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LYA Israel Experience 2019 Blog

Bringing Israel Home

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We just completed an amazing 10 day journey in Israel. Our trip has been amazing. Our goals for this trip have been surpassed. Our students have connected to Hashem, their land and their history. More important they have connected to themselves and their peers.

These past 10 days the students have done things they did not even imagine possible. They have also worked together as a unit. Now our task will be to keep this momentum going and bring Israel back home.

LYA thanks Rabbi Chaim and Morah Rochel Leah Kosofsky and Miss Malky Kosofsky for their amazing presence as chaperones on the trip. They brought out so much excitement and enthusiasm in all of the students.

 

לשנה הבאה בירושלים

Cave of Eliyahu Hanavi

Our last stop was the cave where Eliyahu Hanavi hid from Achav in the book of Kings. We studied this last year in Navi. It was very special to end our trip davening mincha at such a holy site. Thank you Eyal for a beautiful davening. We began our trip with mincha at Shiloh and ended with mincha here. Our trip has come full circle.

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Eliyahu had to go into hiding since the king was upset at him for taking away the rain from the people. Israel was now in a drought. While in the cave Hashem sent ravens to feed Eliyahu. Not far from the cave is Mt. Carmel where Eliyahu had a show down with the idol worshipping prophets of the Ba’al.

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The cave is now a popular stop in Israel. It has been turned into a min shul. When we got there a man all dressed in white was blowing a shofar. We know he was anticipating the redemption and was awaiting Eliyahu to come and tell us that Moshiach had arrived.

Acco

Our next stop was Acco. Acco was originally built during the Crusader time period when they ruled over Israel. It was a large fortress built to protect the Crusaders from the Muslims. Under the British Mandate the fortress was turned into a prison for Jews that the British felt were dangerous.

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Many of the Jews that were arrested were young men who had escaped Nazi Germany with one desire - to live in a Jewish homeland. The pictures we saw of the prisoners showed the average age was 18-22. Under the British Mandate there were three groups resisting the British. The Hagana was the main group who cooperated the most with the British and showed the most restraint. The 2nd group was Esel, who were middle of the road. The 3rd group, Lechi never cooperated with the British. These 3 groups at times did not cooperate with one another. The British handed out sentences based on which group one was attached to. We found out that Mushka and Menucha Rochel’s grandfather was also a prisoner at Acco.

We saw the horrible prison conditions that the British had for all prisoners. They slept in small cells and were only allowed very little sun light. The outside was allowed to send in food and provisions. We saw how the Jews cleverly hid information in the middle of toilet paper rolls and in the bottom of food jars. The 3 resistant groups did work together to mastermind a breakout of the jail. They were able to get explosives in to the prison. In all 27 prisoners escaped.

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We ended our tour in the execution room. There we heard from the last words of Dov Gruner, a Hungarian born Jew who escaped to Israel in 1940 and was executed by hanging at Acco. “I could have let life take care of itself. I could have gone to America, but this would not have satisfied me.”

Rabbi Kosofsky led us through “Kel Malai” for the Jews who lost their lives. It was a truly moving moment, one we will not forget.

Tunisian Shul

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Our next stop was to the Tunisian Shul in Acco. This shul was started by Sephardic Jews of this North African Country in 1955. Upon entering the shul it is not clear where to look first. The entire, and we mean entire shul is full of mosaic pictures. There are scenes from every story in the Tanach. There are mosaics for the 12 tribes and famous sites in Israel. In addition modern history is represented.

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 It is amazing to look at the detail. The women’s section has stories of Sara, Rivka, Rochel and Leah as well as the blessings of mitzvoth associated with women. The aron holds many Torah scrolls and behind the scrolls are even more mosaic tile pictures. We took many photos and were continuously in awe at every turn. Some of us decided that focusing on davening would be challenging while in the shul.  

Rosh Hanikra

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There is nothing more spectacular than seeing Hashem’s creations in action. Rosh Hanikra is at the border of Israel, Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea. After taking a cable car down we walked through the grottos created by the crashing waves. After some students heard that there was a cable car, they informed us that they would not be walking Rosh Hanikra like Masada. We let them know that (phew) one cannot walk up or down Rosh Hanikra.

Walking through the tunnels and viewing the grottos is breathtaking as you see how the waves crashing have created caves. It was here that the chilazon (snail) was found and used for its dye to create the turquoise color for the mishkan and later Beis Hamikdash. This is specialized process that the families who produced the dye did not share with anyone. Rosh Hanikra had trains that ran through it bringing supplies to the British. The Hagana blew up these tracks and bridges before the War of Independence to stop the British.

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While we walked through the grottos we heard hissing sounds from above. Guess who lives in Rosh Hanikra?  Many bats. Thankfully we only heard them and saw them from a distance. We also passed through what they call Lucky Bridge. It says that anyone who passes through will have good luck. This is the location that pigeons make their nests to take refuge from the weather. The sign said to watch out for the pigeon droppings. We took the sign very seriously and were surprised to note that they bring good luck. This was something we chose not to test.

Kibbutz Lavi

 On our last day in Israel we all enjoyed the grand Israeli breakfast for the last time. We then began our day with a tour of Kibbutz Lavi. Ellis was our tour guide. He has lived on the Kibbutz for 50 years and originally comes from Baltimore. Kibbutz Lavi is an Orthodox English speaking Kibbutz. In addition to agriculture, their source of income comes from the hotel and beautiful synagogue furniture. The furniture in Bnai Torah comes from Kibbutz Lavi. They ship all over the world and have furnished 5,730 shuls to date.

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Kibbutz Lavi originated in 1949 with immigrants who escaped Germany and Austria in a Kindertransport to England. These children made their way to the Golan and found nothing but rocks.  Now it is a beautiful kibbutz. When Ellis came in 1968 he said they were still clearing rocks. Today there are 120-130 families living there. (530 people).

The hotel on the Kibbutz began in 1962 as a group of small houses. At that time there were not many hotels in the Golan with English speakers. Since the kibbutz had many English speakers, people began asking if they could stay. Since 1962 the hotel has been expanded twice and we saw that they are enlarging the dining room. The hotel is very busy. We later found out that the Kibbutz graciously accepts one school group at a time at a discount. School groups need to reserve a year in advance. We now understand why MyIsraelConnect contacted LYA in Jan. of 2018 to reserve our spot.

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Ellis explained how he does not receive a salary, but he receives housing, electricity, medical, water and food. He receives a stipend for clothing and transportation. His stipend is cumulative, so he can save it from year to year to use it for larger needs. He explained that today about 80% of kibbutzim have privatized and are not run purely by socialism. The greatest challenge to kibbutz life today is that the children do not want to live there anymore. Kibbutz Lavi is working on solving this issue.

We sat in the Kibbutz shul which has been enlarged to accommodate all of the families. Outside the shul is a beautiful mosaic platform of the ten tribes. It is here that chuppahs are set up for weddings. The kibbutz has a special section of rooms dedicated to lone soldiers, who are welcome to hang out during their off time at the kibbutz. While most of us could not imagine living on a kibbutz, we enjoyed learning and seeing how kibbutz life has affected Israel.

Tevarya

Our last stop on a very busy Tuesday was Tevarya. Tevarya is one of the 4 holiest cities in Israel. We were blessed to have visited all four. Yerushalayim – home of Beis Hamikdash, Chevron – resting place of our patriarchs and matriarchs, Tzefat – city of kabbalah and now Tevarya – place where the Talmud Yerushalmi was written. At first one may think that the Talmud was written in Yerushalayim, since that is part of its name. However, the Romans did not allow Jews to live in Yerushalayim and Jews moved up north to the Galillee. The rabbis wanted our thoughts to always be focused on Yerushalayim, so the name reflects Yerushalayim.

Our first stop was the grave of Rambam, Maimonides. Rambam is someone that we know very well. Each day at school we begin hearing the daily Rambam from Rabbi Noach Kosofsky. It was very meaningful to daven there. Rambam is well known for many things, but one of his greatest works is called Yad Hachazaka, which is a series of 14 books. The numerical value of yad is 14. As one ascends to his grave, you pass 14 pillars with the names of the books recorded. Israel has updated his gravesite with an updated floor and benches.

Next to Rambam is the grave of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai. He is a rabbi who lived before the destruction of the 2nd Temple and he is credited with saving Judaism. As Yerushalayim was under siege, he snuck out of the city to meet the General Vespasian, who granted him 3 requests. One was to save the wise men and the city of Yavneh. Rabbi Yochanan understood that the destruction was inevitable, but he knew Torah study must go on. The fact that we are here today is due to his vision. The Shaloh, Yeshiah Halevi Horowitz is buried here as well. The Shaloh lived in Europe and went to Israel in 1621. Rabbi Chaim Kosofsky studies much of his work with his father. It was very special for him to be there.

Our final site was to R’ Akiva, who we have heard about since we were children. We learned that R’ Akiva was a simple shepherd, who began studying Torah at the age of 40 and became a very famous Rabbi and teacher of 24,000 students. R’ Akiva is best known for his mantra of Ahavat Yisroel, to love everyone. Before we entered the grave to daven, Morah Kosofsky spoke to our group about how we have been living R’ Akiva’s lessons while on this trip. It has been beautiful to see the positive interactions and friendships that have formed. Our tefilot were definitely very meaningful here.

It was back to the hotel for a delicious meal, journal writing, mariv (with Kobi as chazzan) and packing.

 

Oz 77

Our next stop on our very busy day was to Kibbutz Elrom to view a movie about a strategic battle that was fought in what is now known as the Valley of Tears during the Yom Kippur War. The Kibbutz itself was founded in 1971 just 2 years before the battle. Kibbutz Elrom is located in the Golan and is known for its agriculture and studio, which adds subtitles to the majority of films in Israel.

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We entered the movie theater and saw a newly produced movie about the bravery of the 77th tank battalion led by Avigdor Kahalani. The story is told through the eyes of the members of the battalion, which makes it very emotional. Ten days before the Yom Kippur War, the 77th battalion was called up to the Golan to secure the area. According to their intelligence, it appeared that the Syrians would attack in the evening. Bombs actually began to drop at 1:55 p.m. on Yom Kippur. The Israeli forces were actually meeting to plan their strategies and were caught off guard.

Avigdor Kahalani was a survivor of a fire during the Six Day War and now led a battalion of tanks outnumbered 1 to 10 in the Golan. He understood that his battalion was holding down the security of all of Israel. If the Golan fell then many Israeli’s were at risk. Through real footage we heard the commands and the emotion that was occurring during the battle. Oz 77 held off the Syrians for 3 days. The end of the battle was miraculous as one of the Israeli tanks had no shells and Kahalani did not give up, but ordered his men to advance.

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Advance they did and thank G-d they won. 300 Syrian tanks were actually found abandoned after the battle. Israel lost 840 soldiers and 3,000 were wounded on the Yom Kippur war. Some things cannot be explained without the intervention of G-d. Hashem is constantly watching over His people and land. After the movie, we visited Har Bental, which is 1,165 meters above sea level. It very clear to see (even with the clouds) that the Golan is crucial to the security of Israel. We thank the soldiers and members of the 77th battalion for their bravery for the land of Israel.

Gamla

Our next stop of the day was Gamla. We first took a short hike and saw some more beautiful views as well as a griffin vulture flying above us. Israel has a nesting program for these birds. The griffin vulture only lays egg ounce every other year. Sometimes trains and planes creates tremors and cause the eggs to fall out of their nests. Israel’s nesting program assists Israel’s largest bird of prey reproduce.

As we continued our hike, we came to a beautiful edge that overlooked the city of Gamla. Gamla got its name from a gamal, camel. The mountain top literally looks like the hump of a camel. This city was a busy place during the 2nd temple era. As Vespasian, the Roman general entered Israel, he set his army on attacking the north as he made his way down to Yerushalayim.

Unfortunately Gamla fell in a very tragic manner similar to Masada. Over 4,000 Jews died there, many of them taking their own lives rather than fall into the hands of the Romans. Only 2 women survived from the entire city.  We could see the ancient shul of Gamla and how it was set up similar to the shul in Katzrin. We also saw the Roman encampment that attacked the city.

Katzrin

After lunch in downtown Kaztrin, we went to visit ancient Katzrin from the Talmudic time period. Our 1st stop was at a home that showed us how people lived. Upon entering and kissing the mezuza, we saw the small kitchen, where we could visualize how cooking over an open fire occurred. We then entered the main living quarters which had benches and a small table. As sat down we saw a ladder that led up to a loft bedroom.

One would climb up the ladder to get to the next floor. Alex told us that the loft room was for the parents. When one wanted to perform the mitzvah of having guests in the highest level, one would give the guests their loft room. At the same time, you did not know if you could trust the people. In one story Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa moved the ladder from the room. In the middle of the night they heard their guest fall out of the loft after trying to steal their things. He did realize the ladder was gone.

We then davened mincha in a beautiful ancient synagogue. It was very meaningful to daven in a shul that was established after the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed. Zev led us in a beautiful tefilah.

In Katzrin we saw wild goats and peacock. We also saw a olive and pomegranate trees.

Misgav Am

We met our new tour guide, Alex Milkin who made Aliya from NJ. He is married and has 4 children.  As we drove through the Galil he quizzed us on our knowledge of the tribes that lived there. We drove through the portion of Yissachar and Zevulun. Alex also talked about the landscape and the difference of valleys that are formed through erosion and tectonics. Yosef knew the difference and explained it very well.

Misgav Am is a kibbutz established in 1945 by Holocaust survivors from Romania. There are 350 people living there and in addition to agriculture, they make money from tourism.

They are right on the border of Lebanon and the view is breathtaking. We were spoken to by Besalel, who is a direct descendant of the Shpolor Zaide. Sara and Riki who are also descendants enjoyed meeting a relative of theirs. Besalel explained to us how it is to live with Lebanon and Hezbolah as your neighbors. There is an army base on the kibbutz because of its location. Besalel’s son talked to us about his service in the IDF. We were honored to meet 2 Druze IDF soldiers and hear 1st hand their dedication to the land. The people we met have a special love of the land of Israel.

Kfar Kedem

We began our visit to Kfar Kedem meeting Amir who introduced us to the activities we would do there. First he asked us some questions:

How old are girls when they become bat mitzvah? 12
How old are boys when they become bar mitzvah? 13
What color is tefilin? Black

Then Amir asked us where these universal Jewish answers are in the Torah? Well, we knew that while they are not in the written Torah they are explained in the Mishna and gemara. That is the purpose of Kfar Kedem, to bring this time period to life and show that the information there is just as relevant today as it was when it was written.

We dressed up in period costumes and made our way to a field where we learned about how farmers bridged the agriculture laws and the work of the land. We saw how they planted, sowed, cut and threshed. Most important was how the farmers prayed. There was no siddur and they davened from the heart, because bottom line without rain nothing would grow.

We then crushed what seeds to make flour. We also made our own flat bread on a fire pit and ate it fresh with zaatar. Then it was off to the donkeys. Amir taught us how to go on the donkey and lead it around. To make the donkey go you say “chi, chi” and then click with your tongue. To make them stop you say “aish, aish”. Amir explained that we are in charge and not the donkey. The Hebrew word for donkey is ‘chamor” which also can be re-arranged to make the word “chomer”, which means material. This is a life lesson that we always need to be leading our material and not let the material lead us.

We broke into partners and had loads of fun riding. Some people were more successful than others, but we all had a great time. We then ate supper tana style on low seats with a collective plate of pita, salad, rice, chicken and meat kabobs. The food was delicious. Guess what we all have special donkey license!

We said good bye to Yoni, who is taking a course the last 2 days of our trip. We really enjoyed seeing Israel with Yoni.

Tzefat

Tzefat is one of the 4 holiest cities in Israel. Even though the weather was a bit rainy it did not damper our trip one bit. As we entered the city, Yoni showed us some tall high rise style buildings. Yoni explained that the Rebbe sent emissaries to Tzefat with the directive to build Tzefat like an American city. That is why they built taller apartment buildings, because that is what they are used to in NY.

Our first business in hand was to eat lunch. During lunch we had some visitors. Bryna returned to see us, as well as Tzvi’s sister, Sara’s brother and Riki’s cousin. Some of us enjoyed pizza and others falafel. But we all enjoyed an ice cream treat – thank you Mrs. Brown.

Tzefat’s history dates back to the 16th century and that is when Tzefat developed its spiritual personality. But before we go back to that time, let’s look at some more modern history. In 1947 when the UN voted for statehood for Israel Arab countries and Israel where preparing for an inevitable war. Tzefat was no different. Until this time the Jews and the Arabs did get along and lived side by side in harmony. Unfortunately now politics got in the way and when the British pulled out of Tzefat in April pf 1948 there was a battle to gain control of Tzefat.

Israel attempted to blow up a British police station, but 3 soldiers lost their lives in that attempt. Interestingly Israel; used the Davidka, a weapon that shot mortars to win the battle. They only had 3 of these weapons, but kept moving them around to give the impression of having more. The Davidka’s bark was worse than its bite. In 1948 the memories of the atomic bomb where very much alive and the Arabs believed the rumors that Israel had developed one and was shooting it at Tzefat. This assisted Israel in securing Tzefat before the War of Independence. We stood outside the Davidka and the police station as we heard of the miracles that Hashem performed for Tzefat.

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Our 1st stop was the Arizal Askanazi shul. The Arizal was a famous kabalistic rabbi who lived in Tzefat. There are 2 shuls that have his name. One is sephardi and one ashkenazi and the Arizal davened at neither one because they were not built when he was alive. The Arizal shul that we were in was built in a spot that the Arizal and his students would go to every Friday and greet Shabbat. They spent hours davening to Hashem in the fields that overlooked Tzefat. It was here that his students, R’ Shlomo Alkibetz composed Lecha Dodi and R’ Eliezer Azkari composed Yedid Nefesh.

Rabbi Kosofsky explained to us about kabala and the way that we use kabala to see all of the things Hashem created and how every time we do a mitzvah we are bringing this special light into the world. We mentioned there that we daven nusach Ari in school. In 1948 a rocket was shot into this shul. B”H it was shot as ‘Barchu” was being said. The man standing near the bima bent and was not hit. The shrapnel flew in and lodged in the bima. You can still see the mark it left today as a reminder.

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Next we stood outside the Kosov shul which was dedicated to the community in Kosov that perished in the Holocaust.  This is also the shul where a famous story occurred when the Arizal was alive. In brief the Rabbi had talked about the lechem hapanim and how it was a gift of bread for Hashem. A simple Jew used to then put challah each Fri. in the aron and a poor Jew would take them each Fri. night. The simple Jew thought G-d took them and the poor Jew thought G-d gave them. Eventually the secret was found out. This is the basis for the PJ story Bagels for Benny

Our next stop was the Abuhav shul. This shul was originally built in Toledo, Spain. The Jews from this shul walked from Spain to Tzefat after the expulsion. Their desire was to build a shul just like the one in Spain. They bought together a plot of land and began to plan.  Every time they gathered to plan they argued over the design. One night after an especially heated fight each Jew went home and prayed for a solution. The next day when they came to the site, they could not believe their eyes – the shul was there. If you cannot believe that, wait until you read this. A few weeks later they received an apology letter from their friends back in Spain, who wrote that they don’t not know what happened to the shul. The letter was dated the day the shul arrived. Believe it or not!!

In Tzefat we visited the famous candle factory and bought more souvenirs.

Meron

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Our plans changed on Monday due to weather and the hike on Arbel was canceled. Instead we took a hike on Mount Meron, which is the 2nd highest mountain in Israel. You can just imagine the amazing views of the landscape that we saw. The hike was not strenuous, but we did need to focus since there was loads of mud. While hiking we met a group of tourists speaking Russian. We also met many teenage students from Acco. They were very friendly and kept welcoming us to Israel. It was really beautiful to pass them.

After our hike we continued to the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son, Eliezar. Sima met a family she knows from Acton who were in Israel celebrating their son’s bar mitzvah. We entered the grave site and davened tehilim there.

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Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi) was a tana who lived under Roman rule. He was quite vocal that he did not respect the Romans at all. Due to his opinions he was forced to hide in a cave for a total of 13 years. The cave was in Peki’in and not Meron.

We all recognize this story from the Lag B’Omer holiday that commemorates the Rashbi’s yartzeit. Yoni told us that the Talmud Bavli has the story of the Rashbi written the way that we learn about it in school. In Talmud Yerushalmi though there is a slightly different version of how Rashbi came out of the cave. This is something we will research more closely when Lag B’Omer comes. 

Morah Kosofsky told us a story of a 3 year old boy who died in the grave site on Lag B’Omer during the rule of the British Mandate. The family had come to cut his hair as thousands of Jews do each year. The British soldiers quarantined the area immediately due to fear of epidemic. When the area was fenced off it separated families. The mother went into the cave and prayed. “Rashbi, I came here 3 years ago to pray for a child and now that child is gone.” She prayed for a miracle. In a few minutes a small faint voice was heard calling, “Ima”. It was a miracle as can only happen at the grave of a tzadik. The boy was alive.

Meet Moshe our Bus Driver

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We are blessed to have an amazing bus driver, Moshe Ilan. He is a great driver and very friendly. We love having Moshe drive us around. Moshe lives on a moshav not far from Kibbutz Lavi up north. He has children and grandchildren. If there is time he will take us there.

We would also like to let you know that we were so excited to find out that Moshe was one of the soldiers who liberated Jerusalem during the Six Day War. We interviewed Moshe about his experience. He was very modest about the entire event. 

Here is what he told us about the experience. Moshe was a paratrooper in the IDF. During the battle for Jerusalem, they did not paratroop in, but walked. His group of soldiers walked in through the Augusta Victoria section, where there was a Jordanian hospital. He recalls that there were hundreds of Jordanian soldiers. The soldiers shot at the Israeli soldiers. It was a tough battle. He also saw many Jordanian citizens who were throwing rocks at the Israeli soldiers from the street level and from their porches.

Moshe recalls the first moment he saw the Kotel. Tears were streaming down his eyes as he gazed at the Wall. Moshe said it is a day he will never forget and will remember for the rest of his life. Moshe told us that many of his friends died in the battle, some even at his feet. After visiting and davening at the Kotel, we feel a deep sense of gratitude for Moshe. We thanked him and clapped for his bravery so we could visit the Kotel today.

Moshe still keeps up with his army friends. He says that they are his closest friends in the world. He explained that while in the army you know that your life is in the hands of your friends and you are responsible for their lives. These are relationships that cannot be measured.

Thank you Moshe. We are honored to know you.

Kfar Chabad

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In Kfar Chabad we davened mincha in 770. It is neat to walk into an exact replica of the 770 building in NY. There are very few buildings in Israel that are made out of brick, so this one really stands out.

We visited a place called Or Simcha which is a special home for boys aged 6-16 who are at risk. The model they use is very special. Instead of having a dormitory, there are homes. Each home has up to 13 “children” who live with an intact family in a home setting. This model has been very successful and we were able to visit one of the homes. This is a very special place run by dedicated people. We dropped off some of our shliach mitzvah money here.

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A stop to Kfar Chabad is not complete without visiting the matzo bakery. It is fun to watch the men bake the matzo. They gave us some free samples!!

Winter in Israel

It is winter now in Israel. Winter can get quite cold here. Of course not as cold as back home, but it can snow. B”H our weather has been great. We have had a few cold days, where the wind goes right through you. The coldest it has been is 40 degrees, which is still warmer than home.

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A huge difference between winter in Israel and winter back home is the landscape. Back home everything looks dead and very little is growing. Israel this time of year is GREEN, GREEN and GREEN. The views are breathtaking. There are wild flowers growing all around. It is illegal to pick them, so we have been looking, enjoying and taking lots of pictures.

This year, B”H, there has been lots of rain. We passed by a stream up north that Moshe told us has not had water for at least 10 years. This is excellent, since rain this time of year, while not fun for tourists is crucial for Israel. All of our prayers for rain that we daven daily are coming alive before our eyes.

Tel Azaka

Our Navi of this year came alive. We drove to Tel Azaka where we sat on a hilltop that was the place where the Philistine camp prepared to attack Shaul’s camp. There was a valley in between both camps where the battle would occur. As we will soon learn in Navi, the places are clearly written in Shmuel I.

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The Philistines had a secret weapon. His name was Galyas and he was literally build like a tank. He was either a 9 or 12 foot giant, who was covered in armor. Each morning and evening Galyas would leave the Philistine camp and taunt the Jewish camp. He challenged the Jews to send out 1 person to fight him. He taunted them for 40 days.

Dovid, who was in his late twenties at the time had come to the Jewish camp with provisions for his brothers from home. He came as Galyas was challenging the Jews. Dovid was so upset, since he realized that Galyas was not just challenging the Jews, but he was challenging Hashem. Dovid went right to Shaul and volunteered to fight. He was the first person to even speak about volunteering.

By the way this is the first time we hear Dovid speak in Navi. He truly lets us know his essence. Dovid as a king of Israel would defend their connection with G-d. He begins this process right now. Shaul allows Dovid to go and fight and offers him armor. Dovid refuses and goes to the river and chooses 5 smooth stones. River stones are the best for being successful in this type of fight.

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Dovid approaches Galyas. You can imagine how upset Galyas was to see this young unarmored man. Dovid takes one stone and throws it at Galyas. As Zev answered, the stone hit Galyas in the skull and some opinions say that the stone actually went through his head. Galyas is dead and the rest is history as they say.

It was very exciting to actually see the place where this occurred. On your way up the hill there are pesukim from the Navi carved into stones. Now when we learn this in a few weeks, we will relive our visit today.

Latrun

Latrun today is a memorial for the fallen soldiers of the armored corps as well as a very cool tank museum and army base. As you walk in there is a large wall with all the names of the soldiers who lost their lives in all the wars fought in Israel. The names are in order of the battles. Once the names are listed they are all in alphabetical order and not by rank.

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Inside there are memorials for the soldiers. In one room you can look up information about soldiers that died. There is a beautiful shul in the museum, since the law of Israel is that every army base must have a shul. This shul has a ner tamid that used to be a tank shell. The walls are made of metal to give the feel of a tank. In the shul is a sefer Torah that survived the Holocaust.

Latrun originally was a fortress built by the British and in 1948 it fell into Jordan’s hands. In 1967 Israel sent tanks to capture Latrun. They stood outside shooting and realized that no one was shooting back. They then got out to investigate and found the fortress was empty since Jordan had left in 1965.

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After being in the memorial, we all had a great time climbing on tanks. We learned about the Merkava 4, a special Israeli tank that is technologically advanced. It is so advanced that once a piece of the metal fell off in battle. Israel sent in air strikes to blow it up so that the enemy would not be able to analyze the special metal.

Shabbat

The only sad thing about Shabbat is that we have no photos to share of the uplifting time that we had. We were so lucky with the weather. The forecast was rain. It did rain early morning. By the time we left for the Kotel, it was overcast but no rain. We walked to the Kotel through the Mammilla Mall and enjoyed window shopping and looking at the sculptures. We had our own minyan at the Kotel and were joined by a Cohen who blessed us twice. It is very special and a treat to receive the priestly blessing in Israel. When it was time to read the Torah, we found out that if there is a chance of rain, the rule is the Torahs cannot come outside. Michel read Haftorah and davened a beautiful Musaf. There are places inside to read from the Torah. Davening at the Kotel was truly a special experience for our travelers.

 

Back at the hotel we enjoyed a delicious lunch. We shared our song books with the English group of students visiting Israel and belted out Ain’t Gonna Work on Saturday, their new favorite song. Chaplain Colonel and Seema Goldstein spoke to our group.  The Chaplain told the students some stories of his 38 year army. One story involved being in Afghanistan at Sukkot. The day begins around 4:30 a.m. and the soldiers who needed to guard the convoys could not come and make a bracha on the Lulav so early. Colonel Goldstein brought it to them. They came back and told him that their convoy never had such a smooth ride with no interruptions. Needless to say, they came back the next day to do the mitzvah again. Rabbi Goldstein told the students of the power of just one mitzvah.

 

 

 

Mrs. Goldstein spoke about her years at LYA when Rabbi Dovid Edelman, her father, was the principal and administrator. How her father did everything for the school and how his life revolved around the yeshiva. They both emphasized how coming to Israel brings what you learn in school to life and encouraged the students to take advantage of every moment in this great holy country.

After some down time, the group took a Shabbat walk and learned of Rabbi Ayreh Levin, who was known as the Father of Prisoners during the British Mandate. This special tzadik performed acts of kindness for many Jews. We encourage you to read a Tzaddik in our Time, which can be found in the LYA library.

After a beautiful havdala and packing up to move to another hotel, we had a great time on Ben Yehuda. We ate cheesy crust pizza at a Mehadrin Pizza Hut. It does not get better than that!!!

Friday Night

 This post is brought to you by Rishi Wolvovsky.

Our amazing Friday night program began with a visit to the Kotel. We were all so happy to be spending our Shabbat evening such a holy place. After Mincha, we all went to dance boys and girls. It was so inspiring to see so many different kinds of Jews all coming together to spend this holy day with other Jews. We had so much fun dancing and singing together. The boys were lucky enough to meet Ambassador Freidman.

After davening Kabbalat Shabbat, we had a nice walk back to the hotel. We were lucky with the good weather, because a couple of minutes after we arrived, it began to rain.

We all sat down and heard Kiddush. There was another group from England sitting right near us, and we all sang together. We hardly even knew each other, and we were singing songs in great unity! What a great start to an awesome Shabbat!

The Shuk

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Our last stop before Shabbat was the shuk. In order to experience Jerusalem, a stop at the shuk is a must. It is fun to walk around and see all the people shopping in this pedestrian mall. All the shop keepers wish you a Shabbat Shalom. The shuk is jammed packed with people from all over the world.  Musicians are playing live music.  We ate lunch here and then enjoyed shopping. We bought candy, candy and more candy. Some of us found more souvenirs. The atmosphere of the shuk is loud and full of people. Food is sold loose. One can buy loose spices, nuts, dried fruit and even candyJ.

On Shabbat afternoon Yoni took us back to the shuk to walk through and learn more about it. It was much quieter and emptier than on Friday. When the shuk is closed it becomes a sort of art gallery. Each stall’s metal door has a picture of different people painted on it. We saw pictures of the Alter Rebbe, Rambam and even Moshe.

Yoni told us that Machane Yehuda Shuk is named after the Machane Yehuda community that is right near it. Originally during the British Mandate it was the road that led to Jaffa. Farmers would come to sell their food the travelers. From here the idea of selling food was born. The shuk actually became the shuk organically. It was not a planned pedestrian mall. As a matter of fact when Olmert was mayor he tried to move the shuk to an indoor mall. It did not happen because the beauty of the shuk is being outdoors. In addition, Olmert wanted to pass a law that no one call yell on the shuk. We all laughed and tried to imagine business going on without yelling.

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There are many new eateries at the shuk selling smoothies, fruit drinks and slushies. We did very well. The shuk was a 5 minute walk from our hotel. We returned happy and got ready for Shabbos.

Kever Rochel

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It was now onto Kever Rochel to visit Mama Rochel. We know that we have 4 mothers, but only one has the distinction of being lovingly called our mother like Rochel. Part of that is due to her amazing compassion and care that she showed her sister Leah. When her father Lavan decided to break his deal with Yakov, Rochel remained silent. She could have very easily told Yakov and changed the course of the wedding, she cared about Leah and did not want to embarrass her.

Yakov chose the bury Rochel at the road of Beit Lechem, which is not that far from Chevron. Rochel’s presence here is very important for Jews. Over history many Jews have stopped by Mother Rochel and davened at her site that in her merit of compassion, Hashem should hear our prayers. It was here that we prayed.

Pina Chama

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After Chevron were we dropped of more shliach mitzvah money for Chabad of Chevron. It was on to Pina Chama, which means a warm corner. It is located literally in a corner of Gush Etzion. It was in this place that many Israeli’s set up grills and would cook free food for the Israeli soldiers. People from all over would bring over food and volunteers were cooking it up as a thank you for the soldiers for their protection and service.

From this Pina Chama was born. It is a room with tables, couches and a mini kitchen. It is a place where soldiers can come in at all hours and get a hot drink and free food. Volunteers give of their time to greet and meet soldiers. All money for food is paid for through donations. On Friday the volunteer that was there was a graduate of UMass. He graduated over 30 years ago so he did not know the Adelmans or Gottliebs.

On the walls are many shirts and flags of soldiers who sent them as a thank you for the assistance and warmth of Pina Chama. When we walked in there were about 5 soldiers resting there. The middle school girls wrote letters to IDF soldiers as an activity on their Shabbaton and handed them out, Zev Adelman represented his mother, Morah Adelman and the 1st grade students. He delivered their $25 Rosh Chodesh Adar money that they collected the week before our trip left.

Kotel Tunnels

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Things are moving so fast in Israel, it is challenging to keep up. We will now go back to Tuesday and our visit to the Kotel Tunnels. The Kotel as we see it today is not the entire wall. The wall is also not the wall of the Temple, but the wall surrounding the Temple. The actual wall continues underground. Since the last trip, the tunnel area has changed dramatically. The entire front area now has a beautiful entrance.

There is a replica of the Temple mount that shows how it changed over the years. When Shlomo built the 1st temple it rested on Mt. Moriah. After the exile a 2nd Temple was built the same size, but not as opulent. Do you remember Herod from our previous posts? Herod had murdered some important Rabbis and wanted to make up for it. When he asked the Rabbis what to do to make up for it, they told him to put some money into the Beit Hamikdash thinking he will help it out since it was not as grand as the first one. Well, Herod liked to build and he liked to build big!!!

Herod decided to double the size of the Beit Hamikdash. Well, as we saw you cannot build a structure double the size on a hill half the size. So what do you do? You enlarge the mountain. Herod added 4 support walls around the mountain and filled them with dirt. He in essence built a huge sand box. He then enlarged the Beit Hamikdash.

As we went down into the tunnels, we saw a huge stone that weighed 600 tons. In pounds that is 1,200,000 pounds. Amazing!!! And the people moved the stone without modern equipment.

As you walk the length of the Kotel underground you pass cisterns, aqueducts and mikvot that were around the walls. It is now easy to visualize Jews coming to the Temple and purifying themselves outside the walls before they entered.

 

Pizza for IDF Soldiers

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On every LYA Experience our group volunteers to do some chesed in Israel. This year for the 2nd time we made pizza for IDF soldiers on Thursday night. Yachad of Israel, which is an organization that works with people with special needs, organized the activity for us. We met at a regular pizza shop, which donates their space during working business hours. We explained the students before we got there that the pizza shop could be open for business, but they donate their store also.

When we entered the pizza shop, Morah Kosofsky recognized one of the members of Yachad, Yakov Braun from an IDF video about the special needs members of the army. Yakov spoke to the group about how proud he is to be an IDF soldier. We thanked him for protecting the country.

The students interacted with the members of Yachad beautifully. They enjoyed making pizzas, which were creatively decorating with toppings in the shape of smiley faces. Guess what our supper was? Pizza. Yoni delivered our pizzas to an army base near his home. How special is was to give back to Israel!!

Chevron

On Friday morning we woke up early, ate breakfast and left the hotel and made our way to Chevron to connect with our mothers and fathers. First task at hand was davening at Mearat Hamachpaila. It is always so meaningful to daven at the place where our patriarchs and matriarchs are buried. The beginning of the amida comes alive as we say,“G-d of Avraham, Yitchack and Yakov”, and to be in the spot where they are buried as we pray. After we were finished davening we saw a bris of another descendant of Avraham taking place at Mearat Hamachpaila.

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We davened in the room marked for Yakov and Leah. After davening was over, Sara noticed a beautiful wall hanging with the pesukim from the end of the book of Breishis, when Yakov tells his sons to bury him in the Cave of Machpaila. It is here that Yakov mentions all of the people who are buried in the cave. It is proof in the Torah that Avaraham & Sara, Yitzchack & Rivka and Yakov & Leah are buried there. Sara proceeded to read and translate the words from the Torah.

It is here that we would like to note something we learned this trip about Jewish burials in ancient time. Contrary to burial today, in ancient times people were not buried in the ground, but their bodies were placed in caves. This is exactly what Avraham did to Sara. The cave of Machpaila is actually a system of 2 caves. The word Machpaila means double.

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 In the large structure are 3 rooms, each one designated for a couple. The room for Yitchock and Rivka, which is the largest room, is used by Muslims all year except for 10 days. In this room is a place where there is a small hole under stone that someone could fit in and go down into the cave.

In the 12th century an explorer named Benjamin of Tudela, of Spain, visited Israel. He writes in his diary of his visit down into the cave. (The 8th graders learned this in 6th grade and next year the 7th grade will learn this history). He writes of descending down a staircase and into an empty cave. He then proceeded to a 2nd cave in which he saw 6 markers each one with the names of the patriarchs and matriarchs.

Now we fast forward to 1967 after the re-unification of Jerusalem and taking back of Chevron. A small girl was sent down into that hole and saw everything Benjamin wrote of expect the staircase. In 1981 during selichot before Rosh Hashana some men decided to locate the staircase. They told the group davening there to be extra loud and long. They chiseled away at the floor all night and after moving the rock, they found the staircase. They descended and found everything that Benjamin described. At dawn they quickly ascended and covered their mess, but not too well. The Muslims were not happy and eventually the Supreme Court ruled that no one may go down there.

The building on the cave and the plaza was built during the days of Herod. Under Byzantine rule a church was built there and Jews were forbidden to enter. During the Muslim rule a mosque replaced the church and Jews were allowed back in. Under Crusader rule a church replaced the mosque that replaced the church and Jews were not allowed in. In 1184 another mosque was built to replace the church that replaced the mosque that replaced the church and Jews were not allowed in until 1967. (We decided that this would make a great song.)

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 We realize now how lucky we are to not only visit the cave, but daven there as well.

Jaffa Port

This post is brought to you by Riki Volovik and Rishi Wolvovsky.

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Today we went to Jaffa port, the place where Yonah went when he received a prophecy from Hashem and wanted to escape. He went to the port of Jaffa where he was thrown off a ship and eaten by a giant fish! He was later spat out back in Israel.

We refreshed our memory as we reviewed the story of Yonah. Afterwards, we went to the shops nearby to haggle and bargain with the shopkeepers there. It was a much different experience than at home, in America. Here the shops are outdoors like a flea market, and the store owners tried to pressure us into buying their goods by lowering their prices for us.

It was a very fun experience and a different way of shopping!

Dialogue with the Dark

This post is brought to you by Riki Volovik and Rishi Wolvovsky.

The Israeli Children’s Museum in Holon has an amazing exhibit called Dialogue in the Dark. In this exhibit, children and adults can experience the way that blind or visually impaired people get around daily. There is no light whatsoever, and each group is led by a visually impaired or blind tour guide.

In the beginning of the tour, it is difficult to find your way around, because you are not yet used to the dark. We relied on our friends and our tour guide’s voice, and were able to get through the places. After a while, we became accustomed to the darkness and enjoyed our experience immensely. We went through many rooms, each one being original and different than the next. Each room had the right sound effects and textures that made each room feel so real. It was fun to feel around and guess which place we were in.

We visited a jungle, a cabin, a ship (with real water!), a supermarket, a street, a sound room (where we listened to music and felt the vibrations on the floor), and a cafeteria. In the cafeteria, we bought snacks and drinks in the dark. It was amazing how the workers were able to give back exact change even though they were not told how much money they were given. (Note: Israeli money has different sizes for each bill and coin).

Afterwards, while still in the dark, we sat down and discussed our experience and asked questions about our guide. Then, we went back into the light and saw our tour guide. It was humorous how when we saw our guide, we were surprised at the way they looked. We imagined them so much differently!

Zip Lining

 This post is brought to you by Yosef Lemkin.

On Thursday at Ammunition Hill we got to do zip lining, rock climbing, and we climbed a rope ladder. The reason these activities are at Ammunition Hill is because the Israeli soldiers used team work and cheered each other on while fighting to secure the hill. The activities were designed to build those skills in our group. First we climbed the rope ladder which was kind of hard. The rope ladder was attached to a tree. The person who ran the activities is named Yacov.  The activities were fun and challenging. We did a great job cheering our friends. Some of us tried new things we had never done before and surprised ourselves.

Ammunition Hill

 In order to understand the miracles of the Six Day War a visit to Ammunition Hill is a must. It was here that a strategic battle was fought that allowed the IDF to gain control of the Old City. Before we talk about that battle which took place in 1967 it is necessary to go back to 1964 when Levi Eshkol was then the Minister of Agriculture.

At that time getting water was a huge issue. Levi Eshkol had a brilliant idea to create a national water carrier from the Kineret and pump it to the Negev (desert). The one problem was that Syria had control then of the Golan and were super upset about this plan. Hafez Al Assad who was then in control of Syria decided to divert the water away from Israel. Then he proclaimed that he will drive Zionists into the sea.

In 1967 in Egypt Gamal Abdul Nassar also got involved and decided to be tough against Israel. He told the UN to remove their troops from the Sinai Peninsula. (and they listened) After that Nassar began to move in his troops. Not to be outdone Assad moved his troops into the Golan. Israel is watching Egypt and Syria prepare for war.

 At this time both of those countries look to Jordan and push them into signing an armistice agreement that if anything happens Jordan will fight alongside them. Jordan signs the agreement. (This is important to the reunification of Jerusalem that will happen later.)

 Egypt now closes the Straights of Tiran, which is an act of war. Levi Eshkol is now prime minister and he was known as being a sweet, quiet man. He informed Syria and Egypt, “we don’t want to fight, but we will if we have to.” The world perception was that Israel was weak.

Well, we were not as weak as people thought. On June 5, 1967 Israel bombed the Egyptian air fields and took out their army in 1 & ½ days. Levi Eshkol asked Jordan not to get involved. They refused and began bombing Israel. (It is important to note that since Jordan was involved we were able to take back the Old City)  At the same time we pushed back the Syrians and took back the Golan.

The military was then sent into Jerusalem to secure certain areas and save them from the Jordanians. The army secured the Jewish enclave and Hebrew University. Thank

G-d the military and the government realized that strategically they had surrounded the Old City and that now was the time to go in.

First they needed to capture Ammunition Hill. This was an ammunition site built by Jordan after 1948 with a system of bunkers and trenches that the IDF was not familiar with. The army went in and for some soldiers it was a suicide mission. There was one soldier with the last name Kendall who was on the hill. He volunteered to go out of the trenches and throw a grenade to stop the Jordanians. This small act could have killed him as well as his entire family, since this man whose last name is Kendall was the last surviving member of his family who were all wiped out in Poland during the Holocaust. He did not stop to think and went on to fight. Thank G-d we saw him in a video telling this amazing story to his grandchildren.

After securing Ammunition Hill, the soldiers moved on into the Old City. An old woman stopped a soldier and presented him with an Israeli flag. She told him she was a resident of the Old City, who was forced to leave in 1948. She told the soldier, “take this flag and when you get to the Temple Mount, please raise it. Remember the Jewish people all over the world are pushing you with their fingertips.”

B”H the soldiers were successful and the soldier did put up the flag. There was not a dry eye while the soldiers realized the ramifications of what they had accomplished. Through their heroism Jews were again able to return to the Old City. As we will daven at the Kotel on Friday night, we will reflect on the battle, the 182 soldiers who gave their lives and countless others who were wounded. Because of their bravery and G-d’s miracles we can visit the Kotel.

Davening

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Each day we begin our day with a minyan in the hotel. We are joined by the hotel mashgiach and some guests. We also stop our afternoon activities to daven mincha. Thankfully with our medic and tour guide we make 10. We stopped to daven mincha by the sidewalk in front of the Dead Sea. We began with 10 men and ended with about 20. It was beautiful to see how many men stopped what they were doing and joined the minyan. What a kiddush Hashem and learning experience for our group.

 This morning we had another beautiful minyan at the hotel. Since it is Thursday and we read form the Torah, Kobi assisted in bringing back a beautiful Sepharidc sefer Torah. 

Dead Sea

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The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth. Because of the very high mineral content in the water nothing can live in the sea. But the Dead Sea is anything but dead. The high mineral content has much value to us. We tend to only think that there is salt in the Dead Sea, but there are many minerals as well such as magnesium and sulfur. The Dead Sea is actually shrinking and this is not because people are taking out the minerals to use for lotions and medicinal reasons.

The Dead Sea only takes in water from the Jordan. Due to the saturation of minerals they at time block the water and less water is making its way in. Because of the loss of water sink holes are being found around the Dead Sea. There is work underway to solve the problem.

The students enjoyed the warm weather and their visit to the Dead Sea. No pictures though!!

 

 

Masada

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After a filling lunch of a choice of sandwiches (egg, tuna or avocado) on some delicious rolls, it was our turn to conquer Masada. There are 2 ways to get up to Masada. You can go on a cable car, which takes about 5 minutes or you can walk the snake path. Our group chose the latter. We fortified ourselves with water and it was onward and upward for our group. We started off together and then some of us marched on ahead, while others did lag behind, but in the end we were all victorious.

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We must congratulate Yakov S. and Tzvi for reaching the top first. Yakov made the climb in under 30 minutes and looked as if he had taken a stroll in the park when done. Tzvi literally ran up Masada at the end. We do not know how he did that!! You can see our order when you look at the photos. The top ten indicated their order using their fingers and the rest have little slips of paper. We would like to commend the following students who came up a little later than they should have because they stopped to assist and encourage their friends: Eyal, Mushka and Sima. Good job to you. We all made it and have much to be proud of.

Masada is a tall mountain in the desert upon which King Herod, a Roman appointed king over Israel, had a fortress built. Herod was a madman and under his reign many Jewish rabbis were killed. His mother was not Jewish and his father was a convert who had been forced to convert under the Chashmonaim rule. (That is a story for another time). Herod liked to build and his motto was the bigger the better. His desert fortress came complete with 2 palaces with food. If you would visit Masada in ancient times you would have found lots of grain, dried fruit, oil, honey and wine (some of which was imported from Italy by Herod) In addition there was lots of water, a huge necessity in the desert as Ein Gedi a natural water resource is a 2-3 hour walk.  Masada had 23 regular cisterns filled and a large cistern that had enough water to last a year. When we say it was big, it was big. Masada also had green fields for growing things. We know this because there are at least 3 columbariums or dovecotes where found. They are places were pigeons rested and their wastes were then used as fertilizer.  

Herod must have really enjoyed his amazing fortress with all of its accommodations and perks. Can’t you just see him relaxing there after a hard day at the office? Well, actually King Herod never used Masada at all. It was built as a precaution and for his own safety. Let’s just say he was not very well liked and he would be safe on this mountain top because you can see anyone who is coming for a mile away.

Fast forward to the destruction of the 2nd Temple. There were a group of about 100 Jewish Zealots who escaped Yerushalayim and knowing about Masada made their way there. They found many supplies and they could have lived there comfortably for a long time. Unfortunately to Romans found out that they were there and the Romans made their way to capture the Jews. Masada’s end as many of you know ended in tragedy, but Yoni did not focus our visit on this part of history.

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In addition to finding all of the above mentioned items another item crucial to Jewish life was found. A Mikvah!!! Not one mikvah, but at least 6 working Mikvot were found on Masada. Now, Herod did not build those. When Yigael Yadin, the archeologist who discovered the finds on Masada found the mikva, he brought in a rav for confirmation. The rav measured the mikvah and his hands began to shake for he realized that in fact this was a working mikvah. We saw the place where the rain water flowed in through a trough to fill the mikvah.

This is the take away from Masada. These mikvot were made by the Jews in order to continue Jewish life and family purity after their Holy Temple had been destroyed. As Jewish people who have been exiled and persecuted, we have grown stronger by keeping our Torah and mitzvoth alive under all sets of circumstances. These mikvot and the desire to live as a Jew are what makes the Jews who lived on Masada heroes.

Weather

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Well, we know that back home you have just had a storm and missed some school. We want to let you know that so far the weather has been fantastic. The first day was a bit on the chilly side. We were glad we listened to advice and brought jackets in addition to our sweaters.

Our second day here was a beautiful 60 degrees in the Old City. You can see in the pictures the clear blue sky. Our LYA sweatshirts actually blend in with the beautiful blue sky. Our 3rd day was a perfect weather day for the desert. While you were shoveling snow we were in 70 degree weather hiking in Ein Gedi and climbing Masada. It was a great hot day!!!

We heard tomorrow will be a bit cooler with a high of 54 degrees. 

Ein Gedi - Desert Oasis

Today’s post is brought to you by Rishi Wolvovsky.

So far, I have had a very fun and uplifting time and I learned many new things in the past three days. I have also been connecting with many of my friends.

Our first stop today was to Ein Gedi. Ein Gedi is a beautiful national park and an oasis in the desert. It holds a lot of history from Navi within it. Soon we will be learning this history in Shmuel I.

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There are many animals living in Ein Gedi. The ibex is an animal that looks sort of like a goat, with horns and male ibexes have beards. The hyrax looks like a cute little bear. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that the closest relative to the hyrax is an elephant! The hyrax is one of the animals that the Torah specifically states is not kosher. In Hebrew, the hyrax is called the shafan. Some of us actually saw the hyrax today! The last animal is a bird which is endemic to the Dead Sea area. It is called the starling. The starling is black with gold feathers. We saw many of them flying around and they were beautiful.

Shaul was told that he would be replaced with a new king, and Shaul will know this king very well. He became angry at whoever would become king. Dovid, a simple shepherd, proved his worth by killing Galyat. Dovid was becoming greater and greater, and Shaul didn’t like this. Since Dovid had no real military experience, Shaul made him a general in order to embarrass him, and maybe even cause his death. Shaul actually accomplished the exact opposite. Dovid won every single battle, and he came back with all of his men. Shaul was enraged, and wanted to kill Dovid, especially after discovering that it would be Dovid who would replace him as king.

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Dovid didn’t want to fight another Jew, especially the anointed one of Hashem, so instead of attacking Shaul, he ran away. He and his men escaped. Now Dovid had to find a safe location for his men. How could a group survive without any water? Dovid searched for a solution, and found that in the mountains of Ein Gedi was a large waterfall, which could supply the entire entourage. Eventually Shaul found Dovid in Ein Gedi. When Shaul found Dovid, Dovid and his men hid in caves. Shaul entered one of the caves that Dovid was hiding in. Dovid showed how he could’ve killed Shaul, but since he loved him, he didn’t. He had only cut off a piece of his cloak. Dovid would not kill the anointed one of Hashem.

Many of us have heard the story, but it was amazing to see the place in the mountains where Dovid hid and see the waterfall. We hiked up some of the mountain, passing by some of the passes of the waterfall. We had a great time learning the story and viewing the mountains. From the mountains, the view of the Dead Sea was also beautiful.

City of Dovid

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A highlight of any trip to Yerushalayim is the City of Dovid – where IT all began. Every stone has a story to tell, every stone is a part of our amazing history. LYA students knew the significance of Yerushalayim from their studies at school.  This trip their learning has come full circle.

The City of David is located next to the Old City and should actually be included in the walled portion. When the current wall was built in 1538 by the Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (who named himself Magnificent by the way) the City of Dovid was not a very nice neighborhood. That is why it was left out of the walls. In reality though it is in the City of Dovid where IT all began.

It was Dovid who conquered the Yerushalayim from the Yevusim. Before we talk about that battle we must recognize that the Yevusim had fortified the city with walls and they were extremely confident that they would not be attacked because of their fortifications. Not only that, but the Yevusim had dug a network of tunnels that brought the water supply from the Gichon springs into a pool called the Shiloach, directly to one area for their city. In ancient times it was the young girls who would get the water for their families. The Yevusim water supply was exposed, but because the Yevusim felt secure they were not worried about their young girls going out and gathering water. We will get back to that water soon.

Now Dovid is king and he has united the nation. He now wants to conquer Yerushalayim, since he knows of its importance. The Yevusim are still in control and were very confident that they could not be conquered. They did not realize that Dovid is not your average general. Dovid knew about the water supply system and that there was a water pipe that led into the city based on the Yevusim’s water system. As it says in Shmuel II, Dovid sent his General Yoav through the sinur, water pipe and Yoav took the city, just like that!

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Now Dovid has a capital city and he of course lives in a palace. It was in the remains of this palace that we stood and saw one of the columns that archeologists had found. This column was actually Phoenician in design, which led many skeptic archeologists to suggest that this could not have been Dovid’s palace. That is because Dovid hires an outside contractor, Chiram of Sur, to build him a palace. Guess where Sur is? You guessed right, Phoenicia! It is all in the Navi!!!

As we move on in history Shlomo Dovid’s son is anointed by the Gichon Spring. Shlomo builds the Beis Hamikdash and the Jews live surrounded by its holiness. We will now move very quickly in history and fast forward to King Chizkiyahu, who was a king of the Davidic dynasty. The 10 tribes have already been exiled by the Assyrians. King Chizkiyahu, who was a good king, was worried that the Assyrians would attack the remaining 2 tribes and Yerushalayim. The city was fortified with walls, but do you remember the water from the Shiloach pool that we wrote about before? That water supply is exposed. King Chizkayahu did something amazing without modern technology. He had his men start digging tunnels under the city. Each group began on one end and chiseled through until they met each other. He then re-routed the water into these tunnels and voila water is now accessible in a safe manner. As the Navi in Melachim II tell us, the Assyrians did not conquer the city.

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These tunnels are still functioning today. They are not used for the city’s water supply, but they are part of the tour. Our next stop was into these tunnels. Sorry that we cannot show you many photos as it is pitch black in the tunnels. Good thing we were told to bring head lamps and water shoes. We splished and splashed, walked and waded, talked and sang in the tunnels. It was amazing to walk in the water tunnels that saved the city.

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We continued our tour at a site that probably was the cave in which King Dovid was buried. There Morah K talked to us about the power of Tehilim, the book that Dovid wrote. We all said a chapter in honor of our trip. We also learned about other amazing finds in the City of Dovid, such as clay stamps with names of men from Navi on them.

It was amazing to be at the City of Dovid where IT all began and to make our mark there as our story continues.

The Old City

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We begin each day with a daily news message just like at school. Each day another student volunteers to read and lead us the travel prayer. Today we spent the entire day in the Old City and the City of David. We did a lot of walking !!!

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We began our visit by walking through the Zion Gate. This gate leads into the Armenian Quarter. The gate has many bullet holes from the War of Independence in 1948. After a bit of a walk we came to the “mall” of Ancient Jerusalem, the Cardo. Cardo is what the Romans called north-south streets and it is also the heart of the city. The Cardo was a main street that was filled with many shops and vendors selling their wares. There are pillars that remain today from the Cardo. When you look at it you can visualize how the street would have been set up.

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Near the Cardo is the famous Hurva Synagogue. Thanks to our Zekeleman standard Chumash work we knew that the shoresh of Hurva means destroy. This shul today is a beautifully new shul that used to be a hollowed out place with a remnant of an arch.

The shul was named Hurva for the first time it was destroyed. The shul was originally built by Rabbi Yehuda Hachasid, who had taken out loans to build the shul. He defaulted on his loans and the owners destroyed the shul as a result, hence the name Hurva stuck. The shul was re-built, but it was destroyed in 1948 by the Jordanians. A few years ago the Hurva was rebuilt in all of its beauty and today it is a thriving shul.

In front of the Hurva is a beautiful open plaza. As we sat in the plaza we watched many people walking, children playing and elderly people sitting on benches. It is interesting to see a huge plaza not developed in the Old City, a place where property values are very high and space is in high demand. Yoni told us that this plaza is actually a prophecy of coming true. The prophecy was given by Yirmiyahu after the destruction of the Temple and said that we will come back to the land and children will play and old people will sit.  Our group was very exciting to see the prophecy come to life before our eyes.

Street Signs

 There is so much to learn in Israel. A whole tour can be made just by looking at the street signs in Israel. There is so much history that can be learned. On our way out of the hotel Yoni started to mention the different street signs we were passing. Our hotel is on King George Street. The rechov, street was named after King George V under the British mandate when they had control over Israel for 30 years.  This was one of the streets that the British made in Yerushalayim.

We turned onto Rechov Besalel, which was very timely for us. Besalel is the man who was in charge of building the Mishkan. That street meant much to our students since currently they are learning about the building of the Mishkan in Chumash.

We rode on Rechov Chevron toward the Old City. Guess what? This street is a street one takes to get to Chevron. We passed by Rechov Ramban and later on that day we heard a fascinating story of a debate that the Ramban, Nachmonides had in Aragon, Spain with members of the Church. Even though he won, Ramban had to leave Spain after the debate and emigrated to Acco in Israel. He also established a shul in the Old City.

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We found Rechov Chabad in the Old City. This street is right near the Tzemach Tzedek Shul.  For the remainder of our time in Israel we will be looking for more interesting street signs.

Shiloh - the 1st Capital of Israel

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There is so much to write about Shiloh. We began our visit with a delicious lunch of shawarma. It was enjoyed by many. We had a beautiful benching led by Aiden.

Shiloh was the capital city of Israel for 369 years from when Yehoshua brought the 12 tribes into the land. The reason for this is that the Mishkan resided in Shiloh and because of this it was a very important city for the Jews. Men, women and children would go visit the Mishkan three times a year on Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkos.

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As Shiloh became an important city it needed something very important to cities – WATER!!! We saw a man made pool that was made out of lime stone that was dried out and when it rained a pool appeared to give the people water. The pool was filled today as we viewed it.

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In addition to water, we visited an ancient wine press and saw how the people would crush grapes with their bare feet. Yosef knew the answer why. If one crushed grapes with their shoes they might break the seeds and that would make the wine bitter. We clearly saw how the juice would flow from the crushing area into a holding area for the wine. This press was over 2,000 years old. It can be identified by the mosaic tiles in the pressing area. Miss Kosofsky told us how she assisted her father, Rabbi Kosofsky make wine this year and how modern methods might have changed the crushing, but the process is the same.

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We then visited a building built during the Byzantine Era that was used as a church, but now houses a beautiful model of the Mishkan. It was very meaningful to see the model because we are now studying the building of the Mishkan in Chumash. As we entered Yoni asked us to look around and see what we see in the building that we would not think would be seen in a Byzantine building. Eyal figured it out before we even entered and said that he thinks it will be a Magen Dovid. He was correct as there was a beautiful mosaic picture of a Magen Dovid.

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In Shiloh there is also an ancient olive press. Yoni taught us about extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil. It was amazing to see an olive oil press that could actually work. Olive oil was very important for the Mishkan since the Kohanim needed oil for so much of the work in the Mishkan. The olive press was made of lime stone. We learned that lime stone is very soft while connected to the mountain, so it is easy to cut it into form. Once it is formed it hardens and can last forever as we saw today.

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Before we entered a movie theater in Shiloh, we met a Chai Lifeline group visiting Israel. In their group we met Sara Yafa Ross, who is not only a niece of Mrs. Edelman, but she used to live in Springfield. Sara Yafa was with her daughter, Rivka Bracha, who was 1 years old when she lived in Springfield. Mrs. Ross told Sara that she has a picture of her daughter and Sara in clown costumes.

We saw a beautiful video of the history of Shiloh and then it was down to the resting place of the Mishkan. We know it is cold back at home, but it was cold for us as we sat in the same place that Chana davened for Shmuel over 3,000 years ago. We now appreciate that the 3 pilgrimage holidays are not in the winter.

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It was very meaningful for us to daven mincha there. Thanks to our tour guide and medic, we had a beautiful minyan. It was onto the bus for a rather long ride to the hotel and dinner. Many of us fell asleep. We were very tired.

Stay tuned for more tomorrow!!!

Arrival in the Holy Land

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It was smooth sailing at the airport. We all davened shacharit on the plane. Good job to the boys who navigated tefilin and davening while in motion. As we landed (as you can see) Emunah and Rochel Leah tightly held hands in anticipation of the arrival in Israel.

We are so proud of our school. They are listening to directions and making a great Kiddush Hashem by being good ambassadors for our school. At the airport we were met by Mickey Katzburg, who owns the tour agency My Israel Connection and he has been assisting LYA with Israel trips for the last 10 trips. LYA presented Mickey with a book of pictures from the last 10 trips.

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Our tour guide Yoni led us out of the airport. We were in and out in an hour. Record time to depart the airplane, go through customs and retrieve our luggage.

After a brief snack, we boarded the bus to Shiloh. On the way Yoni encouraged us to look out the windows. He told us of a famous Rav Avrohom Dov from Avrutch, Ukraine called the Bat Ayin, who travelled all the way to Israel by boat which took a while. Once he arrived in Yafo there was a carriage waiting for him. His students closed the shades so their Rav could rest from the strenuous journey. He told them to open the shades so he could enjoy the land of which it says.

תמיד עיני ה' בה מראשית השנה ועד אחרית השנה עקב

“Hashem’s eyes are always on the land from the beginning of the year until the end of the year”.  This is also a quote that the Rebbe would often use to describe Israel.

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We learned much from looking out the windows. First off we saw loads of building going on. That is the norm in Israel. To put it in perspective there were 660,000 Jews living in Israel in 1948. Now in 2019 there are 6,000,000 – 7,000, 000. That requires lots of housing. In the next 50 years these new buildings will be considered old.

In the book of Kings (the 8th grade students learned this last year in Navi), there is a king named Omri who built up the city of Shomron. Now Shomron was used for idol worship and even though it was not used for great things, Omri was destined to have a dynasty of 4 kings from his family. Building in Israel is amazing and imagine what his reward would have been if Omri built for good things.

We also enjoyed looking at olive trees that are growing all over the roads. Yoni told us that Israel is known for its quality olive oil. We also talked about terrace irrigation. You can see walls that have been flattened into the mountains creating terraces. These terraces allow for better watering of the olive trees. This is the oldest known irrigation system in the world. In the Mishna it speaks of watering ones garden with a foot. Now that seems quite a feat. With terrace irrigation one can stop the flow of water by moving a rock in place with one’s foot and stop the water or allow the water to flow. Amazing to see the words of Mishna are as applicable today as they were over 2,000 years ago.

 

On Our Way

 As we write this entry we are now on the plane and on our way. Amazing wonders we have wifi so you are reading about our trip in real time. We began our trip at the Ohel. We wrote a letter that was read at the Ohel. The letter included good wishes for our trip. Before we left each student took upon themselves an extra mitzvah to be completed in Israel with the hope of continuing after we return. These mitzvot were included in our letter.

 After the Ohel, we walked over to Rabbi Dovid Edelman’s obm grave. Before reciting chapter 121 of tehilim, Rabbi Kosofsky spoke to the students about how Rabbi Edelman loved each one of them and how much he enjoyed talking with them about what they learned. Morah Kosofsky reflected upon how Rabbi Edelman was so proud to hear about the trips when the students returned. She mentioned how this trip was the school’s 11th trip and with the exception of 1 trip there has always been an Edelman grandchild attending either as a student or a chaperone.

 We had an easy check in at the airport. While awaiting boarding we met Rishi’s uncle, Rabbi Zalman Gopin from Kfar Chabad. Of course many people commented on our well behaved group and how special it is to see a school group going to Israel. On the plane we met a family that knows the Philips from Worcester. Small world.

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 We sang happy birthday to Mushka and the flight attendant brought her a sorbet as a birthday treat. Students were a little disappointed that Morah K said no caffeine drinks. We are planning on sleeping at some point on the trip.

Next stop… Tel Aviv airport. We will speak to you soon.

Meet Yoni Berg

 

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 I was born in Staten Island, NY and lived there until I was 14, while I attended the Yeshiva of Flatbush. I continued at YoF while I moved to Long Island. After high school, I learned at Yeshivat HaKotel (now Netiv Aryeh) for a year and a half. I majored in English literature at Queens College until I made Aliya. I've been living in Israel for 15 years, during which time I've served in the IDF as a map technician in the artillery corps, met and married the love of my life, and have 3 beautiful daughters. I've been guiding groups for about 15 years and plan on continuing for as long as I'm able. I am looking forward to working with LYA again.  See you next week.

Going to Israel in Style

 We will be going to Israel with our brand new Israel Experience sweatshirts jackets. LYA thanks Bolducs for doing a great job. We love them!!!

 

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