3rd Report from Israel – 28 November 2022
Greetings from the holy mountains of Tzafas!
Things have really been happening since I last spoke, so sorry for the delay. But I guess that also means I have tonz to say, so let’s get going!
As I left off last time with a comment about the weather, I think this time I’ll start with it. This past month it has been completely upside down, you see whenever I call home, usually a video call, it it is bright and sunny, whilst my video is one of fog and floods although that did only happen when I was on the phone.
Aside for the onset of winter, this month has also bought on the real school experience. We have had three tests in just as many weeks, and each one has more than enough material to fill the Bowdon Bulletin! But they are behind me and my next one is in a month, so I can really get down to enjoying the lessons. And enjoying them I am. From complicated tracts of Talmud, to how to solve complex medical problems according to Halacha, from visiting schools for teacher training to giving a speech in front of the class, it has definitely been a month to remember.
But this month has not just been about learning, there have been programmes galore. Firstly, there is the weekly experience of traditional Yeshiva learning experience, where we learn “B’Chavrusa”, that is when we learn in partners as opposed to a regular class setting. We had movie night with a lesson and fascinating speakers, paint nights and impromptu dance parties it has definitely been fun. I won’t forget the night the whole seminary stayed up to four in the morning to watch the banquet of the international conference of Shluchim – when nearly 6000 Chabad Rabbis join together from all around the world at the headquarters in New York. Imagine the scene when dozens of teenage girls scream and shout each time they announced the Rabbis of their home country, (ask Daddy to tell you all about it). But although it has all been amazing, the highlight have been the Shabbosim; they have definitely won by flying colours.
First we had a Shabbaton in Chevron, an amazing inspirational Shabbos. We started off with a trip to Kever Rochel in Bet Lechem on the outskirts of Jerusalem on Thursday. This is where Jacob buried Rachel on his way back to Israel, and it has been a place of prayer for Jews ever since, most notably when we were taken as slaves after the destruction of the first Temple. But we then jumped to modern times when we had a talk by Sara Nachshon, one of the founders of the modern Jewish community of Chevron. Jews had been living there for hundreds of year, until the massacre of 67 men, women and children in 1929. Over the next four decades we had temporarily been back but were evicted again, until Sara and a group of brave women with their young children re-established the Jewish community there in 1967. They stayed in a hotel for 3 years, not stepping outside until they were given official permission to live there. Her story is one of courage and perseverance against all odds.
We stayed overnight in the nearby city of Kiryat Arba, and the next day we went to Daven Shacharis in Meoras HaMachpeila – the Tomb of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs – making our way there in bullet proof busses. The iconic building was built by Herod over 2000 years ago, but it stands on top of the cave purchased as a burial plot by Avraham for his wife Sarah over 3500 years ago – the first real estate purchase by a Jew in the Land of Israel.
This was followed by a tour of Chevron; I think it’s the only place in the world where the tour guide was a sergeant in the army and conducts the tour with a gun, not pointed at us, don’t worry.
It was amazing walking around Chevron- this is the place where Avraham Avinu walked! This was were King David established his reign! History was literally coming alive! This was the bedrock of our nation’s history.
Shabbos itself was just sensational. We walked from Kiryat Arba to Meoras HaMachpeila surrounded by armed guards, but feeling a deep connection to the land and our place in it. Seeing the local children just running along, proud of being here knowing with certainty that this is their home was so inspiring. By nature these little children were fiercely Zionist and whilst it might not be politically correct, one kid who couldn’t have been more than 5 was proudly telling us how one day this ancient Jewish city would be home to just Jews, and how he planned on making it happen.
Each Shabbos is amazing, each one with a special something making it unique. Two weeks ago we ate the Friday night meal in our classrooms, full of fun, singing and inspiration that lasted way into the night. We decorated the rooms and cooked part of the food ourselves. This past Shabbos, we had an amazing speaker who works for an organisation called Or Simcha, a foster home for boys who either come from broken homes or have nowhere to live. The stories he told us of his experiences were a real eye opener, and very inspiring.
These Shabbosim are what makes the Sem experience so special; we are here to learn but what I am learning is that a lot of learning can be done outside of the books as well.
Well that’s all for now,
Lehitraot – see you later.
P.S. BTW I wrote this whole thing, Daddy just corrects grammar mistakes
Signing off for a second time,
(The photos show the classroom decorated for the in house Shabbat, the original wall of the city from the times of Avraham. The burial place of Avraham and Sara, and the last one was from a previous visit a few years back in the day!)