Thursday, August 4, 2011

NFTY in Israel - A letter from our B'nai Israel teens

Some of our teens who were traveling together with NFTY in Israel wrote to Rabbi Prosnit, describing the incredible experience they have had.  We wanted to share their experiences with the congregation (and beyond) - NFTY in Israel is such a transformative and exciting experience for our teens.

In addition to those who signed on to this letter, who were traveling in the same group, Sydney Foulk, Mollie Rich and Jesse Spears are also traveling with NFTY, and Alex Landau and Morgan Glucksman are also having Israel experiences this Summer.  For Sydney, the Israel experience will be remembered as an extra-special memory; she had a bat mitzvah ceremony while in Israel, and our teens who talk about this celebration in their letter, made a special arrangement with their group leader to ensure that they could be there to support and celebrate with Sydney.  We are so proud to have teens like these in our community.

Dear Rabbi Prosnit,

Shabbat shalom from the holy land! We are writing to you on our final shabbat in Tel Aviv. Our experience in Israel has been powerful and extremely moving. The memories of our adventures will remain with us for the rest of our lives.

Our trip began in Prague where we embraced our Eastern European Jewish culture. Not only did we try exotic foods such as ghoulash and homemade sweet bread, but we also uncovered the thriving Jewish community still prsent in the Czech Republic. When we visited three of the temples still remaining in Prague, we realized that our Jewish heritage survived and prospered even with the antisemitism of the Holocaust. With amazing views and good ice cream, Prague was a magnificent stop on our long journey.

We soon arrived in Poland where we were greeted by a drastic change in weather. The dreary atmosphere was almost fitting for the horrors that we soon experienced. No amount of pictures or black and white videos can begin to describe the power that Auschwitz-Birkenau holds. The visit brought our group together and made us even more excited and proud to be able to visit the Jewish state.

Upon our 3 am arrival in Ben Gurion airport, our excitement and anticipation overpowered our exhaustion. These past four weeks have been spent learning about out Jewish heritage and experiencing all that the land of milk and honey has to offer. During our four day Negev trip, we endured four long and strenuous hikes, enjoyed a few beach and mall trips in Eilat, and jumped, ran, and tumbled down the sand dunes. We then drove to Jerusalem, where we spent our days walking through the Jewish quarter, completing a hike through a water tunnel, shopping in Ben Yehuda street, and visiting the Kotel, or Western Wall. This experience brought our group together through everybody's different feelings and reactions. None of us knew what to expect upon our arrival, and touching the wall with one another is something we will never forget.

Our kehilah kedoshah, or holy community, was split apart for a few days for our different chavayot, or choice experiences. Michael completed Yam L'Yam, or Sea to Sea, which included many hikes and bike rides in order to travel from the Kineret to the Mediterranian Sea. Ari, Molly, and Alexa all ventured off the Gadna, an army training boot camp. There they experienced a taste of what life as an Israeli soldier is like. Sarah went off on the Tikkun Olam trip, where the days were spent helping to repair the world through a variety of  activities.
Sydney Foulk reading Torah in Israel (note the Sefardi Torah case)
One of the big highlights of the trip for the five of us came when our group reunited at a hostile near the Kineret for a few days. Not only was the hostile comparable to a Hawaiian resort, but we had the chance to go see our fellow B'nai Israelite and NFTY participant from a different group, Sydney Foulk, become a Bat Mitzvah. Watching our good friend read Torah for the first time, surrounded by a few of her home friends, all of her new friends from her group, and even her family via video chat was such a moving, emotional, and unforgettable experience for us all, and although we knew hardly anybody from her group, the entire service felt like we were one big community.
Sarah Stein, Matt Kalmans, and Molly Blumenthal celebrating with Sydney
(and  waving to Sydney's mom and brother on Skype!).  Mollie Rich and Ari Matz were also present.
The day after the Bat Mitzvah, we welcomed our new Israeli friends into our group. With them we conquered ropes course, went banana boating in the Kineret, spent a night in a Bedouin tent, rode camels and donkeys, woke up at 4 am to climb Masada and see the sun rise, rafted down the Jordanian River, and floated in the Dead Sea.

Now that we're in our last week, we hope to make it last as long as possible and to enjoy ourselves as much as we have this past month. Thank you and all of B'nai Israel for all of your love and support as we travel through the Holy Land, and we can't wait to see you soon!

Much love,
Molly Blumenthal, Michael Kalmans, Ari Matz, Alexa Molinoff, and Sarah Stein     

No comments:

Post a Comment