May 18 – 25

As of this point, I’m more than halfway through with my trip.  (*panic*) With less than three weeks left, I’m realizing how much I appreciate and cherish all the experiences that I’ve had so far.  Israel is the best.  Anyway, earlier on in the week we took our second huge Israeli history test.  Now, we’re officially done with ancient history, and we’ve moved on to modernity.  Although ancient history is fascinating, it’s been great moving on to topics that are more relevant to today.  Here are some things we did on week five, our first week of modernity.

Zionism Seminar & Leket: Pretty soon after the test, our teacher assigned us a Zionism project.  We got split up into groups and researched five impactful Zionist thinkers.  Then we created presentations on them, including a poster, skit, and song.  We had a day to work, and the next morning we had a “Zionism Seminar” in our dorm, complete with a big breakfast, after which we watched all the lively presentations.  After a really unique morning, we took an afternoon trip to the main food bank of Israel, which is called Leket.  We peeled cabbages and put together crates of onions and radishes for families who needed them.  It didn’t smell the best, but with good music and good friends, anything is fun.

Jerusalem Shabbat: On this weekend, we had the incredible opportunity of spending Shabbat all together in Jerusalem.  Soon after we arrived, we had lunch in the famous Machane Yehuda Shuk.  The food was amazing, and there was such a buzz at the market as everyone was getting ready for Shabbat dinner.  Later in the day, we got all dressed up and walked to the Western Wall.  The experience of bringing in Shabbat at the Kotel during sunset is indescribable.  There were huge crowds, and everyone was singing and clapping.  The feeling in the air was one of true happiness. I’ll never forget this night because it felt to me like the epitome of what it means to be Jewish.  The next day was Saturday, most of which we spent walking around downtown Jerusalem.  Our teacher took us to places that are often skipped by tourists, and every place we saw was beautiful.  And after a nice Havdalah meal together, we headed back to campus.

Rural Day: Another fun trip we took during this week was surrounding our studies of the Second Aliyah, or the second group of “pioneers” that migrated to Israel.  We visited one of the first kibbutzim in Israel, went on a water hike, spent time in a cemetery where famous Zionists were buried, and more.

Holocaust Studies: Towards the end of the week, we spent several days studying and trying to begin to understand the tragedy that is HaShoah.  First, we spent a full day of class learning about the world events leading up to World War II, the Nazis rise to power, and eventually the Final Solution.  The next day, we visited the very somber Yad Vashem, where we focused more on the stories of individuals.  After walking through the powerful museum, we heard a testimony from a survivor who was kind enough to speak with us, and at the end of the day we all had a chance to share our families’ stories.  These few days were very impactful, and helped me to reflect on how lucky I am to be alive and openly Jewish in today’s world.  We ended the day on a more positive note, by observing the march in Jerusalem for Yom Yerushalayim – the fiftieth anniversary of Jerusalem’s unification. Lastly, we had some incredible pizza for dinner.

This week was an eclectic mix of various trips, but they were all memorable nonetheless.  Every week I feel more grateful to be living this experience.  And that’s all for week five.  Word.