Shabbat shalom, Machaneh Yavneh!
We started off this week with a relaxing Shabbat in Tzfat. We all connected to the spirituality of the city through different minyanim scattered throughout the beautiful area. This was followed up by a three-hour Shabbat dinner and an intimate tisch in a local park where we were joined by Hasidic families. The next morning we all set out to different minyanim followed by an afternoon of meditation with Rabbi Sender. Afterwords, we spent an hour with Kabbalist and artist David Friedman, where we learned that everything is infinite and connected if you believe hard enough. After some free time and an edgy round of parsha players, we headed out for a mixed Havdalah with other Israel programs and showed off our superior ruach.
The next morning we went to a farm and worked with a program called Shomer Hachadash, where we all brandished pitchforks and scissors clearing away weeds and shaving down bushes from a formerly abandoned farmland. Money found a dead calf in the bushes that we named Menachem, and Shai spent the whole time using a hoe to hack away at a root that was part of a living tree. Afterwards, we spent the next day and a half visiting and experiencing the history of different kibbutzim for a healthy dose of communism and pioneering Zionism. Exhausted from the Israeli sun we were treated to a pool party party at out hostel.
The next day we spoke to a Russian immigrant, Sasha, about his experiences resisting Russian authorities teaching Hebrew to Russian Jews, being arrested by the KGB, and finally being released after a few years. We were then invited into the homes of two Ethiopian families who shared their stories of making aliyah and filled us up with drinks and snacks. On Wednesday before leaving for our three-day Army program, we met with four inspiring female soldiers who explained the challenges of serving in the IDF.
The next morning, naive and unprepared, we ventured deep into Jerusalem forest where we were greeted by hornets and army officers who separated girls and boys and made us line up and do exercises all within very small increments of time. We then had to run laps carrying stretchers with big bags of sand and scuff our knees crawling on the ground. At night, we learned how to walk quietly and various stealth strategies and then, finally, we all hobbled off to sleep.
SURPRISE! Midnight wake up for another round of uphill sandbag laps and then guard duty shifts. Many of us did not make it and by the next day our numbers shrank due to to a variety of reasons, including some who just had a contempt for authority. The rest of us stayed strong, and despite the hard work, we assure you we were having a good time. We learned how to camouflage and navigate, fired invisible guns and spent the hotter hours of the day discussing first aid and mission strategies for our raid in the evening. By cover of darkness, we charged up a mountain to a large building, stalked past the cars, took out the guards and defused the nuclear bomb in the doorway. Yes, we had to use our imagination. We returned safe and sound and enjoyed a lovely fire and closed the program the next morning with a two-mile sand bag run. Now we are on the buses heading to our various friends and families for our free weekend, with drill sergeant voices and whistles still ringing in our ears. Can’t wait to take a shower.
C-ya next week
Love Sarah P., Lily, Ben Silverstone and the rest of Naaleh 2017
Helen Berman, Aliza Abolafia, Talia Schwartz, Jeremy Tibbetts, Cooper Eisenhard, Jossie Forman, Alex Bonneau, Andrew Pitkoff, Mollie Schwartz, Will Barry. Also, all the siblings of people on Naaleh.