Sunday, April 27, 2014

Day One

We are having a most excellent adventure.  While waiting to board our plane at Newark the students from all the schools began to get to know each other, playing their own version of Jewish geography; "Which school are you from? "What camp do you go to? Do you know _____?" 

Friday, April 25
Our first Shacharit in Israel
Although encouraged to sleep on the plane, the students were too excited and talked all the way across the Atlantic and Europe!  We arrived Friday morning excited and anticipating the start of our adventure. After retrieving our luggage we we were met by our Morah derech Ilan and our two madrichim Shiran and Eldad. At our first stop, Latrun,  the Hartford students lead ShacharitKol hakavod to Matt Patchen and Josh Shafer.  

Planting trees
Afterwards, like the pioneers, we got our hands dirty and planted our own trees in Israel. Each student dedicated his/her tree to a family member(s).
Rebecca Gold said, "It was nice to be a part of starting a new forest in Israel."

Finally it was lunchtime. We enjoyed Israeli sandwiches, muffins, and fruit. After Birkat Ha'mazon we hiked the Burma Road to better understand the struggles the Israelis faced in getting to Jerusalem during the War for Independence. "The view from the top was amazing. The it was a struggle to get to the top, especially on our first day! We could really appreciate the struggles our ancestors went through to get to Jerusalem" said Maddy Pliskin.

At this point we were exhausted but had one more stop to make before we arrived at the hotel. We stopped at the tayelet for the most magnificent view of Jerusalem.  We said a shechechyanu and toasted our new adventure.  

At last we made our way to the hotel. Tired and dirty, we went to our rooms to shower and prepare for Shabbat. We went to an area where we could overlook the Kotel 
and pray Kabbalat Shabbat.  It was unbelievably special and we all tried to take in the moment. Rebecca said, "It was the most important moment of our lives and we should cherish it always." 
The Kotel plaza was very crowded and from our vantage point we could watch the Orthodox men, in black and white, praying, while the IDF soldiers, dressed in khaki, danced with joy as everyone welcomed Shabbat. You could really
feel the worries and the stresses of the week fade away as our voices rose in prayer. Shiran brought us rugulach to sweeten our Shabbat. Yummy!

Everyone was hungry for dinner and enjoyed a traditional Israeli Shabbat dinner and afterwards visited with our new friends. Satiated and tired, we made an effort to get to bed at an early hour. 

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