Israel Journey 1: Update #2

Dear Friends and Families,

We have had a great start to our trip.  Our group is quickly becoming a mishpachah, family.  We already feel like we have known each other forever. From the moment we all landed in Tel Aviv and met up with each other, friendships were formed and bonds were made.

We began our first day of touring in Jerusalem.  We started at the Haas Promenade, looking over the beautiful city of Jerusalem.  We played a few games to continue to get to know each other, wrote ourselves a special note and took some pictures in the beautiful scenery.  We said the Shecheyanu and had a special L’chayim toast.

From there, we went to David’s Tomb, had lunch in the Jewish Quarter and went for our first visit to The Wall.  It was interesting because the teens told us they weren’t sure how they felt about The Wall yet.  They have learned about it for so many years, but finally standing before it was “surreal.”  Some of them were emotional and others felt that they needed to visit again before they were ready to put a note in.  Luckily, we will be going back.

The highlight of the day was exploring the “water tunnel” at the City of David.  The tunnel was dark, wet (up to their knees at places) and narrow.  Instantly, bonds were formed as groups of teens worked together to guide each other, help each other and support each other.

Back at the hotel, we hung out after dinner and played even more games.  We are quickly getting to know everybody’s name – there are 44 to learn! – by playing a bunch of games.  Our favorite so far is “Nitsan to Emma.”  Nitsan is our guide, Gleb is our guard, Kiim, Zoe and Lucas are our staff.  All 5 bonded with our group instantly and we are all having a great time!

On Friday, we woke up early and had a great breakfast buffet.  Then we traveled to Beit Guvrin and got to help excavate an ancient archaeological site.  We found shards of pottery and other cool things.  We went down into a cave and dug with tools and our hands.  We got pretty dirty but it was still fun.  They we went splunking through another cave.  Our adventurous sides really clicked in.

From there we traveled to Caesarea.  We explored the Roman amphitheater.  Some of our group were even brave enough to get on stage and perform.  They were awesome!  Micah sang 3 songs, Cooper played the guitar while Rachel and Daniel sang a song and then a big group got up on stage and sang, This is the Hope!  Everybody was cheering.

On our way to the new hotel, we stopped a grocery store to pick up some snacks.  That was a real adventure.  The store was huge and very crowded (right before Shabbat).  Everybody spoke Hebrew and all of the food was labeled in Hebrew. We had a lot of fun trying to guess what we were buying.  Chocolate and chips were the big hits.

We arrived to our new hotel in Akko to prepare for Shabbat.  We went on top of a fortress and had our own Shabbat service as the sun was setting overhead.  The teens led each other in song and prayer.  It was spiritual and special.  And then we had an awesome Shabbat Dinner, followed by some team bonding games and then a wonderful kumsitz in the courtyard, let by Cooper.  The group really loves sitting around and singing with each other.

For pictures of their journey, please check out our trip Facebook album which we will be updating regularly.

Shabbat Shalom,

Israel Journey #1 Bus

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