MOTL #9: Coming to the End

Friday was an incredible day as our teens chose one of four electives for their day‘s adventures. One group went to Masada to climb a famous Roman fortress and learn about its important role in Jewish history. That bus continued their fun with an adventure in the Dead Sea. A second group went to the Gallillee to do a mild hike and spend some time bathing in the natural pools of the Sachneh. They had a blast enjoying the beautiful and the picturesque scenery. A third group went to spend some more time in the cultural epicenter of Israel, Tel Aviv. They enjoyed the day doing a graffiti tour and experiencing the finer cuisine that the old city of Jaffa has to offer. The fourth group also had their own unique adventure as the Dallas delegation went to their sister city of Acco, and the Seattle group visited Yad Vashem and Machaneh Yehudah Shuk.

All groups arrived safely and in plenty of time to prepare for the onset of Shabbat in Bet Shean. Shabbat in Bet Shean was amazing. We welcomed in Shabbat with a beautiful and moving Kabbalat Shabbat. Our teens planned a very powerful service that recapped all the powerful moments of prayer they experienced over our two-week journey together. This incredible service included powerful moments of prayer and group singing. After our delicious dinner, we had more opportunities for singing and dancing with either Shabbat Shirah or Rabbi’s tisch. Beautiful singing and loud dancing could be heard for miles emanating from both of these rooms. 

Shabbat morning our teens led a very beautiful and inspiring service that highlighted our turbulent, yet, inspiring history. Our Shabbat morning services also featured 8 B’nai Mitzvah. These 8 teens wanted to celebrate their Judaism and devote themselves anew to their Jewish faith. They wanted this moment to occur on our Shabbat in Israel with their new found friends and fellow March of the Living participants. Even for those of us not celebrating a B’nai Mitzvah, it was truly beautiful to watch and listen to those teens who were marking this special occasion. 

After services, our teens were able to attend two electives on such diverse and informative topics. Some of those sessions included Israeli politics, water issues, life in Israel, handling anxiety, staying involved in BBYO, and finding a gap year or other opportunities in Israel. 

Shabbat afternoon our teens were able to relax by the pool, basketball court, or the beautiful open plaza. Additionally, we had the unique opportunity to tour the impressive Roman ruins of Bet Shean. As Shabbat came to close, we celebrated the new week with a moving Havdallah and song session. This beautiful moment was a fitting close to a week of emotions, friendship, and celebration.  We closed the evening’s activities with ice cream and an informative encounter with the Ethiopian cultural center. Aside from hearing the personal tale of an Ethiopian immigrant, the teens also sampled Ethiopian coffee, bread, and distinct cultural dances.
Our last day began with an unbelievable boat ride. We boarded the boat near Tiberias and as we sailed across the sea of Gallilee, we sang many powerful words of prayer together.

After our last morning shacharit on the boat, loud and boisterous sounds of Israeli music were blasted across the Kinneret. Our teens danced away celebrating friendship, the beautiful scenery, and the culmination of a life-changing two-week journey. 
Following our cruise, we made our way to Safed where we had a few minutes to tour the beautiful city. After the tour, we sampled some of the many delights that Safed has to offer. Finally, our kids got to do what they like doing more than anything else- that’s right, shopping. They roamed the streets of Safed hunting for souvenirs, candles, necklaces, and many other things. When they finally loaded the bus at the conclusion of their time in Safed, they were so excited to show off their wares to all their bus mates and friends. 
Finally, we closed our trip with a very moving tree planting ceremony. This activity helped our teens tangibly give something back to the holy land of Israel, and prepare the land for generations to come. After the trees were planted, the teens ate their “last supper” in Israel before heading to the airport.  

“This experience gave me a stronger connection to both my heritage and my Jewish community. I was able to see and hear about the horrors of the Holocaust, and better understand what happened to the Jewish people and to family members that were murdered for being Jewish. After March of the Living, I am even more passionate about shutting down anti-semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric.” ~ Zoe Blumenfeld

This trip was one of the most meaningful experiences I have ever had. The places we went and the things we saw had a huge impact on me, but it was the people I was with and the community that was built that made the experience. Being able to debrief and work through emotions with other Jewish teens made me feel more connected to my Judaism than ever before.” ~ Mara Sanderow 

Shabbat in Israel was really an amazing experience. To celebrate something that brings all Jews together in the place that brings all Jews together was truly a once in a lifetime experience.” ~Francie Benjamin

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