Chaya’s Final Israel Blog

Hey everyone!

{Firstly an excuse – you would/should have received this last week whilst I was flying back home, but for the last week of Sem my phone (with which I have written all my articles) was broken.} 

I am back in Manchester! I have had an amazing year in Israel, and I loved sharing all about it with you. So here goes the last and final Israel tidbit! 

Lag B’omer was amazing. In England you were celebrating the Coronation and Bowdon Shul had its famous Fire Pit, but in Israel we did things slightly differently. We started with an all-nighter in Meron. Praying by the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, whose Yartzheit is on Lag B’Omer, was really inspirational. I wasn’t able to be there as long as I wanted as it was packed and we were only able to have a few moments each – but it was still worthwhile. We then moved up to the famous blue roof on top of the grave where we were able to see all the dancing going on in the area below us; it was electric, and a group of us started a women’s circle of dancing.

Off to one side were individual groups of whole families, each one dancing around a young boy sitting on a high chair; it was the little boy’s third birthday and they were giving him his first haircut – his Opshernish. Suddenly we saw all the women moving in one direction, so we followed and we found ourselves right in front of the huge bonfires. Because of the accident 2 years ago the fires were done in a secluded area with separate times for men and women coming to see, instead of being right in the middle of the dancing. The strangest part about the whole experience was when people started throwing towels and shirts, and some whole bottles of oil over people’s heads into the fires. Apparently it’s a custom to add something of your own into the fire. We were there for hours, just soaking up the whole atmosphere of this once in a lifetime experience. Finally, at 4am we started heading back to Tzafas, for as much as we wanted to stay all night, we had a busy day tomorrow. 

A few short hours later after barely any sleep, I went with a group of 10 to Chatzor, a small city some half an hour from Tzafas to help run a children’s parade. Once we had finished there, we joined up with a larger group of around 50 Sem girls and went to south Tzafas where we helped with a huge parade. It was, as I learnt along the way, actually 10 separate parades that would all join into one. I was in charge of the group that was the furthest away from the meeting point, so as we went along more and more children joined in, until we arrived at the central location with a group of over 200 children: it really was an amazing and inspirational sight.

By this point night was falling, and we went straight from the parades to the Sem Bonfire. This we built ourselves and sat around singing late into the star filled night of a Galilee sky.

As I have previously told you, part of the Sem program includes Shabbatons, and for some reason this next one was back in Meron. Many Israelies had been camping along the mountain for the past two weeks and some were still there enjoying the aftermath of Lag B’Omer. This created an interesting sight seeing all the different makeshift tents and cars turned in houses dotted all over. I have been privileged to experience many wonderful Shabbatot during my year in Israel, and this was definitely amongst the top: it was a most meaningful time and we spent most of it by the grave of the great Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, author of the Zohar, hero of the Jewish resistance against Rome and one of the most influential voices within the Talmud.

Sem life runs at the speed of light, and a short two weeks later was Shavuos and the Sem took us all to Yerushalayim. I have been there many times before, both with Sem and with my family, but this was something different. We were staying in a dormitory by Zion Gate – right above the gravesite of King David (Yes I know, ancient graves of our Biblical and Rabbinical leaders seems to have been a running theme!) What can I say, it was arguably the best location to stay in in Yerushalayim over Shavuos; King David’s Yartzheit is on Shavuos and there were people there constantly, at all times of day and night, and we were right in the thick of it.

Not that we needed any excuse, but on Shavuos there is a tradition to stay up all night long, albeit in order to learn Torah in preparation for hearing the 10 Commandments. It was a long night filled with lessons, talks, songs, quite a lot of coffee and some snoring as well. Then before dawn was even a hint on the horizon, we made our way to the Kosel to begin Shacharis. Now that was a once in a lifetime experience; hearing the Torah’s description of the monumental events at Mount Sinai, the sound of thunder, the call of the Shofar and the Giving of the Torah by Hashem, listening to those words being read just as the sun started to make its way over the horizon and peaked over the Kosel and the Temple Mount is something I will always treasure and never forget.

We had arrived at the Kosel Plaza at 5.00 am when it was still pitch black, but when we left at 8, there was a brilliant sunshine bathing everyone there in a light that was somehow purer and more special than usual. The Kosel was packed, there were so many Jews from so many different walks of life all converging on the Kosel at this one time, for this special and holy experience; it was absolutely incredible. 

After Davening we helped run a booth at the entrance to the Kosel Plaza giving food and water to people who, having spent all night learning, had to now make the long trek back to their homes; for some this was a 2 hour walk to the outer edges of the new city of Yerushalayim. We were a 10 minute stroll to Zion Gate!

As I mentioned, Shavuos is also King David’s Yartzheit, and many people take the opportunity to Daven at his grave. Well we were staying right there, although due to the crowds it was still difficult to get right in. However, after a year of experience, especially with the crowds at Meron just a fortnight earlier, I was able to make my way right to the front and had the merit to read the words of King David’s Tehillim and Daven for all of my family and friends.

As you know, other than Rosh Hashana, all Yomim Tovim in Israel are just one day, but as Shavuos was a Friday we went straight into Shabbos so it was like a 2 day Yom Tov anyway. In a previous family trip to Yerushalayim, Daddy had taken us to the famous Churvah Shul – built in the early 1700’s, destroyed by the Ottomans not long afterwards, rebuilt in the mid 1800’s where it stood in brilliant magnificence until it was destroyed by the Arabs in 1948 and remained a ruin (Churvah in Ivrit) until it was beautifully restored in 2010. With its ornate domed ceiling it’s renowned for its splendid and rousing Kabbolas Shabbos service, but unfortunately I was in for a bitter surprise as when a Yom Tov goes straight into a Shabbos they skip the melodic Kabbolas Shabbos and go straight to Maariv! Luckily the Kosel was just a few minutes walk away so I went there instead.

The next morning, I went to the Tzemach Tzedek, the Chabad Lubavitch Shul in the Old City, established back in 1845. This Shul is unique, being the only one that is still in its original form. When Israel won the war of Independence but lost control of the Old City in 1948, every other Shul, some like the Churvah with a long and illustrious history, were all destroyed. This Shul right in the heart of the old city, situated above the ancient Roman Cardo (which at the point was still covered in centuries of rubble and would not be discovered for a few decades) was the only one to survive. Although it then had another scare, when in 1967 after the IDF liberated the Old City putting it back into Jewish hands, the government decreed that all public buildings had to be demolished and rebuilt as they were unstable due to the bombings and the shelling during the wars of ‘48 and ‘67. Of course the Lubavitch community put up a fight and argued that it was unthinkable for the Jewish government to destroy the one Shul that the Arabs had left standing in the Old City of Yerushalayim.

On Shabbos afternoon we completed a most special and spiritual 48 hours, with a grand singing session with over 200 women all sharing an inspiring experience as our voices joined as one as the sun set over Yerushalayim and an unforgettable Shavuos and Shabbos.

But it is not only spiritual experiences, and that evening after Shabbos I had an amazing visit: Iain and Margaret Goldrein met me for supper in the Mamilla Mall. I really enjoyed spending time with fellow Bowdonites, catching up on all the news and of course having a heated discussion with Iain about Zionism and Religion!

Once we got back to Tzafas after Shavuos, we began a crazily intense two and a half weeks. In addition to my regular lessons and exams, I volunteered to be part of a committee working on the ‘Farbrengen Book’, which would be a transcript of every single speaker we had had throughout the school year – all the informal talks and gatherings, everything outside of the core lessons. For the next week and a half there was virtually no sleep for any of us on this committee, with the night before our exams starting being an actual all nighter. The book with over 40 talks in it, had to be completed in time so it could be printed and distributed by the end of the school year. It was a crazy amount of work, but it was really amazing and extremely rewarding when on the last day of term we were given our copy of the book: those long hours of work sure paid off. 

My final “Shabbat Chofsha – Free Shabbos” of the year was spent in Ashdod. There was a heat wave (and that’s when my phone literally fried) but we had a really interesting Shabbos, as my host family did not speak a word of English. It was really exciting for me to see how well my Ivrit has become, so much so that my friend (also an English, well American speaker) and I even started talking in Ivrit to each other 🙂 

Then it was straight back to Tzafas – with a broken phone and a worried set of parents back in Bowdon who couldn’t get hold of me – for the all-nighter I mentioned before, and exams first thing on Sunday morning. This was a marathon of tests; 3 a day for 9 days, but it was actually a lot of fun reviewing everything we had learnt over the course of this year, and we even managed to squeeze in some time and convinced a few of our favorite teachers to give us some special lessons.

Then, and I can’t believe I am saying this, came our last day of Sem. It began with a grand banquet the previous evening that culminated with one final Kumzits singing session then lasted throughout the night. I left at 3.00 am as I did not want to be late for the final day of learning at 7.00 am. We had our last three lessons and then just like that it was over.

We packed our clothes, left behind gifts for our friends from school who were going to Tzafas next year, and spent an emotional day saying goodbye to friends as busload by busload they left to the airport and all four corners of the world. I was on the last bus out, but still had an 8 hour wait in the airport, which meant I saw everyone leaving: saying goodbye was not easy. My phone was still broken, but this being Israel I was able to ask random people in the airport if I could borrow theirs and keep mummy and daddy updated before my flight home.

It has been an amazing year, a year of growth and education in all aspects of my life. A year of knowledge, of friends and personal achievements.I feel so privileged and blessed to have been gifted this experience, and even more so to have a community such as ours that I have been able to share this with.

I hope you have enjoyed my little taste of life in Israel as a seminary girl, that you have lived it vicariously through my blogs and that I didn’t bore you, but actually managed to entertain and maybe even to have successfully given over some of the lessons I learnt.

So for the last time: 



P.S.  Next year my blogs will please G-d come from the Big Apple and the City of New York as I go on to Sem Beis in Crown Heights

8th Report from Israel – 4th May

Hey everyone!

How is everyone doing back in Manchester?

It was amazing coming back and seeing you all. I really enjoyed spending time with the community over Pesach, and the highlight was definitely the Shul Seder, especially when we finished for 10.15!!

Here in Israel things have really been getting intense as we gear up for the last stretch of the year. We only have seven weeks of school left, which includes exam period as well, so everyone is taking advantage to soak up as much information as we can. This does mean that sometimes the lessons get really intense, with respectful but heated discussions: teenage girls can be very solid debaters. 

As soon as we got back after the Pesach break, we dived head-first into preparations for ‘Shabbos Aryeh Leib’ – named after Rabbi Aryeh Leib Kaplan, the first Chabad Shliach to Tzfat. On this Shabbos, all the Chabad Seminaries in Israel are hosted by my Sem in Tzfat. And as hosts we are responsible for the program and activities. 

It was a really amazing Shabbos. Just imagine, 400 inspired, idealistic Sem girls, all sharing the same ideals and focused on their own and the world’s spiritual betterment, all in one room singing together at the Shabbos table. It was an experience I’ll never forget.

It started on Thursday afternoon when the coaches started arriving with the Sem girls from around Israel. I was part of the committee who ran the opening program, after which we split up for various workshops. That was followed by a 4 hour long Farbrengen. There really is no English word to adequately describe a Chassidish Farbrengen, which literally translates as a “joyous gathering”. It’s the reverse of a sermon where 5 minutes can feel like 4 hours. 

This was story time with friends where the vistas of your spiritual imagination are opened, where your soul soars on the wings of Hassidik melodies, and where the problems of day to day life simply melt away. For four hours, story led to song which led to story, each one with a lesson that led to the next song and story, culminating with the lessons merging together in harmony leaving us with a powerful message of hope and inspiration.

For me there was an added bonus: my teachers and most of my friends have either spoken in Ivrit or American, but the speaker at our Farbrenegen was from England and even better, had grown up in Manchester. Oh what a delight it was to once again hear the king’s English: I never realised how much I had been missing the eloquence of an English accent!!

On Friday we had a panel, led by girls from all of the seminaries. I found it really interesting to hear what girls my age had to say on a whole range of topics. One point that really resonated with me was a quote that daddy has often mentioned and which he reminded me afterwards was one he had been taught by his father: “Bechira Chofshis is a result of Hashgacha Protis – Free Choice is a result of Divine Providence” This means that what happens to us is not by chance, if we are in a certain place, it is because Hashem wants us to be there at that specific time, and we have a mission to fulfil. But what is our choice? What we choose to do once we get there. Or as my Zeideh used to say: “Where a person finds themselves is Divine Providence, what they do there is Free Choice”.

That really resonated with me; the fact that I am in seminary in Israel is because Hashem decided that this is where I need to be this year, but it is up to me to choose how I make use of my time here. I hope that I have done the best I can, and I am looking forward to my final 7 weeks here. 

This Shabbos is an away one, and I have been invited back to Yerushalayim. One of the heads of the Seminary in Yerushalayim who hosted me on Sukkos, was at our Shabbaton this week and she asked me when I was going to go back and visit.  I guess I behaved myself last time! 

Next week is Lag B’Omer and whilst I will be missing Bowdon’s amazing fire pit BBQ, I am really excited to be going to Meron for the festivities there.

See you next time and have a Great Shabbos,


P.S. – Earlier today I had an interview for Sem in New York next year and I really can’t wait for the next stage in my education.

P.P.S. – I can’t believe I am saying this, but one of my classmates from Manchester (albeit nearly a year older than me), just got engaged!!! That’s crazy. Lovely and exciting, but crazy!!!

7th Report From Israel – Actually from the air above Israel! 23.3.23

Hey everyone!

Whilst you are reading this, I am 30,000 feet in the air (that is if you read it within the first 5 hours of being posted) because I am coming home!

It has been a really exciting busy last month, filled with programs, learning and just about everything else in-between. 

It began with a really awesome full day program designated to learning about the specialty and uniqueness of a Jewish home and the role of the Jewish wife in maintaining that home. My favourite kind of learning: fun and learning combined. 

Then one day I decided it was time to have actual fun, so me and a few other girls went to the local High School’s production. Aside for it being a cool story, I actually understood everything of the Ivrit only show. 

The next week was Purim: except in Israel Purim actually lasts a week. As you will all know, Purim is celebrated on the 14th of Adar except for those cities that were walled in the times of Joshua, where it is celebrated a day later on the 15th. Most cities in Israel celebrate it on the same day as you are used to in Bowdon on the 14th, whereas Jerusalem (both the Old Walled City and the New unwalled part) celebrate on the 15th. But here is the complication: there are some cities where they are unsure how ancient the walls are, were they possibly walled back in the days of Joshua? To remove any doubt, they celebrate on both days.

Tzfat of course is one of those cities, meaning I had a double Purim this year. Which sounds like fun, but remember it also meant that I had to listen to the Megillah four times! 

Actually, Israel is the only place in the world, where someone can legally miss Purim. If for example a person is in Yerushalayim for the 14th of Adar, meaning it is not yet Purim for them and then they leave the city just before nighttime going to a place where Purim has just ended, they can technically avoid everything. Obviously most people try to do the exact opposite and specifically go to Yerushalayim for the 15th in order to celebrate again.

Being in Tzfat, I didn’t have to travel anywhere and automatically was blessed with the double Purim. Plus, for those of you who have read my previous blogs, it meant that I was ensured of no crazy bus stories.

So, on Purim night after my first of what would be four Megillah readings, me and about 15 other girls who had remained in Tzfat made a huge break-the-fast party. We all made some food for the potluck and everyone had a real blast. The next morning, I went with a few friends to help one of our teachers give out Mishloach Manot to his community. 

I was very excited; what a perfect way to put my Ivrit to use. Then I was told: They are Russian and hardly speak a word of Ivrit! So armed with Google translate and the handful of Russian words I know, my friend and I went around and visited a bunch of Russians. They were all very old and barely leave their homes, so we literally brought Purim to them: we helped them perform the Mitzvah of Mishloach Manot, told them how they can listen to the Megillah. When we left they were smiling from ear to ear. We quite literally made their day, no their week! I felt really accomplished.

Then as soon as we finished that, we rushed over to help run a community Purim Seudah. Our job? Be counsellors and attempt to look after the 200 kids running wild all over the grounds. The ratio of counsellors to children: 33:1, oh it was fun and games. And then when that was done, we got to start all over again. Only in Tzfat!

The next day was strange, as when I messaged home, it was no longer Purim, but for me it was Purim all over again. Sort of the reverse of every other Yom Tov when Israelis have one day Yom Tov whilst everyone else has two. But it was funny. 

Together with a few of my friends, I went to the children’s hospital in Tzfat, where we gave the kids Mishloach Manot and cheered them up. We then ended off 3 amazing days with a trip to a restaurant for a festive meal and then we went to Meron to Daven at the grave of the holy Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (of Lag B’Omer fame). 

With no time to rest, the very next day we all went on a Sem Shabbaton to Migdal Ha’Emek. But of course we couldn’t go straight there; no we had to go on a hike. In normal circumstances, an hour and 15 minute walk on a straight path is really easy. But add a heatwave and no shade, it’s not that fun. But the views were insane, so it kind of made up for the heat, and as it was followed by a really nice relaxing Shabbaton it was all good.

When we got back to Sem the countdowns started. All everyone could speak about was how many days or even hours it would be till they flew home. The teachers had an extra hard time getting everyone to focus, especially this last week when we were in to our last four days.

And there’s not really much more to say other than see you in a few hours!



P.S. – My flight home is scheduled to last 5 hours – my travel time from Tzfat to Ben Gurion took longer! But at least it gave me time to write this all up ready to be posted just as I take off.

6th Report From Israel 23.2.23

Hey everyone!

Sorry for the long gap, things have been really hectic here. They still are but I have a spare minute so decided now would be the perfect time to catch up. Continuing on from where I left off last time; the end of Chanukah was amazing. After I said goodbye to Mummy, Daddy and Tzivia, I got on a bus to head back to Tzfat, but in Israel, the land of crazy bus stories, this too turned into another ‘episode,’ because after just a few minutes the bus broke down and they had to bring a replacement. When I finally got back, I arrived during a special Chanukah activity: colour war. More specifically, an intense debate on the themes of both teams. But that was fun, especially as the next day was all tests.

But these weren’t regular tests for the academic subjects we are learning in Sem. No, I am now certified to do CPR, identify when someone is going through an asthma attack or having a heart attack, I can use an epipen, and perform the Heimlich manoeuvre (I still remember when Daddy had to perform that one in a restaurant.) I also know a bunch of  what will hopefully remain theoretical info (albeit useful for a trivia quiz.) I am also able to tell you exactly how to apply the various different types of  tourniquets, but as we weren’t taught the practical for that I’ll be useless in real life, so I don’t think you’d want me with you in a dangerous situation. 

But anyways, back to the matter at hand. After Chanukah we had an amazing overnight trip down to Eilat. We stopped after 4 hours in order to climb Masada at dawn, which was amazing seeing the sun rise over the mountain where my ancestors held their last stand against the Romans before giving their lives in self sacrifice. From there we went straight to Ein Gedi where we first did a water hike, and then went scrambling up mountains. Some slight relaxation as we floated in the Dead Sea, and then it was on to Eilat. During supper we were treated to an amazing speaker and then we got to sleep in a hotel. The next morning we were split up into groups, and were sent to various schools where we gave lessons to the kids, all in Ivrit, but it was amazing. I think the Sem thought we were training for the IDF, as we then went on another hike, a real one, like scrambling through rocks kind of hike. This one was in the Red Canyon, and we were treated to breathtaking views. It was awesome and totally worth the aching muscles. 

Then, with barely a moment to breath, exam season started. 3 big exams a day. It was nonstop tests, nonstop learning. For almost 2 whole weeks. That’s 26 exams in total! But during that intense period I got a really nice surprise, as a very good friend from London who I haven’t seen in half a year came to visit me.

And then came our end of semester break, a well deserved one at that. 

I went with a friend to Yerushalayim where we went museum hopping. We began on Thursday, when we visited the Burnt House (in the Old City). This is the remains of a house from the Second Temple period, which was burnt in the conflagration during the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash in the year 70 CE. Due to the ash everything is preserved as it was then, which together with a video depicting the story of the family who had lived there at that time, really brought everything to life. Then later in the evening, we did the Kotel tunnel tours. The tours take you underground along the entire length of the Western Wall (the Wall that we see in the Plaza is less than a quarter of the actual length), until we reached ground level, standing on the very stones our ancestors walked on their way to the Bet Hamikdash. 

Friday was a heavier day, as we went to Yad Vashem. It was heartbreaking but a really moving experience. One thing that really shook me was looking at a page ripped out of a book planning the final solution; the book listed cities and how many Jews were in each city. On a page of 19 cities, at the bottom was the number 11,000,000! They truly wanted to murder us all, including the 350,000 Jews that were living then in the UK. We could have spent hours there, but since it was Friday we had to leave early, so we sort of rushed through all the hard parts of the actual concentration camps. 

We were staying with my cousin who lives directly across from the famous Ben Yehudah Shuk, so of course we went there right before Shabbos. Now that was an amazing experience, the crowds of people all rushing to get their last minute purchases before Shabbos created pushing on a whole different level. But I found gluten free Challah and cake for Shabbos so I was very happy. Sunday was back on the museum tour, this time to ANU, in Tel Aviv. I had been there with Daddy last year, but it was still a lot of fun. For one, I knew what to miss, and two I learned so much as it is such a large museum that we had to skip parts last time. We were there for ages, and almost the entire time was spent on massive interactive exhibit dedicated to Jewish History. Although I was a tiny bit disappointed, as they had changed something, taking away one of my favourite parts from last time, but whatever:)

That Shabbat off was our “half term” and I got back to Tzfat just over a week and a half ago, and it’s been full swing into the second half of Sem. But they didn’t give us a moment to breath, as 3 days after the semester started, they broke out the Sem Play – to be performed 6 days later. In Ivrit! But it was very fun and a nice challenge to act in a new language. So whilst busy with that, we had to get back into the swing of things. Some of the lessons are new so we got new teachers, but there are still all of my favourite ones. And as ever we have our programmes. Last night we had an amazing speaker, Mrs Chana Margoulis, who told us parts of her amazing life story. She grew up on a farm in Canada barely knowing anything about Judaism. Her family then moved to the city where she went through a rebellious teenage stage, from drugs to Buddhism, then finally finding Judaism. And then just as she was settling down and had started her seminary year in Israel she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. She went back to Canada and Baruch Hashem the treatment was successful and she now lives here in Tzfat. Her talk was really inspirational, and she shared with us how she overcame her challenges, and gave us practical tips for life. I bought her book “Jumping in Puddles” which I will be bringing back here with me.

Now we have just started the month of Adar, and for us it means 2 things. One: as it is the month of Purim, we party and dance every night and we do a load of harmless tricks (or “shticks” as they are known) on our teachers, without getting into too much trouble. And two: it is just 29 days till I fly home. 

Lehitraot, see you in less than month!!


Ps. Here’s a poem I wrote after I visited Yad Vashem 






Just rows upon rows of numbers 

Marching by


Then simply gone 

Swallowed up into oblivion.

These numbers used to have an identity 

A name 

A past

But now they are just a number 

A digit 

Lost in the myriads

6 million.


Numbers or identities 

Numbers or names

Numbers or people 

What are we going to remember?

The sheer magnitude of it all

The total tragedy 

Of 6 million no more?

Or will we remember the personal 

The stories 

What lies behind each number.


The 6 million people 

That make up this horror

Each had a past 

And they should have had a future too.

But it was taken 

Stolen from them 

Along with their identities

Let us not remember 6 million numbers 

Let us remember the 6 million people 

Let us count 6 million lives


Standing at ground level in the Western Wall Tunnels on the very stones that the Kohanim would walk along on their way to the Temple 2000 years ago.

Chaya’s Blog #5 – Special Edition for HMD

Hi everyone,

I hope you are all well. 

My regular monthly blog is in the works, and I look forward to sharing it with you next week. However, as Providence would have it, I went on a special Sem trip to a Holocaust Museum last week, and as it will be Holocaust Memorial Day next week,(Friday 27 January) Daddy suggested that this should be a standalone entry.

The museum wasn’t an ordinary Holocaust Museum; it is situated in a Kibbutz built at the birth of the State by Holocaust survivors called לוחמי הגיטאות – Fighters of the Ghetto. It is part of a larger museum called the Ghetto Fighter’s House, but this section is called יד לילד – Hand to the Child, and was built for the express purpose of educating younger children about the Holocaust.

The whole focal point of the museum was very different from any others I’ve been to previously and it did not focus on the darkness and horrors of the Holocaust. Instead it looked at the Holocaust through the eyes of children who lived through it, and how they survived in a world suddenly gone black- by finding fragments of light peeking through the darkness.

We started the day with a one person monologue/show. This show introduced us to the concept of children in the Holocaust, but intriguingly it was not through the events that transpired then, but rather through the eyes of children who met those child survivors afterwards. We saw how young children on a Kibbutz viewed these young survivors who had come to live with them. They may have all been the same age, but because of their experiences these amazing survivors, children who had lived through the worst horrors known to man, some of whom had known nothing other than the depravity of the Ghettos and Camps were smaller and weaker. They were scarred and scared, and they initially responded to the children’s friendly overtures in strange ways, sometimes by hitting or even biting, making them seem weird, frightening even.

But then we watched how with the passage of time, things slowly changed. The War of Independence being a turning point in this strange relationship with the children starting to accept and possibly even to understand each other.

With that introduction, we started our tour through the Museum. Not much attention was paid to the horrors going on, but rather to the children’s reaction to what was going on around them. We began in a room with paintings that children drew in the Ghetto. One which I found particularly poignant was a picture of a perfectly normal sun, flowers and butterflies, albeit portrayed as being  behind bars. 

The museum went around in a spiral, descending lower and lower, through the years, until we came to train tracks, leading us to the lowest, darkest point: Auschwitz. At each stage, there were testimonials of children survivors, saying their stories, personal memories of those dark years through the eyes of a child. Although it was difficult, we were charged with finding the fragments of light that had kept the children alive through those dark times. 

Afterwards there was a workshop where this point was reinforced. We were each told to draw a picture showcasing either life before or after the Holocaust, and the Holocaust itself. Focusing on how, although things changed with much lost and some never to be back again, there were still fragments of light shining through. Now I am not much of an artistic person, so I kinda broke the rules a little, and chose instead to write a poem expressing my feelings, because why draw when I can give myself over much better in writing. 

When we left I took with me a whole new outlook on the Holocaust. I saw it through a perspective I’ve never before seen; for whilst I am not looking at this piece of history with rose coloured glasses, I am now able to see the light shining through the darkness. 

Shattered illusion and the fragments of light:




A green meadow 

Grass swaying in the breeze.

But the peace is not lasting 


Into thousands of fragments 

The meadow

An illusion 

Fading into the sounds of war.

Darkness descends 


Attics cellars 




The light behind the walls.

The barbed wire fences 

Blocking the green meadow 

The joys I no longer share  

Will the sun ever shine again for me?

Will I see the grass swaying in the breeze?

Is there even light for me

After this devastating tragedy?

Can the shattered fragments

Be made whole again

Making the darkness 

A fading illusion?

Yes it can!

This life I can rebuild

This light I can find again

Picking up the pieces of my life may not be easy.

But the points of light

The fragments scattered in the darkness 

Will become the foundation 

Of the new picture of my life.

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.

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!)

2nd Report from Israel – 24 October 2022

Hi, I’m back for another Israel Tidbit.
Succos in Israel is amazing. There was no rain to speak of at all, no discussions about braving it and keeping the roof open, or shutting it halfway and just letting the men get soaked. Just plain yet brilliantly pure blue skies. Plus there was the extra day of Chol Hamoed, giving me more time to tour Israel.
But anyways I am rushing ahead of myself, although as I was told to only write my next tidbit after Succos, you can’t blame me for being all excited:)
So backtracking and starting again through the awesome month of Tishrei. After Rosh Hashona and my last message home, it was straight back to lessons. Although as it was a fast day, it was only a half day of learning. But our hunger certainly did not stop us enjoying our lessons. That day will always stand out in my head as ‘the day I learnt pie’; the maths one that is, not the delicious ones. If there is one thing I wasn’t expecting in seminary it was to learn maths; but here I was learning circle theorem and pie. When I mentioned this to Daddy, his immediate response was, “Oh, you’re learning the Talmud Tractate of Succah!” Yes Talmud (Gemara) does include maths! (Now why GCSEs can’t have this kind of fun maths is beyond me, but I think I’m going off topic).
The Aseres Yemei Teshuva (the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) flew by quickly, filled with learning, a Shabbaton in Achziv, a town right near the border with Lebanon, which included a singing session on the beach at sunset, and more lessons.
I think I need to put a “trigger warning” here, as on Erev Yom Kippur I did the unimaginable. By Kaporos, I. Held. A. Chicken! A real live chicken. I became quite attached to it, even giving it a name, “pargiyot”! I never thought that would happen, or that I would be brave enough to actually touch it in the first place, but hey, it’s all part of the experience!
Yom Kippur itself was just incredible, so inspiring! The Tefilos, the singing, the whole atmosphere. It was just incredible, and I feel that mere words won’t do it justice, so I will leave it to your imagination.
Then before I could stop to breathe came Succos. This was when I finally experienced what Israel is famous for – busses. The slow ones, the delayed ones, and the ones which just come with stories. Each one is a ‘Mini Israel on Wheels” But the busses only made up part of the experiences. Everywhere I went, there were Succos, and Lulovim. You could taste in the air that it was Succos!
On Chol Hamoed I went touring, beginning with an awesome experience at the “Museum for the Deaf” in Cholon. It is a sister to the “Museum for the Blind” which I visited with my parents back in 2019 and wrote my poem ‘Painting in Darkness’ . I absolutely recommend visiting both. The next day began with the world famous “Mass Birchas Kohanim” at the Kotel. The entire Old City of Jerusalem is reorientated to accommodate the vast numbers of people all streaming to the Kotel to receive the Kohen’s blessing. The pedestrianised areas are all one way. Daddy who knows the Old City off by heart had given me directions: they were useless. But truth be told they were also superfluous, as the human wave simply carried everyone straight to the Kotel. When I arrived, the atmosphere was electric, thousands of Kohanim of all ages, blessing tens of thousands of other Jews from all walks of life, that experience will never leave me.
We followed this with a specially organised 8 hour walking tour of the Old City, including the famous “Water Tunnels” from the time of the first Bet Hamikdash, over 2500 years ago during the reign of King Hezekiah. Plus of course there were the Simchas Beis Hashoeva parties every night: it was an experience to remember.
Then came the grand finale: Simchas Torah. In Israel, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah are all bundled up in one day, so it was straight into the dancing. And it didn’t stop for a full 36 hours: as even though Yom Tov was over there was a there was a full blown concert to coincide with the Hakofos being danced by all the Jews outside of Israel. I heard all about this year’s Hakofos in Bowdon, but I think I one upped you: I got Hakofos with a singer and a band! The incredible energy there is indescribable, the place was pumping. And I even met some famous politicians, or wannabes, Bibi Netanyahu, Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz, so that was very cool- although I didn’t get to meet them personally though so:(.
Now I have to calm down from it all and get back into real life and lessons again: this is certainly helped by experiencing my first Israeli thunderstorm crashing over my head, or shall I say, the roof 6 floors above me:) as I write this – a small reminder of Manchester!!
Well bye for now, see you again soon.

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.
Well, Lehitraot for now