Sunday, August 5, 2007
The Journey continues.
According to Josh, all the teens had a lovely Shabbat with their host families, resting, eating, beaching, or just shmoozing - much needed down time. Last night, at the end of Shabbat, the group traveled together to Jerusalem (20 minutes from Modi'in) with their Israeli guide, Tal. Tal is about 24 years old, just returned from his "tour of the world", which most Israelis take after their army stint, and before university or full time jobs. He is bonding well with the teens. In Jerusalem, the group went to the Kotel and walked through the tunnels underneath the Wall - an authentic, incredible walk through Jewish history, made all the more dramatic at night time. Those who wished visited the Kotel and left their prayers in the cracks. The evening ended at 1:00 a.m. and all enjoyed the experience.
Today was a recreational high point for the group. They climbed onto the bus at Modi'in City Hall at 8:00 a.m. and traveled north to the Kinneret (Sea of Galilea). They took a 1 and ½ hour water hike through a canal that flows into the Kinneret. The water is often thigh deep and this was a golden opportunity for splashing and frolicking. The American teens were particularly enamored with the hike as it was a totally new and unexpected adventure. And, as Josh reported, no one lost anything!
Lunch were sandwiches and humus, etc. Even though the teens ate similar food in Poland, they all said that in Israel the food tastes differently, and infinitely better. (No surprise!) After lunch, the group went kayaking in Jordan River Park, even on some small rapids, from 1 - 3:00 p.m.
The next stop was more serious - the Kinneret Cemetery, where all the early Zionists are buried, as well as the famous poet, Rachel and more recently, Nomi Shemer. It is a "sacred" place to most Israelis, on the hills overlooking Lake Kinneret. One can sit by Rachel's gravestone and take out a book of her poetry on yearning for Zion from a small metal box at the site or, as often happens, every group has a song leader or musician to sing/play the songs that touch the country and people the most.
As the day wound down, the teens next went to the campgrounds on Lake Kinneret for dinner and a sleepover on the beach, to hopefully wake up to one of the most beautiful sights on earth, the Kinneret at sunrise. Aren't we all jealous!
August 7, 2007
The Journey continues...
Yesterday, Monday, the group made the challenging kilometer challenging hike through Jilabum, ending at a waterfall. For many, it was the first time they climbed boulders and steep inclines to reach their destination and stretched their physical capacities to the limit, yet all who did the hike felt satisfied and accomplished at the end. Kol hakavod - all the honor to them!
The group then earned an afternoon of frolicking in the water, including rides on "banana boats" and lots of "chicken fights." Last night they lodged at a field school hostel.
Today, the group enjoyed all the sites listed on the itinerary, including Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, where it all began in 1948, shopping on the trendy Shenkin Street, the Palmach Museum, and most excitedly a side trip for a few hours to visit the PACT program in the city of Lod. PACT stands for Parents and Children Together, a program subsidized by our Jewish Community Federation's Annual Campaign and coordinated by the Joint Distribution Committee. PACT trains new Ethiopian immigrant parents along with their children so that they can take an active role in their children's education. This afternoon, PACT organized a carnival with over 30 immigrant families attending. Our teens intermingled among the children, playing with them, and guiding them through the carnival. Josh sent photos of this visit which will be forwarded to you directly. It was a lot of fun, and also "community service" for the JFIers, a perfect combination.
Tonight the group returns to their host families in Modi'in.
August 8, 2007
The Journey Continues...
Fresh from yesterday's most enjoyable and memorable afternoon with Ethiopian Jewish children, the JFIers had another upbeat and uplifting day today.
The first stop this morning was Beit Guvrim, an archeological site which features a program called "Dig for a Day" in the underground caves of an ancient city at Tel Moreisha (http://www.archesem.com/dig.asp, fyi). At the site, the teens crawled through underground caves and rooms and also experienced the rules of archeological digging and sifting. Perhaps they will bring home permissible souvenirs of shards, etc. The most exciting find of the day came from Sarah Andler. According to Josh, on her way out of a cave, she slipped and her foot went through some dirt, into a hole in the ground. After exiting, one of the seminar leaders investigated the hole, which, with much excitement, turned out to be an opening into another brand new cave, or "room." Josh informed me that the find will be named the "Andler Room." Aren't we all proud?
Next on today's itinerary was a significant ride from the Tel Aviv area south to Arad, with a lunch (and shopping ?) stop at a mall. The group was elated to see the big M food establishment.
After lunch, the group visited an air force base, perhaps the highlight experience so far. This is not a usual stop for any American group going to Israel, or for the Israeli teens. Our P2K partners have the right connections and according to Josh this was the "coolest" visit. At the onset, many of the soldiers on the base respectfully saluted to Omri, a volunteer member of the Israeli P2K Steering Committee who has been accompanying the group. The teens saw F-16 jets take off and land, and toured the inside of a flight simulator room.
The stop at the air force base, not to be outdone, was followed by camel rides in the desert (115 degrees or so), which provoked thrills and laughter, as you can imagine. After the rides, it was time to chill with small groups of the teens playing guitar, singing, or deep in sheish-peish (backgammon). We heard loud singing in the background of today's phone call at this time and were told that Rotem had single handedly transliterated several Israeli songs into English so that now all of the teens could sing together. As the phone call was ending, the group entered a large Bedouin tent where they will learn from Bedouins, sing, play instruments, eat a Bedouin meal and sleep, along with Josh and Tal (Israeli guide).
Josh reports that the group is exceptionally bonded and attentive today. This is reflective of the kind and gracious complements given to our group by Russell, coordinator of the program with the Ethiopian children yesterday: "I believe the success of the visit was as much due to the program, as it was the teen participants themselves. All showed such love and warmth to the PACT participants. As a Modi'in resident, an Israeli and a Jew it was inspiring to see the future generation of leadership in action. I also have no doubt that some of the Israelis would be willing to come back and give of their time to the program if we decide to follow that route."
Tomorrow begins at 2:45 a.m. with the "snake trail" hike, or a tram ride up to Masada, to arrive to see the sunrise. After a tour of Masada, the group is scheduled to do a wadi (dry river bed) hike close by. Until tomorrow. . . . .
The Journey continues...
You [parents] will be happy to know that many of your teens ate more at the Bedouin feast last night than on the entire trip. The menu, apparently, was extensive, including lamb, veggies, coffee and lots of salads and other delights. Dinner was followed by a bonfire and music, with lights out at 10:30 p.m.
At 4:45 a.m. this morning the JFIers arrived at the top of Masada, having walked up the Roman Ramp (20-minute walk). They toured the top and climbed down the Snake Path, arriving at the bottom again at 8:15 a.m.
Masada was followed by another water hike through wadi (dry river bed) David in the Ein Gedi area. After the hike, the group enjoyed lunch at the Dead Sea and a few hours of frolicking in the salty sea and in the aromatic and healing mud for which the area is so famous (the photos, when they come, should tell it all).
The group then traveled to Jerusalem to their hostel for the next two nights and days. After showering and resting a bit, they will take the bus to Ben Yehuda Street, the main pedestrian shopping / eating street in Jerusalem. A full day was had by all.
Final note to parents…
The group will be returning to Modi'in right after Shabbat is over Saturday night for a farewell dinner and program. The American teens will go to the airport in the middle of the night in order to take a 6:00 a.m. flight out of Israel Sunday morning (Israel time). Once again, we want to express our profound appreciation to especially all of the parents of JFI II for hosting Israeli teens, for encouraging your teens to engage in this unique and memorable Jewish journey, and for supporting all of our efforts to provide a safe, engaging, exciting, inspirational, and identity building experience to last a lifetime. We look forward to meeting with your teens and with you in a few weeks to capture and share "moments" and "thoughts".