ILSI: Friendship is a Universal Language

This Friday and Saturday, ILSI experienced our first Shabbat here in Israel at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel in Jerusalem. We brought in the Shabbat looking out onto the hills of Jerusalem with an opening speech by DC Council’s Jeremy Hasson about new experiences and building a cohesive ILSI community. Basia Gregorczyk of Warsaw, Poland followed, sharing her feeling of apprehension she had ahead of ILSI, but how welcomed, loved and accepted she now felt after just a short few days. Following these speeches, we engaged in a meaningful and spiritual Shabbat service where singing, dancing, and prayer were enjoyed by all.

Shabbat morning, several North American teens helped lead a Zumba prayer service, followed by elective sessions led by staff which included a team-building workshop, a guided meditation and more. We closed Shabbat with a beautiful Havdalah service led by teens with use of a guitar, ending with taking turns singing and creating our own verses to “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen.

Today, we traveled towards the north to an archeological site called Tel Meggido. Mentioned in both Jewish and Christian texts, the mountain of Meggido housed an ancient city, and it once guarded a narrow trade route connecting Egypt and Assyria, it was the site of many historical battles. In the New Testament, Tel Meggido is the site of Armageddon, the final apocalyptic between good and evil. It was at this site that we discussed our drivers as young leaders. Are we driven by the internal – our values – or by our legacies and the hope that our memory lives on. We pushed each other to think deeper and spend time on things we can control, like the work that inspires us to be leaders. We are incredibly excited for the week ahead and are looking forward to our next Shabbat in 


Quotes from our participants:

“I really enjoyed “mishpachot”, where we break up into smaller groups and talk about what we’ve seen and experienced because it’s important to reflect. I also love that we split up in different groups at times which allows us to build new friendships”. – Olga Nevzorova

“I love meeting new people from all over the world and meeting people from all these different countries. People have been so welcoming on this trip and in Israel, which reminds me of why I joined BBYO in the first place.” – Bernard Netanel, USA

Being with all of my close friends seeing a beautiful view of Israel on Shabbat was one of the most beautiful and moving experiences of my life and I loved every minute of it.” – Erin Yahinsky, USA

For being my first time in Israel, Shabbat seemed truly special. I found a deeper connection between myself & my roots within heritage as well as our homeland. Having the opportunity to see so many proud Jewish teens from all around the order come together for Shabbat is one thing that is special, but in Israel, it was truly magical.” ~ Rebecca Barnholtz, USA 

“It’s been my first Shabbat in Israel. It’s been an interesting experience for me. It’s been a real holiday. I like it :)” ~ Mark Gellershtein, Russia

“You come here with all these expectations of what you’re going to see. And when you see them in person it has a clear effect on how you perceive the country and why it’s so important for us to call this home.” ~ Jared Palefsky- Atlanta 

“I love getting to meet new people from all over the world that I otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to meet. And even though there are some language barriers it’s really important to me to learn how to break those and learn about new cultures that way.” -Taly Leibowitz. 

Мне безумно нравится здесь. Очень хорошие и добрые люди. Я познакомилась с разными людьми. Поначалу мне было здесь сложно и неуютно, но я привыкла и одаптировалась. Шаббат был очень чудесным. Я узнала и увидела много прекрасных мест. И моя мечта побывать в Израиле сбылась. Когда я приеду домой, я буду делиться опытом со своими друзьями из моей общины. -Liliia Mukhamedishina  

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