It’s very late here and my entire blog post just disappeared! Please don't be too harsh about my grammar for this second attempt!
However, I wanted to give you a few highlights of the last two days. (There aren’t too many pics because of being in museums and, of course, shabbat.) We promise we’ll take lots more. Tomorrow we are going on an archeological dig, so expect some very powder-covered children in the photos!
It was a special visit to Yad Vashem. Although it was crowded, our students were very impressed with the architecture and were incredibly engaged even though they already knew much of what the docent was saying. Our students were able to share their research about their righteous gentiles throughout the museum and outside the museum in the garden. Unfortunately, we only have a couple of photos since we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the museum itself. The photographs below are just a taste of what we did.
Later on in the day, we stopped for lunch and a supermarket visit. I am fairly sure they had quite a good day yesterday. We didn’t leave much there for anyone else!
In the afternoon, we visited Mount Herzl and paid our respects to many significant individuals in Jewish history and the establishment of the State of Israel, including: Hannah Senesh, Michael Levine, Roi Klein and Yonatan Netanyahu. The message we came away with is that we are here in the Land of Israel because we stand on the shoulders of the people who made tremendous sacrifices.
After a rather somber day, the mood changed as we prepared for shabbat. We had free time so that the students could meet other students from other day school trips. Currently, there are seven schools represented here. Our children are loving making new friends, swapping stories and making new adventures. The hotel hasn’t always appreciated their exuberance but they will get their quiet back tomorrow as we leave for the south.
We began shabbat lighting the candles at a random garden rooftop. I am attaching a picture of the staff on our trip (minus Uzi) just before candle lighting. It was beautiful hearing everyone join in with the blessing. As the sun descended below the rooftops, we stopped for kabbalat shabbat. Our students make us proud every day and this was no exception-they lead beautifully. Not all melodies are the same in North Carolina, New Jersey and Connecticut but there are some universal ones which we sing with great gusto.
We finished our own kabbalat shabbat and then walked towards the Kotel Plaza. As we approached it, we couldn’t see anything but we could hear the singing. It was exciting to anticipate what we were going to see but when we actually saw it, the sight was almost overwhelming. Hundreds of people all praying at one time. Different voices but the same prayers. Of course, we began with the “B’nai Kezra” chant and sang “Am Yisrael Chai.” The girls and boys separated and I took the girls with me. We wove in and out humming one of the Kabbalat shabbat melodies and everyone of us was able to touch the wall. It was as if it was the first time even though it was the third time in as many days. One of the most special of moments was when all of us were able to touch the wall at the same time and we huddled together and sang oseh shalom. I wasn’t the only one with tears in my eyes. Once we walked back a bit, I realized that I needed to bless the girls with the Friday night parent blessing, since you weren’t there! Then just as we were leaving the plaza, we ran into an Ezra alumna, Rebecca Slossberg. She knew we were there because she has been following the blog. Amazing. She looked for us by looking for our Ezra sweatshirts. I blessed her and she then introduced me as her “school rabbi.” I proceeded to bless them all! It was very special to see Rebecca and have the opportunity to introduce to our current 8th grade girls.
We arrived back at the hotel. If you didn’t already hear, you will, that the food here isn’t great. It was mentioned (not in a good way) at our reflection session today. Tomorrow we will eat in a kibbutz down south called Mashabei Sadeh and I can vouch for the food there!
Today there was more downtime for the kids to hang out with their new friends. During “rest time” not much rest happened but lots of Jewish geography was played! This afternoon we hung out in the park for quite a while and then came back for a snooze before havdalah. The fresh mint that we smelled really helped us remember the spice of shabbat.
We ended the evening on Ben Yehuda Street which was filled with kids from March of the Living, Birthright and 8th grade trips. Standing in the midrachov, it struck me that amongst all the tumult, there was incredible optimism for the future of the Jewish people. Many students bought gifts or hung out and ate delicious crepes and ice cream - a lot of ice cream. Some students went to a sunglass store and here is a picture of new sunglasses (although they aren't on the person who got the glasses).
Karyn and I are very happy to be here enjoying Israel through your children's eyes. We really want to emphasize that your children are fantastic. They are well-behaved and are participating enthusiastically. We are very proud of them.
Everyone came back happy, until they realized they had to pack and get up at 6:45!! That is in only a few hours, so I will just end with a few quotes that I overheard in the last couple of days.
“Celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut in Israel makes celebrating the fourth of July look like we are napping.” (That came out of a very interesting conversation about the way Israel mourns and celebrates compared to the US.)
“I’m so happy my parents were able to send me here.”
“Being with so many Jewish kids makes me happy.”
“When are we going out to do more?”
“How many more steps are we going to climb?”
“Is it THAT food again?”
And my personal favorite - “You can’t be homesick when you are already home.”
We will write more tomorrow.
From Jerusalem with love,
Rabbi Amanda and Mrs. Ravski
PS Thanks to Morah Amalya for always being on whatsapp or on the phone when we have questions!