4th Report from Israel – 3rd January 2023

Hey, long time no speak.
Now where do I start? From Chanuka and work backwards or from the beginning and leave the best for the last? Truth to be told, everything has been amazing, but this past week has been even more amazing than the rest, for more reasons than one.
So now that I’ve whet your appetite, I think I’ll start from the beginning and leave you all in suspense for a little bit.
The morning I sent you my last tidbit, I went on an amazing trip to Katzrin, a village about 25 miles east of Tzfat, at the start of the Golan Heights. Think Northeast of the Sea of the Galilee. Katzrin contains the ruins of an ancient village, but it has been partially rebuilt to its original style with all the components of a village in the times of the Mishna and Talmud: 1700 – 2000 years ago. To get us in the appropriate mood, we all got dressed up in clothes from that time period, and began with a tour of a wood and stone olive press. When I visited Katzrin with our family back in the summer of 2019, we were not able to get a tour guide, but this time everything had been arranged and we tried our hand at crushing the olives in the press and making oil.
From there we went to a reconstructed house, where the lower floor was the original; dug up in excavations. This was where our ancestors had actually lived, eaten and slept.
A highlight of the trip was when we made our own pittas on an open air oven! Everything really was just like back then. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get to keep the clothes, and we had to give them back when we left, but I did manage to get lots of pictures, so I can still see myself dressed like that.
Next we had an amazing Shabbaton in Tefahot, a small moshav in the middle of nowhere (even Daddy had never heard of it and had to Google to see where I meant) but with a most beautiful view. As with every Sem Shabbaton there was an abundance of singing and Ruach, but the highlight this time was on Friday night when one of our teachers shared her amazing story. She had gone from a secular irreligious kibbutz, then to a cult in India until finally living in Tzfat teaching at a Chabad Seminary. Absolutely amazing and inspiring.
In celebration of the anniversary when the Lubavitcher Rebbe got married, we had a mock wedding. It was in essence a glorified dance party, but full of lots of laughter as we tried to mimic a real wedding.
As ever we’ve also had a good chunk of solid lessons. My Ivrit has definitely improved, and I’m understanding all the lessons fluently. Which makes it so much easier and so much more fun. My new proficiency in Ivrit has definitely made it easier to engage in the lessons, something which I love doing. I am never quiet in a lesson!
Another aspect of Sem learning are the full day workshops; they take the lessons and concepts and teach them in an informal and fun way. I find them inspiring, entertaining, thought provoking and more, they really enhance our regular school days. The most recent one was a week before Chanukah, and it commemorates an important date in the Chabad calendar: when in 1798, Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad Chassidus was released from a Czarist prison, where he had been kept for 53 days. His crime: inspiring the impoverished Jews of Russia and spreading the delights and lessons of Chassidus.
The day began with looking at the fact that we all have boundaries within ourselves, ways in which we limit ourselves or are prevented by others from fulfilling our true potential. We then split off into 3 groups, exploring the concept deeper, how we could break through these limitations using the teachings of Chassidus and challenging each other to find our own individual key to full success. After lunch, we brought our learning into action and went in groups all over the Galil with the mission to inspire others. We ended off the day with a sumptuous banquet accompanied by a live orchestra by some very talented girls in the Sem.
Another really awesome part about seminary which I am really coming to appreciate is the fact that I am living with girls from all over the world. There are girls from Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, France, America, Canada, Ukraine, Russia, Australia, South Africa and a bunch of other countries around the world. In my apartment of 9 girls, none of us come from the same place. It’s really amazing how everyone is from different backgrounds, and all have different talents but we all get on so well together, and everyone adds so much to this year of life called the seminary experience.
The Shabbos before Chanukah we had an “Apartment Shabbos”. That week we had to make Shabbos ourselves. We baked Challos, made chicken soup and main course and baked dessert. One girl got really fancy making garlic confit to put on top of our Challah. I made a chocolate bark, which was finished in minutes.
Then came Chanuka. Oh what a time to be in Israel. 8 days of non stop action. With special lessons, 3 programmes every day, Menorah lighting; there was barely any time to take a breath. But breathe we did, and on second day Chanuka we headed out for a three day vacation to rest up and rejuvenate. But which teenage girl rests? They were running around from one activity to the next. For me, I didn’t have any deliberations of what to do, nothing to plan, just one bus and one train to Ben Gurion Airport to greet Mummy, Daddy and Tzivia. The next two days were so much fun, spending time with my family and catching up on all the news from Bowdon. We sat on the beach at sunset learning and we stood in Kikar Rabin as the largest Menorah in Israel was lit. One of my highlights was when we went to visit Dov Landua and he told me some of his story, in Ivrit. When Daddy made the mistake of saying Dov was 96, he stood up, did a little jig and declared “I am 94 and a half!” We spent 2 hours with him and we could have been there all day.
The it was back to Tzefat for a day of lessons, but not for long, as Friday morning I got in the car to join everyone in Yerusholayim. I haven’t spent Shabbos with my family for so long, so it was always going to be amazing, but to get to do it in Jerusalem and to Daven by the Kotel and walk through the streets of the Old City on Shabbos Chanukah was just so special. When we had visited him on Wednesday, Dov told us that in fact he would also be in Yerusholayim over Shabbos, staying with his son in the Old City and we went there on our way home from the Kotel after Kabbalat Shabbat – together with Jeremy, Gillian and Adam Bernstein. How special it was to see Dov with his son, grand-daughter and great grand children. What an answer to Hitler’s hatred!
Unfortunately I had to go straight back to Sem on Sunday morning, but I know it won’t be that long (just 79 days) until I get to come home and see everyone for Pesach.
Signing off now, but not for too long this time as I have lots to tell you about the last two days of Chanuka and my trip to Eilat which I’ve only just got back from. So see you soon.

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  • Pamela,Adler January 5, 2023   Reply →

    Your daughter is quite amazing, such a talented author

  • Heather schweuger January 6, 2023   Reply →

    What amazing blogs. I found them
    Most interesting. Your experience in Israel
    Will stand you in good stead. Well done and keep enjoying your stay

  • Louise Cohen January 9, 2023   Reply →

    Dear Chaya,

    I hope you’re well.

    I’ve really enjoyed reading all your reports this evening.

    You write so well. Your reports are beautifully descriptive and you paint wonderful pictures in your writing.

    As a journalist, I appreciate excellence in writing and your reports are excellent.

    I’m so impressed by them, and can see that you’ve put such a lot of work into writing these.

    This is admirable, as you obviously have a lot of work and outside activities to do as well as writing these.

    I’ve enjoyed your photographs too.

    Many years ago, I and my family visited Tsefat. I was so impressed with it and enjoyed visiting the Ari’s Shul and wandering the streets. We stayed in the Rimon Inn – is it still there?

    We bought artwork from Mr Katzmacher, who had a studio in Tsefat. His art was displayed in the street. I also interviewed him. I still have some of his artwork, if you’re interested in seeing it when you return to Bowdon.

    Ron, my husband, and I have joined your Shul, so look forward to seeing you there when you return.

    Looking forward to your next report.

    Hope you keep well and carry on having a wonderful time.

    With thanks and best wishes Louise Cohen

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