temple emanu-el
top border
Israel Journal (2012-2013)

Day 2: December 25, 2012
by Saul Kaiserman

THE SECOND DAY of our trip began with a huge Israeli breakfast at Kibbutz Lavi, followed by an exciting tour of the kibbutz. At least, that’s what I’m told — I slept until mere minutes before our bus headed off for the first of our many destinations in this jam-packed day.

After a brief photo opp at the Jordan River, our first stop was Katzrin, the “capital” of the Golan Heights, with a multimedia presentation on the story of Gamla, the Masada of the north. During the Jewish revolt in 67 C.E., this small town of 9,000 Jews heroically fought against the overwhelming numbers and might of the Roman army. In 1967, Israel defeated Syria in the Six Day War, and this town was returned to Jewish rule after 2,000 years.

Then we visited a former Syrian outpost, now a memorial to Israeli soldiers that have fallen in wars in the region. Gila told us the incredible story of Israeli spy Eli Cohen, who worked undercover in Syria in the 1960s. He was able to convince the Syrian military leadership to plant Eucalyptus trees at every one of their outposts and fortifications to provide shade for the soldiers, thereby enabling Israeli forces to easily identify the locations of Syrian troops!

Most of the rest of the day was spent in the holy city of Tzefat, also known as Safed. We lunched on falafel and shawarma, visited a synagogue from the 16th century, watched candles being made and shopped in the shuk (street market). A highlight of the day was a mystical clay sculpting workshop. Each of us was given a small ball of clay, and we had two minutes in which to silently create an object. Then, we passed the object to the left and received the sculpture of the person to our right. We had another two minutes in which to add to the creation. We continued in this fashion until everyone around the table had modified the original object; then, we decided together what the objects we had created represented and made up a story about how the objects went together. It was a real lesson in letting go of control, and it was a whole lot of fun.

It also should be noted that our time on the bus together is a lot of fun. We have divided ourselves up into various groups to make taking attendance easier, and none of the groups is cooler than “Schwaggr” (as is evident from the fact that they have grown from six to eight members). Composed entirely of kids, the group surprised us during roll call with a Jewish version of “The Eight Days of Christmas,” beginning with “Eight Schwaggrs schwagging” (whatever that means) and concluding with “One rabbi in a tallit.”

Dinner was not only delicious but also incredibly meaningful. We ate at a steak restaurant, Le Charolais, run by a former Israeli army captain. He set us up so that we could host at each of our tables a soldier on active duty. The five men who joined us were from an engineering unit, responsible for the dangerous task of land-mine removal. They were very willing to talk about their lives, their political views and anything else we wondered about (and believe me, some of the kids had some pretty unusual questions). With promises that we would see one another again soon on Facebook, if not in person, we headed back to the kibbutz for the night.

Click on the thumbnails below to see larger images.



NOTE: You must be logged in to post a comment. Log in now »

Back to Blog
photo of temple
One East 65th St., New York, New York 10065. Phone  212-744-1400
One East 65th Street, New York, NY 10065    (212) 744-1400 horizontal rule Member Log In | Calendar | Site Map | Contact Us | Text Size [+] [-]