LYA Israel Experience 2017 Blog

LYA Israel Experience 2017 Blog

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Farewell Israel

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This is a bittersweet moment as we sit in the airport waiting to board our plane.  The past 10 days have been an amazing time of physical and spiritual growth.  As our chaperones keep reminding us, we all truly rose to the occasion in Israel.  We all grew in our observance of mitzvoth.  We are all more connected to Hashem, the Torah and Israel.  Not only did the education we receive at LYA come to life, but we lived it through experiencing it firsthand.  Our faith in Hashem has grown.  Our group bonded and became a strong unit.  We supported each other and matured individually.  Each one of us accomplished things that we had never done before or thought that we could.  We cannot believe that our trip is coming to an end.  This is something that we have been working on for 2 years.  But we know that our trip and journey are really not over.   In a way it is only beginning.  At the end of our trip during our farewell party, we took time to think and share how we will keep this high that we are on when we return to school, our families, our community and our day to day life.  We know that at times it will not be easy, but we are up for the challenge.  After the successes we had in Israel we are ready.

עם ישראל חי

לשנה הבאה בירושלים

 

Rosh Hanikra/Acco

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Our last day in Israel began going up north to Rosh Hanikra, which is on the border of Lebanon.  We were able to see an Israeli Naval Ship in the Mediterranean monitoring the water.  We took a cable car from the top of the mountain to get down to the water.  We watched a movie explaining the significance of Rosh Hanikra and it also explained about the erosion that has occurred that has cause sea grottoes to develop there.  Rosh Hanikra is the home of fruit bats, that we had the pleasure of hearing but not seeing, sea turtles, many types of fish and jelly fish.  We saw many jelly fish in the water.  It was fun to walk through the grottoes and view the way the water hits the rocks. 

When Alexander the Great came to Israel, he came from Tyre to Rosh Hanikra.  He had his men chisel ladders into the stone to help climb up to the top. In 1941 the British built a railway through Rosh Hanikra. Its purpose was to transport military equipment and be a railroad from Egypt to Turkey.  It took 10,000 workers to build.  In 1944 300 Holocaust survivors used the train to enter Israel.  In 1948 the Hagana blew up the train tunnels in Rosh Hanikra when they found out that Lebanon wanted to use the trains against Israel.

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Our next stop was Acco where we toured a Crusader fortress.  The Crusades was a terrible time for the Jews, as many of them were massacred throughout Europe and in Israel.  It was hard not to admire the amazing architectural design of the fortress.  We each had an opportunity to hold a real cannon ball, we played Crusader games and walked through the catacombs of the fortress.  Fortresses seem like a great idea for protection.  The enemy will always find a way to get in.  As was the case here since the Crusaders were not able to hold off the Mamluks, who took over after conquering them.  Acco was also used as a prison by the British pre 1948.  Many Jews were arrested for “crimes” against the British. It was sad to note that some Jews were hung at Acco for the crime of defending a Jewish homeland. 

From Acco we walked to the Ramchal’s shul.  The Ramchal was a kabbalist who dies at a very young age form a plague.  He had lived in many places before moving to Israel.  The Ramchal lived in Italy, Amsterdam, Yerushalayim, Tevaryia and finally chose Acco as his final home.  He set up a shul there. The Ramchal was known for writing 70 books, which is an amazing feet for someone who died at the age of 40. 

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Our next stop was in Haifa to a cave that Eliyahu used as a hiding place from Achav, the King of Israel.  The 8th grade studied this in Navi and the 7tyh grade will study this next year. It was special to be able to daven mincha in a cave that Eliyahu lived in.  Our last stop in Israel was to spend time in the evening at the Mediterranean Sea.  We had fun skipping stones, finding sea shells and enjoying our last holy steps in Israel. 

Meet Our Bus Driver Guy

Our Bus Driver

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Meet Guy Alter, who is our amazing bus driver.  We enjoy speaking with Guy and joking around with him when he is not driving.  Guy lives in Shlomi, which is in the Galil.  He has been a bus driver for 26 years and he likes hiking.  When he is not driving tour groups like ours, he drives IDF soldiers on trips and to training camps.  He works for a company and enjoys driving our groups.  Guy said that our group is mostly quietJ  He thinks we are kind people.  Guy’s family emigrated to Israel from Romania and he has traveled all around Europe.  Guy really wants to visit America someday. Last night when we drove into Haifa, Guy took the time to drive us around to see the Bahia Gardens from the outside.  

Oz 77/Rambam

Our next stop was Kibbutz Elrom which was founded in 1971, 2 years before the Yom Kippur War.  The kibbutz sustained heavy fighting during the war and was destroyed.  After the war, members of the kibbutz rebuilt it.  Today there are 400 members and the kibbutz grows apples, grapes and berries.  They also have a studio and have the monopoly of translating and adding subtitles for films.  There is a movie theater on the kibbutz and we sat down to watch a movie about the miraculous battle fought at “The Valley of the Tears” right outside the kibbutz.

Following the miraculous win of the 6 Day War, Israel was on a high.  They felt very secure in their strength.  Syria and Egypt had not moved on from their losses and decided to plan an attack.  They tried to encourage Jordan to join them, but Jordan would have no part remembering their losses in ’67.  In fact Jordan secretly told Golda Meir that an attack was imminent. 

On Yom Kippur of ’73 Israel was attacked at 1:50 p.m.  The country was vulnerable and many even in Israel wondered if they would win the war.  Up North, the Syrians had 1500 tanks and we had 177; Syria had 460 canons and we had 44; Syria had 36 aircrafts and we had none.  The odds were definitely not in our favor.  Of course, we know that Hashem is watching over the land of Israel and clearly we can see the miracles of the war.  It also helped that President Nixon sent over plane loads of weapons and supplies. 

The battle in the North was very heavy.  The movie we watched told the amazing story of the 77th battalion and their commander, Avigdor Khalani and his troops fight to keep the Golan out of Syria’s hands.  As the 77th battalion approached the battle field to face the Syrians not only were they outnumbered, but the Israelis had no night vision or training to fight at night.  They were in essence sitting ducks.  At one point they are all too numb to move.  We heard real footage from the battle as their commander yells at them to move forward and that they are stronger than the Syrians.  The tanks did move forward and miraculously held on until back up could arrive.  It was a fierce battle and sadly about 20 members of the battalion lost their lives in defense of the Golan. 

After watching the movie, we went to see the place where t battle took place.  It is now a memorial for the soldiers that fell.  It is amazing to look out and see the fields full of agricultural life and thriving.  It was here that we davened minchah.

From Elrom we made our way out of the Golan and came to Teveryah to visit the grave site of the Rambam, Maimonides.  Part of the site is closed, since remodeling is going on.  Next trip, the grave site will be updated and look very different.

Visiting the Rambam is meaningful for us, since every morning we begin our day learning about Rambam from Rabbi Noach Kosofsky.  Rambam actually lived in Egypt at the time of his death.  Tradition says that his body was placed on a donkey and the donkey walked an ended up in Tevarya.  Rambam’s father is also buried here.  Rambam was not only well versed in Torah, but he was a physician serving sultans as well as regular people. He authored many writings including Yad Hachazaka, which is a 14 volume set extensively detailing mitzvoth of the Torah.  

 After supper it was back to the hotel for our last night in Israel:(

Misgav Am/Gamla

Our first visit of the day was to Misgav Am, a kibbutz in the north that is right along the border with Lebanon. We sat in a room that was surrounded on 3 sides by windows. We had a direct view into Lebanon. Baruch Hashem, the Lebanon border has been quiet since 2006.  Lebanon is really not interested in a conflict with Israel.  Even though the border is quiet we pray that with Hezbollah now part of the government Lebanon will continue to be quiet. 

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We met Aryeh, a Cleveland native who made aliya at age 21. He farms on the kibbutz and was in the army in 1967 when Yerushalyim was recaptured. He spoke to us and told us that there are four things that make this kibbutz unique.

1. Its close proximity to the border with Lebanon

2. Its beautiful view. On a clear day you can see Israel, Lebanon, Syria and the Mediterranean Sea

3. Misgav Am shares its kibbutz with the Israeli army. Soldiers live there who are protecting and monitoring the border.

4. It is equidistant from Haifa and Damascus, Syria and equidistant from Tel Aviv and Beirut, so they really are in the middle of the Middle East

From the gorgeous viewpoint we were able to see the dirt road that is the border, going all the way from the edge of Syria until Rosh Hanikra, which is on the Mediterranean, all across Israel’s shared border with Lebanon.  We enjoyed the magnificent view and then bought some souvenirs and of course some ice cream!

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Next we arrived at Gamla. Gamla is a mountain that resembles a camel's (gamal) hump and that is where gets its name.  We actually were on the mountain that neighbors Gamla.  We walked to a bird watching station. We saw models of different birds like eagles and vultures.  We learned that the "nesher" that will take us on its wing to Israel is the griffin vulture, not the eagle.

We came to an overlook that looked at the mountain Gamla. Gamla has a very prominent peak. Two years before the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, the Jewish people in Israel led a great revolt against the ruling power, the Romans. In the fight that resulted, Gamla was the first city to fall. The Romans attempted to overtake it by climbing on the roofs, which collapsed under the Roman soldiers’ weight. They still managed to capture the town and the end was not pleasant for the Jews living there.

It was interesting to note that there are remains of the oldest ancient shul on Gamla. One would think that there would be no shuls when the Bais Hamikdash stood. This is because there is an opinion that our davening is instead of the karbanos, offerings that were brought daily in the Bais Hamikdash. However, this shul stands as proof that shuls existed before this. This could mean that Jews davened other prayers in the shul. It can also mean that they used the shul as a general meeting place or a town hall. The name of a shul in Hebrew is Beit Hakineset.  Kineset means a gathering place.  We found rocks and Yoni informed us that it was basalt, as the mountains were volcanos which had formed the whole area. It was an incredibly beautiful nature walk.

Katzrin

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We now went back in time to the Talmudic period that occurred during the years 200 – 600 as we walked into Katzrin.  In Katzrin we were able to see how an ancient wine press worked.  We saw the place where grapes were crushed with feet at the beginning of the wine process.  In front of homes we saw the water source that many people used daily.  We were invited into a wealthy family home of the Talmudic time.  It was a 2 floor home with one bedroom, a main room, storage area and kitchen.  In order to keep food safe from animals families stored food on things that looked like swings and hung from the ceiling.  We had a good time climbing up the ladder into the bedroom and then out onto the roof.  The synagogue in Katzrin was made of basalt stone.  The aron faced Yerushalayim and it had Sephardic style seating.   

 

Arbel, Tzefat and Donkey Riding

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Up north the weather has become warmer and that is great since we began our day on Har Arbel and an amazing hike.  Arbel was the home of the great sage Nitay Harbeli.  He is quoted in Pirkei Avot.  Arbel is also mentioned during the Chashmonaim time period when it was captured.  Battles were also fought here between the Romans and the Zealots.  The Arbel hike is quite a strenuous hike down the cliff.  We were all quite proud of ourselves and our accomplishments.  While on the hike we were rewarded with some breathtaking views of the Galil.  This time of year the Galil is very green and the views are picture perfect. 

From Arbel we drove up to Tzefat for the best falafel in all of Israel on the midrachov.  Some of the group enjoyed schwarma and of course some ate pizza.  We ate lunch pizor style, which means we have a choice of what we would like form restaurants in the same location.  It is one of our favorite ways to eat lunch in Israel.  After satisfying our stomachs, we had the energy we needed to walk around Ancient Tzefat.  We began our tour in front of a police station that needed to be captured during the War of Independence from the Arabs.  It took a few tries for the police station to be captured.  We saw a replica of the Davidka cannon that is on display.  Israel only had 3, but since the Arabs thought we had many more it was easier to take back Tzefat with fewer casualties. 

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Next stop was the Arizal Shul.  The Arizal was a mystic who grew up in Egypt.  Once the Arizal dreamt that an angel told him to move to Tzefat.  After moving, the Arizal became the top student of Rav Moshe Cordovero.  The Arizal composed the siddur order that we daven with at LYA and it was in Tzefat where we sat that he and his students would sing Kabalat Shabbat every Friday.  One Friday, the Arizal and his students spent hours in intense singing and the Arizal told his students that it was time to greet Moshiach in Yerushalayim, which is a quite a hike on foot.  Some of his students reacted with comments such as: I need to tell my wife or I need to change my shoes.  The Arizal announced that the moment of intense spirituality was broken and that they almost could have reached Yerushalayim instantly.  The shul we sat across was made after the Arizal died in his honor.  Unfortunately it was closed today.  Sometimes in Tzefat the holy shuls are locked and cannot be toured.   

We walked through the Tzefat cemetery.  In the cemetery we visited the grave sites of the Arizal, Rav Yosef Cairo (codifier of the Shulchan Aruch), R’ Shlomo Alkabetz (composer of Lecha Dodi) and R’ Moshe Cordovero.  At the bottom is the burial place of the Tanna Pinchas ben Yair.  It is told that one should walk around the grave site 7 times and their prayers will be answered.  Miss Kosofsky was able to accomplish this and we hope her prayers are fulfilled. 

From Tzefat it is about a 20 minute ride to the grave site of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.  He was another Tanna who lived under Roman rule.  We celebrate his yartzeit by having outdoor celebrations on Lag B’Omer.  Miss Kosofsky told us of the time when she was in seminary in Israel and spent Lag B’Omer in tents at the site.  We davened mincha here.

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Our day finished at Kfar Kedem where we traveled back 1800 years to the tannaim time period.  We dressed in authentic time period clothing and first learned about some of the laws of planting.  As an agricultural nation, there are many mitzvoth associated with planting.  Before making bread a farmer has to plow, plant, sow, harvest, winnow, grind and mix the wheat.  In addition, he has to know the laws of which corner of the field to leave for the poor, which stalks of grain may be taken by the poor.  There are laws of how one may treat the animals that are assisting in the farming.  Laws can be very complex and are not always clearly defined in the written law.  How do we know the correct way to follow the law?  That is where the oral Torah is crucial and that was codified and complied during the time of the tannaim. 

We then tried our hand at making flatbread on a saj.  After it was done we ate it warm with zatar. Yum.  Then it was off to learn how to ride donkeys.  In order to let the donkey know to ride one says “chi, chi, chi” and to make it stop one says “eeeshh. eeeshh, eesshh”.  Let us just say some of us where more successful than others at the art of donkey riding and we will leave it at that.  We then enjoyed a delicious dinner of fresh pita, meat kabobs, grilled chicken, Israeli salad and rice eaten tannaim style.  It was back to the hotel for journal writing, maariv and a good night sleep before tomorrow’s adventures.  

Achuzat Sara

There have been so many wonderful moments on our trip so far and many more still to happen.  However, today our trip spent an hour doing one of the most beautiful things.  One of our students, Rivka Resnick, a 7th grader published a book for her bat mitzvah.  She chose to donate the proceeds of the sale of her book to Achuzat Sarah.  This is an orphanage in Bnei Brak for Israeli children from non-religious homes.  For various reasons these children are not able to live with their parents.  Girls live at Achuzat Sara until they are 18 and enter the army and boys until they are 14 and they are then sent to live at various homes.  Rivka chose Achuzat Sara after researching different charity opportunities in Israel.  Today Rivka presented the children of Achuzat Sara with a check and one of her books.

Our trip made an hour stop here.  The facilities are beautiful.  The grounds are kept up very nicely with playing fields, dormitories, a kitchen for the children, library and even a petting zoo.  Our group split up. The girls baked crepes and waffles with girls their age and the boys played soccer with boys their age.  It was so beautiful to see children who never met interact with one another in a fun way. 

Staff and students were so touched by Rivka’s act of tzedakah.  They kept asking her why she chose Achuzat Sara.  Rivka explained that it was based on her research and presented her book to the library and even began reading it to some of the children.  There is a sign at Achuzat Sara that says

גם אני חלק ממשהוא גדול

“I am also part of something big”.  Today Rivka showed the children that they do matter and that we all can make a difference in people’s lives.  Thank you, Rivka for allowing our trip to participate in something great and perform acts of kindness that will be felt for a very long time.   

Chevron

We said goodbye this morning to Yerushalayim and hopped on the bus with our backpacks, luggage and a boxed breakfast, picked up the Luzhanskiys and headed down to visit with our parents in Chevron.  First stop was Mearat Hamachpaila where we davened a very moving shacharit in the room marked for our father, Avraham and our mother, Sarah. 

After tefilah, Yoni explained to us that the room we are sitting in, while it is designated for Avraham and Sarah is not actually their graves.  There are 3 such marked rooms that are beautifully decorated, a second room for Yitzchak and Rivkah and a third for Yakov and Leah.  Behind a curtain in the room we davened is a large green door that is the entrance for Yitzchak and Rivkah’s room.  This room is only accessible to Jews for 20 days a year.  The rest of the year it is where the Muslims pray.

The 7th and 8th grade students learned about an explorer Benjamin of Tudela this year in Jewish history, who traveled from Spain all the way to Asia before Marco Polo.  He recorded his travels and wrote of going down into the caves of Machpaila.  Yoni told us that in the room through the big green door are decorative archways.  In 1981, yeshiva students moved the archways one selichot night, while the Jews were davening loudly to drown out their noise and found a stairway to walk down into the caves underground.  There they saw a jar, bones and a long corridor.  At the end of the corridor they knew was an opening of a cave and then another cave.  The students had to stop since they heard the Muslim call to prayer and needed to leave the underground area.  They were caught and the Supreme Court of Israel voted that no one may go down so as not to create friction.  The amazing thing is that Benjamin of Tudela over 1,000 years ago described the same things that these yeshiva students had seen. 

On our way out of Machpaila, we saw the burial site of Avner ben Ner, Shaul’s general.  We learned about his death by the hands of Yoav, Dovid’s general this year in navi.  We then ate our boxed breakfast and proceeded to the believed grave sites of Ruth and her grandson, Yishai, the father of King David.  It is not 100% certain that these people are buried where we visited, but again because Jews have designated it as a place of prayer, it retains holiness.  Today it is a small shul and next to the shul is a really neat ancient shul that we walked through. 

It was on to ancient Chevron, where we saw ancient finds from Chizkiyahu’s days.  He was the king who built the water tunnels in Yerushalayim.  But the most amazing thing to see was an ancient staircase to the city gates from 4,000 years ago.  This very likely could have been the location where Avraham purchased the cave of Machpaila from Efron Hachiti. 

Our last stop in Chevron was Beit Hadasah, which today is a beautiful museum.  Each room is hand painted with vibrant colors and shares the history from Chevron from Avraham until today.   Since the days of Yehoshua until today there has always been a Jewish presence in Chevron with the exception of the years 1929-1967.  In 1929 there was a pogrom against the Jews by the Arabs and the British who ruled at the time decided that no Jews may live in Chevron anymore.

During the 6 day war, Rav Goren, chief rabbi of the army, single handedly captured Chevron.  After the liberation of Yerushalayim, he wanted to enter Chevron with the troops.  The army told him that he may come at his own risk.  The next morning Rav Goren awoke early and none of the troops were in the camp.  Thinking they left ahead of him, Rav Goren and his driver drove in their jeep into Chevron not wanting to miss the action.  As Rav Goren rode into town, he saw the Arabs had placed white flags out their windows in surrender.  He drove to Mearat Hamachpaila and knocked on the door and told the Muslim cleric to open up.  He was told that Jews aren’t allowed and Rav Goren told the cleric to move back and shot open the door with an Uzi and placed an Israeli flag on the site. Since then Jews have moved back to Chevron.  The soldiers that he thought had left were actually still planning the attack. 

From this site we drove to Beit Lechem and davened mincha at our mother Rochel’s grave.  After mincha it was time to say good bye to the Luzhanskiys and begin to make our way up North.  

Shabbat Yerushalayim

We just spent a very beautiful and uplifting Shabbos in Yerushlayim.  We were so excited to spend Shabbat with Yoni’s wife Daniella and his adorable daughters Sara and Emunah.  Nothing can compare to Friday night at the Kotel.  It is always amazing to see so many Jews davening in one place at one time.  The sounds of various minyanim singing at the same time is so beautiful.  We experienced a wonderful meal together.  In between courses we sang songs in the special song book prepared by Miss Kosofsky.  Rabbi Kosofsky shared a dvar Torah.  We also each had a chance to speak about one of our favorite sites so far and how we have been inspired by Israel.  It was a shame that we could not record the beautiful answers we all shared or take pictures. 

The next morning we were able to sleep late and were not woken up until 7:30 a.m!  After a light breakfast we had a beautiful walk to the Kotel.  Yoni stopped along the way to highlight certain areas.  We heard a funny story about a nun who lost her false teeth out a window in the years when Jordan was in control of the Old City.  Because the teeth fell out the window and landed on highway one that was in a sense no man’s land it took 2 weeks until Jordan and Israel could agree to let the nun accompanied by many soldiers go and retrieve her teeth.  We saw a wall from the 1st Temple era built by King Chizkiyahu.  We walked on Rechov Chabad and saw the Cardo.

We had our own minyan at the Kotel.  The group davened so nicely.  Jesse led psukei dezimra, Mendel led shacharis, read haftora and was our gabbai, Rabbi Kosofsky read the Torah and Gavriel led musaf.  After another wonderful meal, we enjoyed some down time.  We then had a Shabbat walk through a community called Nachalot.  We walked by Rabbi Arye Levin’s home.  Rabbi Levin was a tzaddik who visited and assisted many Jews arrested by Britain before 1948.  We walked by a shul made by Jews of Aleppo and learned about the Aleppo codex.  It was back to the hotel for mincha, during which we read from a cool Sephardic sefer Torah, ate shalosh seudah, davened maariv and heard havadala. 

We all enjoyed spending Motzei Shabbat on Ben Yehuda shopping, eating and enjoying the crowd.  It was off to bed and sweet dreams of what awaits us tomorrow.   

Ammunition Hill

After another uplifting shacharit and delicious breakfast complete with cheese cake from Mickey Katzburg, our Israel Connection coordinator it was time to say good bye to our first hotel.  We did a great job packing up and moving our suitcases. 

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Our first stop of the day was Ammunition Hill which was a strategic mountain top that was captured from Jordan during the 6 Day War.  Capturing Ammunition Hill allowed Israel to advance to the Old City.  But, in order to really understand the significance of Ammunition Hill and the 6 Day War, one first must go back to 1964.  Levi Eshkol, was then the Minister of Agriculture.  He wanted to make the desert bloom and in order to do that there had to be a way to bring water from the North down to the desert.  Levi Eshkol began a National Water Carrier carrying water from the Kineret to the Negev. This angered Syria and they began to divert water from the Jordan River, so that Israel should not get the water.  Syrian’s Hafez Assad announces that he will destroy Israel and at the same time there is a similar declaration from Egypt.  Israel, who wanted no conflict hoped that diplomacy would work.  In 1967 Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt tells the UN troops to leave the Sinai desert and he moves his troops to the border and in May closes the Straits of Tiran, which meant Israeli ships could not pass and this was an act of war.  At the same time Syria moves their troops to the border in the North.  On May 30 Jordan signed a five year mutual defense treaty agreement with Egypt.

The feelings in Israel were very tense and the world was watching, especially world Jewry.  Many people were worried what would happen if a war broke out.  It was at this time that the Rebbe, began his tefilin campaign around the world and specifically in Israel to protect the soldiers.  On June 5, 1967 at 7:12 a.m. Israel makes a preemptive strike telling Jordan that if they do not attack, then Israel will not fight with them.  At 9:30 a.m. Jordan announces they will attack Israel.  The war had begun.  There is not enough space to write all the details of the miraculous win, but in as we stood at Ammunition Hill and saw the bunkers where Jewish soldiers gave up their life in defense of our country the impact of the war was clear.  It was crucial to take over Ammunition Hill from the Jordan in order to secure Jerusalem.  A fierce battle was fought there.  Many soldiers jumped out of bunkers voluntarily and were shot by Jordanians so that the rest of their brigade could advance. 

After securing the area around the Old City, it was decided to enter and take back the Old City.  This originally had never been the intention.  Since Israel had already won Egypt in the south (in a mere one and half days) troops were diverted to Jerusalem.  The war with Syria in the North would not be finished until 6 days later.  On June 7 the Kotel was in our hands.  It was so meaningful and inspiring to watch the video of the first soldiers who approached the Temple Mount after 19 years. 182 soldiers lost their lives and today there is a memorial for the soldiers who died at Ammunition Hill.  After hearing the history for the war, we spoke with Yoni about the fact that had Jordan not signed that agreement with Egypt, we might not have gone into the Old City.  G-d is definitely watching over Israel. 

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In addition to touring the bunkers, we broke into 2 groups and had a grand time zip lining and propelling on Ammunition Hill.  We also participated in team building exercises.  We learned the power of working together as a group and supporting one another.

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It was off to the shuk for pre-Shabbat shopping.  The sights, smells and sounds of the shuk are stimulating.  We found great bargains and bought loads of candy and souvenirs.  We are off to our new hotel and we will get ready for Shabbat. 

Baking Pizza for IDF Soldiers

 Tonight we had a treat.  We ate pizza again, but this time we made the pizza.  We did not only make it for ourselves, but they were delivered fresh and hot to an army base for the IDF soldiers.  We made the pizza together with people with special needs from Yachad Israel. We baked 9 pies and made another 4 for ourselves.  It was fun to make food and know that it was going to go to IDF soldiers.  Some of the special needs participants are also serving in special units in the IDF.  They shared their army duties with us.  What a great way to end another special day.

Blind Museum

We participated in a most amazing exhibit titled “Dialog in the Dark”.  For over an hour we participated in a simulated blind experience.  We were asked to complete various tasks using our other senses.  We got on a boat, crossed a street, entered a market and forest, and shopped in a cafeteria for snack.  We must mention that our guides were blind.  Eitan, the boys guide is the first blind Israeli scuba diver who has dived over 300 times.  Abir, the girls guide, was born blind and had 2 operations.  Now she is visually impaired.  This is what we had to say after this life changing experience. 

Shlomo – It was really cool that I was able to find my way around without using my eyes.
Efrayim -  I “saw” how blind people felt.
Dovi – We were able to operate with no sight.
Yishai – I could not see a thing and tried to compensate with my other senses.
Moshe – I thought it was cool that Eitan, our tour guide, knew where everything was.
Yoni – I liked buying snacks without seeing.
Binyamin – It was cool because I couldn’t see but I had to imagine everything - it was reading a book.
Naftali –The boat was my favorite part because the guide focused on different things that were in the water that we could not “see”.
Yossi – It was the coolest experience of my life.
Gavriel –I couldn’t see and I had to use my other senses.
Mendel – It was amazing that I could “see” things with my other senses.
Batya – I liked the boat since it felt realistic.
Naomi – I was scared at first as I tied to “see” and I felt for the people in my group.
Rivka – It was suspenseful because you did not know what was coming next.
Shterna – I liked the experience of not seeing things the way I’ve been programmed. I was forced to see things in another way.
Miss Kosofsky – I love discovering everything in the rooms  and I felt like I was in a different world.

 

Machon Ayalon

Next was Machon Ayalon, the Ayalon Institute. This was the site of an underground bullet factory that produced bullets for the war of independence. It started in 1945 on the kibbutz hill. 12 bullet making machines were smuggled into Israel and lowered into an underground building, built under the pretense of a storeroom for oranges.  

Every day, workers would enter the kibbutz laundry room and move the giant washing machine to the side. They would go down into a hole there, to the factory beneath. The kibbutz took in laundry from Rechovot and the British and the machine ran constantly to mask the sound of the bullet machines in the factory below. To mask the smell, the air from the factory was piped into a bakery. Some bullets needed to be tested. There was a shooting range inside.  There was also a train that ran past the kibbutz daily. They would test the bullets as the train went by, to mask the sound of the gunshots.
 
The whole operation was kept in utmost secrecy, as being caught would mean death. People on the kibbutz that did not know were called giraffes.  Shoes were scraped of metal shavings at the end of the day and tanning rooms were set up to combat the paleness. Brass for the bullet shells came in on a milk truck in the middle of the night. In 3 years the factory made 2.4 million bullets.  The operation continued until  1948 when Independence was declared and it was legal to move the factory to Tel Aviv. We wrapped up the tour with mincha. 

Latrun

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Latrun is an active army base with a dual purpose.  It is a tank museum, where one can climb on very cool tanks.  Latrun is also a memorial for the fallen soldiers of the armed corp.  When one enters Latrun one sees a long wall with carved names.  The wall is arranged in chronological order of wars fought since 1948.  It is very sad to see all of the heroes who died for the safety of Israel.  We hope that no new names will be added to this wall.

Latrun is on a mountain top, which meant it was a strategic area for safety reasons.  The British built a fortress on Latrun in 1917 and when they left Israel in 1947 they handed Latrun to the Arabs.  In 1948 Israel attempted 7 times to take over Latrun, but were unsuccessful.  The mountain was in the hands of Jordan.  In 1967, they surrounded Latrun with tanks and shot for a full five minutes.  They advanced slowly and received no fire in return. Upon entering Latrun, they saw it was empty.  Jordan had abandoned Latrun 2 years earlier.   

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In Latrun is a museum with many unique memorials for fallen soldiers. On any given day you can see which soldiers died on that day.  Today was the 20th of Shevat and sadly 3 soldiers died.  We read their stories.  The Tower of Tears is lined with tank material that has been allowed to rust with water.  It symbolizes the tears that flow. 

We stood on a Markava 4, one of the state of the art tanks.  This tank has gravel painted into the tank so that soldiers will not slip while walking on top.  In addition the tank opening is in the back for easy escape if G-d forbid captured.  Soldiers on this tank have special plugs that pipe in cold air for air conditioning.  We really enjoyed climbing on the tanks.  

Kfar Chabad

This morning we davened shacharit with the Brandeis School 8th grade from Lawrence, NY.  After another delicious breakfast it was onto the bus for a ride to Kfar Chabad.  Kfar Chabad was established in 1949 by a group of very dedicated chasidim many of whom had immigrated to Israel from the horrors of the Holocaust and Communism in Russia.  Two of the pioneers of Kfar Chabad were Batya’s 2 great-grandfathers. 

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Typically when establishing a community at this time in Israel, the residents received assistance from the government.  The members of Kfar Chabad decided early on that they were going to establish Kfar Chabad on their own and literally learn how to set up agriculture, business and schools.  This was not because they did not want help, but rather they were determined to build and learn along the way.  With brochos from the Rebbe, they began.  Today Kfar Chabd is a thriving successful community.  Not only were the Chasisdim successful in creating infrastructure and business, but today they offer education to many Israelis in the areas of agriculture, printing, carpentry and other trade schools. 

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We enjoyed visiting 770 in Kfar Chabad that is a replica of the Chabad Lubavitch headquarters in NY.  This 770 is the headquarters of the 350 Chabad centers in Israel.  We watched a beautiful JEM video about the Rebbe and his support of Israel.  In the video we saw many heads of state like Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon, Yitchack Rabin and Benyamin Netanyahu speak of the Rebbe and his dedication to Israel.  It was off to the matzo bakery.  Yes, the bakery in Kfar Chabad is in full swing and it is quite a smooth operation.  

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