of the area. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect as tourists and natives walked the beautiful promenades and boulevards of the city. We were told that the Independence Trail was modeled after the Freedom Trail in Boston! The students enjoyed playing with the tablets that guided them on the tour, finding their way to multiple points of historic interest.

Our stalwart driver, Elias, picked us up from the midst of a busy street and dropped us off at the Yarkon Park. We saw today that Tel Aviv is a fusion a major urban center and beautiful natural treasures. We followed the beautiful Yarkon river through parks, zoos, playing fields and bike paths until, much to our delight, we found ourselves steps away from our hostel!

After some time to pack our bags and relax, we met in the cafeteria for dinner. Our last excursion together was about to begin. We walked to the “new port” – a cosmopolitan shopping area adjoining the ocean. Pairing up again, the students enjoyed some unstructured time to talk, take in the sea air and prepare for our closing ceremony.

We were in a somber mood when we sat together in a meeting room at the hostel. Each of us, in turn, had the opportunity to speak from the heart about the HiBuR experience. There was laughter and tears. Students slapped hands and held each other. Of all the moments that we shared, this one confirmed what we already knew: that the relationships that we formed will be an enduring blessing for us all.

As we write these words, sitting in the Tel Aviv airport, we can see our students around us. Some are dozing, some are reading and others are playing cards. No matter what they’re doing, we truly believe that they are a single group; respecting each other’s differences and supporting each other’s needs with kindness, insight and sensitivity.

When we arrived in Israel, we were a strong group. As we leave Israel, we’re a family. And we’re sad to be leaving behind members of our extended family. This is why we say, l’hitra’ot – until we see each other again – when we depart. It’s with the conviction that we will meet again because of the strength of the bonds that have woven us together.

We are so very grateful to the many people and organizations who made this opportunity possible, both in Boston and in Haifa, and especially to our hosts at Hugim - Hagit, Evyatar, and Galit, who made this mifgash an unforgettable experience to all of us. Please know that your support is helping us realize the dream of a worldwide Jewish community. We have all learned and grown through this visit to our ancient homeland. May we merit to share the gifts that we received here with our loved ones in every land.

Shavua tov from the Ben Gurion airport,

Rabbis Lisa and Josh

Israel Mifgash – Day 9

Living the Jewish Experience

Today’s activities were a true metaphor for the collective Jewish experience. We awoke this morning to a beautiful blue sky and clear views of all of Jerusalem’s hills and valleys. It is impossible to take in Jerusalem all at once; Jerusalem must be experienced a little at a time. It is a city that begs to be savored with all of the senses and the entirety of one’s spirit. Jerusalem is as emotionally intense as it is physically beautiful.
Our Youth Hostel was located in the Jerusalem Forest; very close to the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament building) and several museums. The Jerusalem Forest is notably green right now as are the hillsides. Israel has had an abundance of rain this winter, which bodes well for the land and the people.
We ate breakfast and got on the bus for a short drive to Yad Vashem: Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Museum. It is remarkable to consider that in 1953 the fledgling State of Israel passed a law that requires that there be a memorial museum for Holocaust victims, survivors as well as those “Righteous Among the Nations” who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazi’s “Final Solution” to rid Europe and the world of the Jews.
We met our guide and began our tour of Yad Vashem. It was impressive how much our students know about the vulnerable position of Germany in the world post-World War I, the rise of the Nazis to power, and the subsequent destruction of about one-third of Europe’s Jews. Yad Vashem is more than its content and many artifacts. It is an ingeniously designee building with an incredible architecture and deliberate design that are inseparable from the narrative itself.
This messaging was not at all lost on our students, many of whom have an impressive command over this period of European history. As they listened, asked questions and spoke with one another, it was obvious that each student was utilizing the entirety of their education and experiences. They handled the difficulty of this museum extremely well and without complaining. It was crowded, it was difficult to focus, it was disorienting and there is information and emotional overload. The dark, black, white and gray of the museum reflects the bleak and monochromatic world of the Holocaust itself. The Museum is built with strange angles and dark corners; with photos and videos and original footage from the period.
Our students listened carefully and supported one another. There were some moments when I would look at them and their eyes were filled with tears. The group is so connected to one another; they looked out for one another; there were frequent embraces and genuine gestures of comfort. Our morning at Yad Vashem concluded at the Children’s Memorial, truly one of the most moving and beautiful memorials imaginable. It is a memorial that one walks through in the complete dark. The names of some of the 1.5 million children are spoken in English, Hebrew and Yiddish. The darkness is slowly replaced by the light of 5 candles that are refracted dozens of times through the artistic use of mirrors. The memorial resembles a night sky with countless sparkling stars. Each light represents one child whose life was lost but not forgotten. The memories of those we love continue to grace our lives and point to a brighter and more hopeful future.
There could be no greater contrast to the solemnity of Yad Vashem than Machaneh Yehudah in the final hours prior to the beginning of the sabbath. The market is truly one of the most colorful and vibrant places in all of Israel. Joyous music plays throughout the market, displays of multi-colored spices, olives, nuts, dried fruits, pastries and Challah are accompanied by the shouts of shopkeepers selling their goods. As sundown draws closer, the shouts of the shopkeepers get louder, the prices are brought lower, and the market begins to shut down one merchant at a time.
This is the Jewish experience: darkness is followed by light; grief and hope alternate; suffering and celebration define our identities as Jews and make us more compassionate and empathetic human beings. Israel captures the entirety of Judaism and Jewish life across time and space.
Our hearts were full of every emotion conceivable as we departed Jerusalem For Tel Aviv. As we celebrated our second Shabbat together at Beit Daniel, a large Reform synagogue in the heart of Tel Aviv, I realized that our students from Boston and Haifa have written themselves into the continuing story of the Jewish people; that we all stand in a long line of history that is beautiful and difficult and passionate all at the same time.
Our day that began with sadness and grief and loss concluded with a surprise 16th birthday celebration arranged by Alon's father and the Israeli teachers. The sounds of conversation and laughter tonight were especially life- affirming. As we approach our final day on Israel Rabbi Breindel and I want to thank you for sharing your extraordinary young adults with us  and entrusting them to us.
“Zeh Hayom Asa Adonai, nagila v’simcha bo! 
This is the day that the Eternal has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it!”
(Psalm 118:24)
Shabbat Shalom from Tel Aviv.
Rabbi Lisa Eiduson


In Their Own Words


Israel Mifgash – Day 8

Through the Desert

Today was a journey of literal highs and lows as we traveled from Haifa (1000 feet above sea level) to Masada and the Dead Sea (1400 feet BELOW sea level) and then to Jerusalem (2600 feet above sea level).

Gathering at Hugim at 6:00 AM, we said farewell to Haifa and began the next leg of our journey. Since over the course of the past week the two groups spent most of their days apart, everyone was thrilled their weekend together had finally arrived. As we dozed on the bus, Elias (our faithful driver) took us the 150 miles to Masada. The contrast between the two locations could not have been more stark.  Where Haifa was verdant and filled with activity, the approach to Masada was barren and lifeless.  The sight of a few camels grazing in the wilderness caused a flurry of excitement on the bus!

We climbed up to the ruins of Masada via the ramp that the Romans constructed in their assault of the fortress.  Although razed to the ground, the outlines of the complex were still clearly seen.  A few of our students were fascinated by the active archaeological digs underway at the peak.  Several of our teens participated in historical readings (complete with costumes provided by Dror, our guide) to our enthusiastic applause.

As we prepared to make our descent, Dror gave us a treat.  The wall of a cliff opposite to Masada made for an excellent echo reflector – our voices returned to us clearly as we shouted in unison.  I felt goosebumps as we heard the echo of our call, Am Yisrael chai – the people of Israel live!  This affirmation of life was an incredibly moving moment, redeeming a place that had formerly been characterized by tragedy and loss.


The walk from Masada down to the bus at the bottom was tricky at times, but we managed it in good spirits.  Lunch was an enthusiastic affair – everyone was excited for our next stop: the nearby Dead Sea!

After a short drive, we stopped at a resort to access their beach.  Our students changed into bathing suits with several of their Israeli friends.  The high concentration of salt in the water makes it incredibly buoyant; it was a delight to watch the students playing in the water and exploring its unique beauty.  After what felt like no time at all, we showered off the salty water and continued on our way.

Many of us napped on the bus, so it was another moment of contrasts when we were awakened on the final approach to Jerusalem.  Although it had rained earlier in the day, the sky was clearing and the city had been washed clean (we’ve had AMAZING luck with the weather).  Rabbi Lisa gave a wonderful introduction to the spirituality and history of the Kotel (the Western Wall) as we both prepared the students for an experience of unique power and meaning.

Together, we walked through the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, as Dror pointed out landmarks and gave us several historical orientations.  Our students were awed by the age of the buildings and the beauty of Jerusalem’s narrow streets.  (As the shadows lengthened, Jerusalem’s cats emerged from the shadows, to the delight of many.)

After clearing security, we found ourselves standing before the Kotel.  Dividing into two groups (the Kotel remains gender-segregated), we approached the Wall at our own pace, each of us finding our own quiet time in this precious space.

Some of us were struck by the multitudes of people who represented faiths and nationalities from all over the world.  Others were impressed by the Kotel itself, built of massive stone blocks.  Yet others described feeling a special energy in that place, a sensation that they struggled to describe despite its intimately sensed power.

Profoundly moved, we left the Kotel as dusk descended and traveled through the upper levels of Jerusalem back to our bus.  Elias was waiting for us with his customary patience and took us swiftly to the hostel where we’re spending the night.

Following dinner, the students connected together and made friends with another group of Jewish youth who had travelled to Jerusalem.  With quiet hours now underway, I know that everyone is going to sleep well after this very long, very packed and very meaningful day!

Layla tov from Jerusalem,

Rabbi Josh

In Their Own Words


Israel Mifgash – Day 7

Our Home Away from Home

Who says that today's high school students are preoccupied with their phones and computers and lack some of the more fundamental  human skills such as conversing with one another and learning from their experiences?

Honestly, we have not seen those high school students at all during our time in Haifa — either among the Americans or the Israelis. We have instead seen students who love to learn, who are perfectly capable of engaging with one another and with adults, and who are eager to make personal connections that are meaningful and long-lasting.

Today was our final day in Haifa - our “home base” in Israel. And in so many ways what makes this part of the program unique and special is that Haifa does become “home” for our American students. You will see from their own words, they really do “get it,” and that they are deepening their Jewish identities by engaging with the land and people of Israel.

This morning we had the opportunity to be with our students in class at the Hugim school, and also had the chance to see the new school up close. It is not only magnificent in its setting overlooking the Haifa Bay, but is a state of the art facility with a dedicated team of faculty and educational leaders.

While most of the teens were in class, our Ben T and his host Alon headed over to the Shabtai Levi Home, a shelter for toddlers and mothers in need. Over the past few months, Ben and his fellow HiBuR participants have been collecting socks and blankets for the toddlers, and after carrying them across the ocean, were finally able to distribute them at the shelter. We are hoping that this partnership with the local Haifa establishment will become a HiBuR tradition.

The morning began as our American students joined a class with teacher that just for today had a discussion about the world today - about diplomacy, globalization, and the state of our communities today. They came away from the class very enthusiastic and animated; they were comfortable participating and a few commented that they wished their own schools offered a similar course.

Following that, we had a special interactive lesson by a representative from Facing History and Ourselves. The students read a famous short story The Fable of the Goat (1925) by the Nobel Prize winning Israeli author S.Y. Agnon (1888-1970). The American and Israeli students read the story in Hebrew and English and worked in groups to discuss its meaning and message. I was so impressed to hear them discussing this classic piece of Israeli literature that describes the Jewish yearning for a homeland, the difficulties between Israel and the Diaspora, and the often challenging but fruitful tension between the generations of parents and children.

The story led to a conversation about the complexity of Jewish identity and the mystical connection between the Land of Israel and the People of Israel. Our students - your young adult children - found the metaphor, cracked it open, and began speaking of their own perceptions of Israel - both real and ideal- and their own first-hand connections to Israel through their relationships with Israelis. They articulated the value of Jewish peoplehood that is at the center of the HiBuR program and defines the uniqueness of the world Jewish community: that there is a sacred quality to our connections with one another as Jews who share memory, history, and in our students’ case, a positive sense of hope for the future.

Together with Galit, one of the three teachers who visited us in the fall and we look forward to host again next year, we walked from the school into the center of town to see the Baha’i Gardens and enjoy the view of Haifa Bay from the Promenade. The students stopped to play charades, reviewing some of the places we have been to so far and sharing laughs about some of the fun they have enjoyed this week.

Israeli educator Abraham Infeld wrote (2017) that one of the most important goals for Jews today is to build a Jewish community that values “maintaining unity without requiring uniformity.” Infeld’s lesson resonated with us. It is a vision of inclusion, acceptance and diversity. It is a message that would benefit not only the Jewish people but all of humanity. May we make it so.

Rabbi Breindel and I never cease to be amazed by the capacity of your children to laugh and learn and bring kindness.

Tomorrow we have a 6 am departure for Masada and the Dead Sea and then on to Jerusalem.

Rabbi Lisa Eiduson

In Their Own Words


Israel Mifgash – Day 6

The Many Faces of Israel

This morning, it seemed like the rain would finally fall. As we assembled at the school, a drizzle was already gathering. But it was just a tease – while skies were gray for much of the morning, the weather stayed relatively cool and dry; perfect for another expedition. Throughout the day, Evyatar’s stalwart presence, resourcefulness and gentle good humor brought additional sparkle to our trip!

Regretfully, several of our students picked up minor bugs. Rabbi Lisa graciously volunteered to be the one to watch over two of them at our hotel so that I could accompany the others on our visit to the Druze community near Haifa. (I’m glad to say that both students are now reporting that they feel much better after a day of rest).

Today was a field trip for the 10th grade Hugim students; we packed two busses to visit Isfiya (the Druze village). On the way, we stopped to offer our respects at a memorial to a former Hugim student whose life was lost in the War of Attrition with Egypt in 1970. The Israeli students were subdued as their teachers shared the story with them. The beauty of the location made the starkness of the lesson all the more powerful. It was a moment of real contrast; our students are looking ahead to college while their Israeli counterparts know that enlisting in the army or national service is in their future.

Climbing back up the hill, we were surprised to see a goatherd gathering his flocks right behind our busses! It was just another moment that reminded us that life in modern Israel remains strongly connected to the ancient past.

Our next stop was at a Druze military cemetery. Some of us were surprised to learn that, unlike Arab-Israelis, all Druze serve in the Israeli army. While the Israeli students engaged in fieldwork, we took the opportunity to relax and share a snack.

Once back on the busses, it was a short trip to Daliyat al Carmel, a center of Druze life and culture. Liron, one of the Israeli teachers, shared her knowledge and warmth with us as she offered us background into Druze history,  spirituality and presence in modern Israel.

Some of our students were captivated by a dilemma facing Druze of the region, who traditionally offer their loyalty to the country in which they are living. This means that Syrian or Lebanese Druze and Israeli Druze have fought against their brethren in the many struggles afflicting the region. Given the strong emphasis that the Jewish people have placed on a sense of responsibility for one another, this tragic situation felt all the more poignant to us.

From a military training ground high on a hill (a traditional location for Druze settlements) we walked through the village to the center of town. Israeli and American students paired up to tour the area and sample local foods. (This was my first time sampling knafeh – I was assured by my Israeli counterparts that this extremely sweet, cheese-based treat contains only a single calorie… which is completely absorbed by its ice-cream topping!)

Editors note: the quality of a Knafeh is first and foremost measured by the plate it is served on. The cheaper-looking the paper plate is - the better the Knafeh. As un-green as it may be, keep away from places that serve Knafeh on washable dishes. 

Regretfully, due to a scheduling mix-up, we didn’t have the opportunity to visit at length with Nasrine, who had hosted HiBuR groups in the past. Instead, her uncle took us on a tour of the peak of the Druze village. We were treated to steaming cups of cinnamon tea as we learned how life in a traditional Druze home was arranged right up through the mid 20th-century.

After a short walking tour of this oldest past of the Druze settlement, we were driven to a restaurant specializing in “Druze fast-food”. Stuffed cabbage, sweet and spicy pepper, lamb, potatoes and various salads gave us a lot of choices!

Following a leisurely lunch, we took the bus back to Haifa where our students joined with their hosts for Tzofim – the Israeli scouting organization. After a day of learning about other cultures, an afternoon of play and a quick visit to the Grand Canyon (Haifa's so appropriately-named mall) seemed to be just what everyone needed!

Tomorrow will be our last full day in Haifa, and a chance to show our appreciation to the local families who welcomed us with open arms, cooked for us, drove us around, and all together made our students forget they are 5,000 miles from home. While our hosts will be traveling with us for the weekend, several of our students shared that they’ll regret leaving this beautiful, welcoming city. That said, excitement is very high for visiting Masada and the Dead Sea. We’ll look forward to continuing to share our adventures with you!

Rabbi Josh Breindel

In Their Own Words

Thanks to Jasper and Ben K for assembling today's photos and quotes!


Israel Mifgash – Day 5

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!


Day 5 Photo Gallery

Israel Mifgash – Day 4

A Day in the North of Israel

Last night, before everyone went to sleep we sent one last WhatsApp message reminding everyone to bring rain gear for our day in the north. We had been following the weather all weekend, and it seemed 100% certain that our day would be rainy with showers all throughout the day.

But, don’t forget: this is the land of miracles… and though we are never supposed to pray for rain to stop in this climate in which water is a prized commodity, let’s face it - we got a little gift today. Not only was there no rain, but it was sunny and beautiful in the north of Israel from morning until night! The weather was perfect, the temperature felt just right, the spring wildflowers are just poking through the ground, and the views in the hilly and mountainous north could not have been more spectacular!

Tzefat: We started out from school this morning with our group and 4 of the Israeli students. Thanks to Ben T and his wonderful speaker and playlist (of mostly 80s and 90s music!), we had continuous music whenever as we were driving from one place to another! Thank you, Ben T! Our first stop was 1.5 hours from Haifa, way up in the northern district of Israel, almost 1000 meters above sea level in the town of Tzefat. Tzefat is not only the highest city in the Galilee; moreover, it is at an elevation higher than any other city in Israel. 

The city of Tzefat dates back to ancient times and is considered one of 4 holy cities for Jews and Judaism in Israel. Together with Hebron, Jerusalem and Tiberius, Tzefat (or “Safed” in English) has a remarkable history that spans the millennia and a most interesting history. Tzefat’s elevation high up in the mountains made it a favorable city to inhabit as those living in Tzefat could look down and see virtually the entire Galilee. Occupying the top of a mountain always provides a strategic advantage and offers security, especially at times of political or geopolitical instability. Tzefat also had and still has an important water source that facilitated its place in international trade and enabled the people to manufacture fabrics and upholstered goods, thanks to the river that runs just below Tzefat and is filled with water throughout the year. 

Like many other cities in Israel, the population of Tzefat has constantly changed over the centuries, while continuing to be home to Jews from different parts of the world at different times. It is the belief that Tzefat goes back to the Roman/Second Temple Times – some 2,000 years ago. While not much is known from the Biblical period, we do know that by the 12th century, Tzefat became an important, fortified Crusader city. The Mamluks captured Tzefat from the Crusaders in the 13th century. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 led many Sephardic Jews to make their homes in the mountains of Tzefat. The Ottoman Empire retained Tzefat from the 1500s until the city became part of the British Mandate just following World War I. Tzefat remained in British hands until Israel proclaimed its independence from Britain in 1948. 

In addition to its strategic advantage, its water source, and its magnificent setting, Tzefat is mostly known for its Jewish mystics. It was in Tzefat that Jews – at first from Sephardic lands and then from Ashkenazic lands - starting in the 1600s – began the practice of mysticism. These Jews observe the laws and mitzvot of Judaism like other Jews. But, in mysticism, the element of drawing near to God and one’s prayer through movement was added to classical Jewish theology and philosophy. We wandered through the narrow roads and walkways, climbed up and down stairs and , sat in a famous Sephardic synagogue, and wandered in and out of lovely stores and galleries in which art and mysticism are fused. 

We stopped for lunch – choice of schnitzel, falafel or shawarma – and ate outside in a little park in the northern town of Katzrin. Following lunch, we had a great tour of an olive-products factory that uses trees in the area that are up to 1000 years old to make its special olive oils, soaps, and all-natural, all-organic skin products. We saw how olive oil is made and pressed, and we had a chance to sample breads with 6 different types of olive oil, as well as some facial and hair products that are also made the finest and healthiest olives.  

From Ktzrin we drove to the northeast tip of Israel – to the region called the Golan Heights – Israel’s border with Syria. Today was so clear that we were able to stand at the edge of a hill and see all the way into Syria. Damascus was less than an hour drive from where we stood looking down at the Syrian border. There was also a bunker for us to visit – one of the remnants of the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Dror, our guide, explained to us the complexity of the political situation on that border: 1. The frequent battles over territory in the Golan Heights; 2. Syria’s civil war; 3. The current stalemate between Israel and Syria over the Golan Heights; 4. The Druze villages that are in the Golan Heights in Israel but are very close to Syria and/or Lebanon; 5. The instability of the region in general. We also got a great view of the snowcapped Mount Hermon – very close by and very majestic. 

It was quite cool on Mount Bental as we looked out at the Syrian border so on our way back to Haifa we stopped for something warm to drink and had a chance to see the sun setting over the rich and green Galilee region and the only fresh water body of water in Israel, the Kineret (The Sea of Galilee).  

Another perfect day in Israel – Kudos to our Israeli host students, to our guide Dror, to our driver Elias (who really negotiated a bunch of hairpin curves on steep mountain roads!), and Liron – our Hugim faculty-member- extraordinaire who joined us today. 

Layla Tov… good night from Haifa!

Rabbi Lisa Eiduson, on behalf of HiBuR 2020


Israel Mifgash – Days 1-2

Shabbat Shalom From Haifa

It was all smiles and positive energy when we arrived at the Hugim High School today after a good night of sleep! Everyone said how comfortable and well-cared for they felt at their “homes” in Haifa. Students came for our first day of touring in Israel with their day packs, snacks (lovingly packed by host parents), cameras and enthusiasm. Because Friday is only a partial work-day and school-day in Israel, we had a short day of traveling, but a great one.

At the brand new and beautiful Hugim School, we met our guide, Dror, who lives in Haifa. We got on the bus and were on our way by 8:30 AM. We were a group of all of the American students, a handful of Israelis, and Atara, one of the teachers from the Hugim School. A few Israelis each day will travel with us on our day trips while the others are at school. 

Our first stop – Rosh HaNikra. Rosh HaNikra is the northern-most part of Israel on the Mediterranean Sea and is at the very edge of the border with Lebanon. While mostly quiet these days, this border has been at the center of conflict over the years. It is hard to even imagine conflict in this beautiful and quiet corner of Israel when saw it on a day like today: it is a combination of sea and sky, mountains and caverns. In addition to being a place of historical and geo-political significance, it is unique and spectacular from a natural perspective as well. The crashing waves and strong currents of the sea has eroded the rocks over the course of thousands of years and carved out dramatic grottos and caves. 

As we took the cable car down to the grottos, just in front of us we saw the buoys marking the border in the water between Israel and Lebanon. We then explored a few of the caves and caverns that have resulted from continual erosion. In addition to being of geographic significance due to its access to the sea and its towering heights, this was also a stop on the underground railroad that was built by the British in 1942 to connect Egypt, Turkey and Europe to one another. 

At Rosh HaNikra, Dror took out the map and we spent a little time looking at the State of Israel in the context of its neighbors and neighborhood. A tiny modern state, Israel may be small in size, but it is complex in nature, particularly along its borders.

We got back on the bus and headed for our second stop – a tour of the city and ancient port of Akko. Also on the Mediterranean, Akko, like Rosh HaNikra, was a strategic location that was used to block conquering empires from entering the Land of Israel.  Akko’s mammoth retaining walls are the largest in all of the middle east. Like other cities in the region, Akko has both an ancient city and a second more contemporary city where people live and work. The ancient city of Akko is an underground city built by the Crusaders who were making their way from Europe to recapture the Holy Land from the Muslims. Its massive rooms and halls, archways and waterways make Akko a fun place to explore and to imagine Akko’s colorful and fascinating place in the history of the Israel.

We toured the area and enjoyed our first falafel in Israel in the ancient marketplace that was alive with sights, sounds, smells and textures.  Today, Akko is home to a diverse group of people: Jews, Christians and Muslims who are living according to their own religious sensibilities. At any moment, you hear church bells tolling, the Muezzin calling Muslims to prayer, and you glimpse names of synagogues as you drive through the neighborhoods of the contemporary city. 

We were back at school by 2 pm – happy and tired. Everyone went home to their host families to rest and change into Shabbat clothing. American and Israeli students met at the Ohel Avraham Synagogue, a Reform congregation that is housed in the beautiful Leo Baeck Education Center on the water overlooking the Haifa Bay. We enjoyed a terrific service (and that is not just according to the rabbis!) and stayed at the synagogue for a family-style home-cooked dinner where we could sample a variety of different Shabbat dishes made by the families. Everyone left the synagogue happy, healthy and full!

Tomorrow all of the students will enjoy a day of rest, travel, fun, and family with their hosts and we will report in tomorrow with some of the details of their Shabbat experiences in and around Haifa.

Shabbat Shalom from the beautiful city of Haifa – situated high up in the Carmel and looking down at the magnificent coastline of Israel along the Mediterranean Sea.

Rabbi Lisa Eiduson

In Their Own Words

Quotes and pictures collected by Annie and Gen


Boston Mifgash – Final Weekend

Over our concluding Boston mifgash weekend, which was relatively airily-scheduled, we were still able to come together no less than three times as a community - we welcomed shabbat and had dinner together at Congregation Beth Elohim, where three of our teens were honored to share beautiful sermons they prepared (attached below); we celebrated our second havdallah, sang karaoke together, and wrote letters to to one another; and finished with today's farewell BBQ, masterfully orchestrated and executed by David Strauss and his crew who didn't let a little bit of rain get between them and our plans.

In between these gatherings, along with their host families, our teens spent their weekend apple picking, bowling, pumpkin carving, and spending some quality time at home with their hosts and friends. In addition to all these wonderful activities that this beautiful New England (half) weekend provided us with, our teens also had the chance to reflect on all they have experienced in the course of the past 10 days, deepen the relationships they have quickly formed, and think together on how to maintain these ties over the next four months.

Today, as our teary Israeli friends rushed to board their delayed bus (it had to happen at some point of the trip), with their heavy luggage and even heavier hearts, holding firmly to their farewell letters, we marked the conclusion of chapter one of our HiBuR journey. Very soon the natural feeling of missing and longing will make way to great anticipation, as we think of how great it will be to reunite in Ben Gurion airport in roughly 110 days time.

I would to extend a special thank you for the following people, who made this chapter of HiBuR possible:

  • The BHC committee and Marla Olsberg, for their support and guidance throughout the process of recruiting, planning, and implementing the mifgash. Special thanks to BHC for connecting us with Facing History and Ourselves this year, whose workshop was one of the highlights of our week.
  • The clergy and staff at Congregations Beth El, B'nai Torah, Beth Elohim, Or Atid, and Kerem Shalom - thank you for opening your doors to us, traveling with us, conversing with us, and generally, sharing your worlds with us for a week.
  • Our hosting families, for housing, feeding, driving (sometimes a lot more than just their guests), and most of all - loving our Israeli guests. Our parents know better than anyone how demanding this week is, and they all braved through it.
  • David Strauss and family, for holding the flame of this program, constantly supporting and improving it.

 (done, but not completed) תם ולא נשלם

In their own words

Benjamin's D'var Torah

This week's parsha is about the 7 days of creation and how God created the world and rested on the seventh day. For the kids doing the HiBuR program, it was also a week of creation, as we created close friendships, inside jokes, and memories. God brought the world together to make it complete, just as this program has brought all of these amazing teens together, making us feel whole and connected to our Jewish identities. We created friendships that will last us a lifetime and will connect us to Israel even more than we already are.

Right from the first video chat we had, all of the other teens and I were so excited to connect with other teens from our sister city, Haifa. All of the students from Hugim were friendly and kind to us and for the next month pure excitement for this experience was created. Finally, it was time to get on a bus and go down to New York City to spend the weekend there with the Israelis.

We arrived and immediately became really close friends. Throughout the weekend, we had a mix of museums that helped us create new meaning to our Jewish identities and fun places to take pictures for Instagram and to go shopping, which helped us create memories and experiences.

The Americans spent the past week in school which only created headaches and homework assignments, but knowing that I was going to go home after school to spend time with these friends of mine really made this week truly special to me. We went to malls, temples and workshops together and had so much fun together.

This week has created many new interests for me, as we’ve expanded our Hebrew vocabulary a lot this week, with words like מלפפון and phrases like לא אני אתה. I would like to continue to learn more Hebrew words, to travel to Israel more often in my life and to try knaffe, something that Israelis really seem to like.

This created memories for me too, from the human pyramid at 5 in the morning at Beth El, to being in Central Park with our Israelis for the first time, to rolling up the Torah on Simchat Torah, and to many other things that we were able to accomplish. This week created so many things for us, as God created in the world. I would trade anything to do it again and I can’t wait to be with everyone in Israel again.

Ayelet and Noga's D'var Torah
Hello, our names are Noga and Ayelet and we are from Haifa, Israel. Today we are going to talk about our experience in Boston.
So פרשת השבוע is Bereshit and Bereshit is the creation of the world we live in.We are going to walk you through the week we had in Boston together through the days in which God created.
In the first day God created light. The light we had was when we first arrived to Boston and celebrated simchat torah. At first we were a little bit confused but we slowly got the hang of it. All of the happiness, dancing, being together as a family, and we went back home to our hosts houses with a big smile on our faces.
In the second day God separated the water and the ocean from the skies and the clouds. Our experience of water was the מים חיים מקווה. In which we learned about the purpose of the mikveh and holiness it gives us.

In the third day God created everything that grows from the earth. Our experience of earth was sorting and packing food that was gleaned from the earth for the ones who needed it.

In the forth day god created the lights that shine above us. It relates to is by the Havdallah that we did in New York and we talked about the differences between the Israelis and Americans and we sang the song with glow sticks and a lot of lights.

In the fifth day God created the animals of the land and the sea. Our experience of earths animals was the wild life in the Boston area ,the squirrels the birds and the bunnies.

In the sixth day God created the human being. Our connection to this creation are the new friendships between us and the American and their families and we are very grateful that they opened their homes to us.

In the seventh day God rested and enjoyed the peaceful of the world he created. And when we were in Walden Pond we heard the story of Thoreau living two years in the woods. When silently we walked around the pond we felt the feeling of peace all around us from the woods, the pond, the still air, and the beautiful trees and plants.