On Sunday morning, I woke up early as usual, davened, ate breakfast, and took care of some last minute odds and ends. Although the bus was supposed to pick us up at 9 AM sharp, it was quite delayed and didn’t arrive until about 10:15. After a rest stop (for our friends who had already been traveling for a while from Beer Sheva and Yerucham) and a broken down bus, we finally arrived at Beit Nati in Yerushalayim around noon. We had a little while to catch our breath, put our things away and eat lunch. Our first lecture was by Neil Lazarus, a british Oleh who works in Israel advocacy, and who had spoken to us on Pilgrimage as well. His talk, which was supposed to focus on Public Speaking, was a little more humorous than informative, but I still picked up a few good tips. Our other lecture for the day was about ‘thinking outside of the box’, and was given by a cousin of our director. It was pretty interesting, in that it showed us how hard it really is in most circumstances to not go with the first idea that comes to mind. Dinner was provided, but was dairy and looked pretty unappetizing, so I went with a friend and got my favourite 300g burger.
The next morning began with Shacharit, which I got to lead, and following breakfast we continued with our sessions for the day. Our first one focused on leadership and program planning, and was okay, but next one, led by David Keren, the director of USY programs in Israel and former director of Nativ, was amazing. David focused on an innovative method for teaching Jewish text, and after studying a midrash in chevruta, we spent the rest of the session just asking questions. It was pretty amazing how many we came up with. We then had lunch and a short break, and soon we were back for afternoon sessions. The first focused on games that teach about Israel that can be used children, and the second, led by our staff Jesse and Yael, and they spoke about the tension between identifying as North Americans or Jews, and the tension between the two. They then discussed with us about the importance of considering Aliyah as a choice for the future. Luckily, we ended the session early, shortly before 5, and I quickly ran over to the Conservative Yeshiva, where I made in time for the Shuir segment of one of my favourite classes, advanced midrash with Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein. It felt so nice to be back at Yeshiva, and although the class had gotten a little smaller, it was still just as nice of an experience as I remembered. After Maariv at Yeshiva, I went with 5 friends to the Red Heifer (as in the special maftir the other week!) steakhouse to celebrate my friend Phil’s 19th birthday. I decided to save a little money and not go for a steak, but instead got a delicious sandwich of brisket, pastrami, and chopped liver, along with mashed potatos and a complimentary glass of wine. It was a really nice evening and a great opportunity to spend time with friends casually.
On Tuesday morning, because there was a worry about having a minyan for someone saying kaddish, I davened Shacharit at the Conservative Yeshiva, which was nice to be there just like old times. There was a light breakfast after tefillot, and soon it was time to pack up and say goodbye to Beit Nativ and Jerusalem for a few days. Our first stop was at the Kibbutz Maale Hachamisha hotel, where we had the day’s sessions. In the morning we discussed the lessons of the four sons of the Haggadah with Nahum, our assistant director, and the next session I had was with Yossi and focused on bringing back Israel to camp this summer. By then it was time for lunch, and we were treated to one of the delicious Maale Hachamisha buffets that I remember so well from pilgrimage. After davening mincha as a group, we had a break and then a session about being a dugma (personal example) with Jules Gutin, the director of USY. In the late afternoon, we boarded busses and traveled to kibbutz Hannaton, which is located in the Galil just northwest of Nazareth. It had been pouring all afternoon, which would set the weather pattern for the rest of the week. It made things a little interesting, but didn’t take away too much from the fun, and was good for the land as well. We had a good fleichig dinner, and I hung out and relaxed for the rest of the night.
Wednesday morning, we woke up, davened, ate breakfast and soon got on to road to Dani-Hi in Cesarea, a site which is used by the army for training and shooting practice, but also offered tem-building activities for groups such as ours. The 81 or so of us were split into four groups, and for the morning we engaged in different activities which focused on team-building, trust, and cooperation, including passing each other through a web of ropes without touching them, or helping each other up a smooth wall with no grips. Shortly before noon the skies opened up and it started pouring, so we eventually made our way to a gymnasium to wait out the storm. After about an hour we had lunch and in the afternoon we did rock climbing, drumming/martial arts, and finally paintball. It was my first time playing, and was a very fun and exciting experience. The day went by pretty quickly, and around 5:30 we left to return to Hannaton. We davened maariv, had an indoor barbecue dinner, and I relaxed for the rest of the night.
On Thursday we checked out of Hannaton in the morning and drove south towards Herzliya, where we spent the day at the Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC), a well-regard Israeli private university. In the morning we heard from the dean of Admissions, some students, among them three bogrei native, and heard the head of the overseas school speak about the middle east situation. Following a catered lunch, we were given a tour of the campus, and ended leadership week off with an intense lecture by Jules Gutin about the future direction of the Conservative Movement.
Luckily for me, Nativ decided to provide a bus to Jerusalem for the many of us, including myself who wanted to spend our Shabbat there, so by a little after 5 PM I was dropped off directly in front of the Fuchsberg centre. However, when I stepped off the bus I noticed that it was actually hailing outside, so I went in and sat in the lobby for a while until the storm calmed down a bit. While the rain had let up a bit, there was still some thunder and lightning, so I decided to play it safe and hop the #14 bus down towards Emek Refaim. I didn’t have too much trouble making it the few blocks to the apartment of my Chevruta Miron and his wife Naomi. I dried off, had something to eat and caught up a bit. But before I knew it, 8 o’clock rolled around and it was time for a small chametz finishing party combined with a showing of the Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston. It was pretty funny, especially for my first time seeing it, and pretty long, keeping us occupied until after midnight.
I slept in of Friday until a little past seven, woke up and got ready, and made it to the Great Synagogue on time for the 8:00 Shacharit. After davening I went to Meah Shearim and did one of my favourite activities, book shopping at Manny’s, and after buying 3 New haggadot, picked up some flowers for Shabbat on a street corner and some bourekas to munch on at Mister Zol. Shortly after I returned to Miron and Naomi’s apartment, I set out with Miron and we went up and down Emek Refaim stopping at all of the different little local stores to shop for Shabbat. After getting a falafel for lunch, we went back and I helped with cooking and cleaning for Shabbat. Around 4 PM my friend Matt Tepperman arrived and joined us for Shabbat. After showering and getting dressed, we walked down the street to Yakar, where we took part in a joyous and spiritual Kabbalat Shabbat davening. We walked back to the apartment and since Miron and Naomi live on the 11th floor, we were lucky to catch the Shabbat elevator which stopped every other floor all the way up. After relaxing for a little bit, our friends from Yeshiva, Annie and matt arrived and we had a great Shabbat dinner together.
Shabbat morning I woke up, got ready, and Matt and I walked down the 11 flights of stairs and took a 15 minute stroll to Yedidya. It was a very lovely davening, as always, and I was even asked to lead Shacharit. After hanging out at the Kiddush, we took a leisurely walk back to the apartment, and even caught the Shabbat elevator again. For lunch, our friend Avram joined us and we again had a delicious, lovely, and relaxed meal. After a two hour Shabbat nap, I went back to Yedidya for Mincha (where I did Gelilah), a limud about Pesach/Seudah Shlishit, and maariv. On the way back, it was raining and it kept getting heavier, so I was pretty soaked by the time I got back to the apartment. I relaxed for a little while, and made Havdalah before hitting the road around 7:30 so I could catch a #18 bus to the תחנה מרכזית (Central Bus Station), and caught the usual 437 Ashkelon back to kibbutz.
Shavua tov…and an early Hodesh tov!