1st Report from Israel – 28 Sept 2022
Hi everyone what’s up in Bowdon?
Here in Israel things are hot. I am writing this at 10.40pm and it is still 21° outside. During the day, it is boiling! But I am not complaining as before long Tzfat will get below freezing and it often snows here as well.
But aside from the hot weather, there has been a lot more to adjust to. Such as early wake up; classes start at 7.30 everyday, including on Sunday. The lessons are intense, with many of them in Ivrit, and covering 32 different subjects, plus we have night classes – but those are followed by different programs which are really fun and informal. But that’s just a part of seminary, and to tell you the truth I’m loving it.
One of the extra-curricular things we do is Chesed. We go with a friend to different families in Tzfat once a week to help them before shabbos. My job is being a “sock Shadchan” – for 90 minutes – tedious work but I really enjoy helping.
During my first week here, as part of what they called “Avodat Maasit” a practical lesson, we went to a special-needs school. It was really inspiring, seeing how the teachers communicated with the children, each in their own individual way. The ways they taught were so innovative, such as using an interactive computer with a retractable floor mat.
I have had some pretty amazing Shabbatot, especially our Shabbos “off”- where we get to tour Israel on our own. I went to Haifa, and our hosts lived literally on the beachfront, the views were very different to the mountains of Tzfat. But on the way there, my friend and I (Esther from Connecticut) went up Mount Carmel in the Cable Car and then we walked back down and visited the cave where Elijah the Prophet hid.
Last Friday night I went with a bunch of friends to the old city of Tzfat- there is nothing like it in the world- well maybe Jerusalem but that’s in a league of its own. The blue all over, and the ancientness of it all, it just transported me back to days of old. These were the very streets that the Arizal walked when he welcomed in Shabbos! Here was where L’Chah Dodi was composed. History is literally coming alive.
But so far, 100% the best part of being in Israel has been Rosh Hashona. It began with the preparations. Last week Monday, the Sem organised a trip and we were taken traipsing round the Galil, hiking up mountains to pray at the grave sites of famous people in our history. And then we did it again on Sunday – there are over 100 ancient graves in the area, some from before the times of King David! Thank goodness for air conditined busses and cold water.
And then there was Rosh Hashona itself. From the moment the candles were lit, you could sense the difference in the air- the solemnity of the Day of Judgment combined with the joy that accompanies any Yom Tov, and topped off with that special only in Tzfat feeling, it was a once in a lifetime experience.
If you thought the night was special, just wait till I tell you about the day. Imagine the sight of close to 300 girls praying in unison- it is something very special. And although I missed Bowdon and the familiarity of the tunes, this was something way above. A really intense spiritual high.