JNF AWB 2011

Jewish National Fund: Alternative Winter Break 2011

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Day 6: Saturday January 15th

Shabbat in Israel! Shabbat is a day a rest, therefore we got to sleep until 10. After a week of hard work this was very much appreciated. At 11am we had a torah discussion. During this discussion we were broken up into groups, read the portion of the week and discussed its meaning. We then spoke about how it related to our own lives as well as the work we are doing on AWB. It was nice to take the time to learn about the portion of the week because it is not something I do weekly at school. After ,we had lunch and then menuchah (Shabbat rest), I took a nice nap. At around 4pm we gathered together for another session. I found this session to be very interesting and meaningful as we spoke about justice and Judaism. As we walked in the room we were asked to read all the quotes on the wall and then sit next to the one we identified with most. I sat next to one that spoke about helping others not matter what you have. It was a very interesting discussion and everyone was very in to it. After our discussion we did havdalah outside on the terrace  (this time not a rock terrac hahaa). I always find havdalah special and wish I took part in this special ceremony every week. After we all changed and then went out on Ben Yehuada.  A couple of us had dinner at a restaurant called Tmol Shilshom! I can honestly say it was one of the best meals of my life if you are ever in Israel you MUST EAT THERE. After dinner we walked around for a while. The night was a lot of fun for everyone

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Day 5: Friday January 14th

 I was so excited to wake up in Jerusalem and it was Friday, which meant Shabbat was almost here! We woke up as usual at 7:10, had breakfast at 7:30 and then got on the bus around 8:15. But there was something special about this breakfast because I got to enjoy it with my camp friend LINDSAY CHAVIS! Lindsay was on birthright and was staying at the same guest house as me. Our first stop of the day was Bustan Hama’ayan. This was once a stream, but unfortunately it was neglected for many years and was polluted.  At one point this place was a blooming area and was the center of the community with many flowers and trees. A family discovered this area and saw its potential beauty. The family began working on the area and since then it has become a project to save the stream and has gained the interest of many volunteers. Here we worked in an assembly passing rocks for 3 hours. At first everyone was annoyed that we were passing more rocks, but we then realized how important this was and how much time we were saving the person who would build the terrace using the rocks we passed down to the end of the stream. We had fun passing rocks and it was a real bonding experience. The guys enjoyed trying to pass boulders to all of the girls and watching us drop them. At around 12pm we left Bustan Hama’ayan and traveled to the shuck in Jerusalem. Being at the Shuck before shabbos was an amazing experience. It was packed with people and was hard to move but it was an experience nonetheless. I bought a lot of dried fruit as well as a five sheckle gift (we were told to purchase something for 5 sheckles that we would give to someone on Shabbat.). We had about an hour at the shuck and then went back to the guesthouse to prepare for Shabbat. At around 3:30pm we got back on the bus and we were dropped on in Jerusalem for Kabbalat Shabbat. As we got off the bus the boys and girls were separated, Boyana told us we were going to have our own service. A few minutes later we saw all the boys walk towards us holding roses, each of the guys gave a girl a rose, it was a very nice gesture. Once we receive the roses we formed a circle had a small service type thing and then headed to the Great Synagogue. We spent about 20 minutes at the Great Synagogue and then went to the tent outside the Prime Ministers house where Gilad Shelia parents are currently living/fighting for Gilad to be released. We took part in the kabbalat Shabbat service with Gilad’s family and other Israelis. It was amazing to see the support of the people and be part of such a special service. We then walked back to the guesthouse, it was about an hour and a half walk. It was nice just to enjoy the fresh air and talk with people. When we got back to the hotel we had Shabbat dinner and then our evening program. After our evening program Binghamton’s birthrights group joined us! We told birthright about our trip as well as broke into groups to share our experience. I was really happy to see them because one of my best friends Amy was on the trip. At around 11:30 our programming ended, we all hung out and then went to sleep. 

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Day 4: Thursday January 13th

When I woke up I couldn’t believe it was already day 4 and that we were heading to Jerusalem tonight. This morning we got up and brought our luggage to the bus to be loaded before eating breakfast. After breakfast we got on the bus, and as usual Danielle and Ori both spoke. Danielle explained that today’s JNF action area was education. Our first stop of the day was Amidar in Dimona. Amidar provides safe housing units for Israeli residents in need. When we arrived at Amidar, we gathered as a group to hear about what we would be doing for the day. At Amidar we spent the day painting and fixing the apartments for low-income residents. We painted the bottom half of the apartments white. It was an extremely rewarding project, probably one of my favorites. Throughout the day people from the community expressed their gratitude for what we were doing. Even that there was a language barrier between the residents, and us we were able to tell how appreciative they were. At around 12:30 we took a break for lunch and appreciated the sun (as it was our last day in the south). We then went back to work until around 3pm. At the end of our time there we took a group picture in front of a wall displaying “ university of Maryland and Binghamton University.  We then traveled to Beer Sheva. In Beer Sheva we took a tour of the River walk and listened to the head of the project speak to us and inform us about how this dream is becoming a reality. This project was AMAZING and left me in awe. I hope to have the opportunity to come back to the river walk in a few years to see the improvements and continued development. We then took a tour of Ben Gurion University. It was interesting to see the campus and just observe the people. We also got AROMA here J! After we were done touring we got back on the bus and traveled to Jerusalem! Everyone was extremely excited to arrive in Jerusalem. We arrived at the Bayit Vagan Guest House and put our luggage in a storage room and then ate dinner. After dinner the staff told us to go back downstairs for our evening program.. in reality they surprised us and told us because of our hard work the past few days they were letting us go out on Ben Yehuda street for the night. It was an amazing night and everyone had a great time 

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“I had faith in Israel before it was established, I have in it now. I believe it has a glorious future before it - not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.”- Harry Truman