What an adventurous few weeks it has been! As always…
The weekend right after my normal classes started, I went to Tzfat with my program. We explored various ideas within Jewish spirituality all weekend; what better place to do that than the most mystical city in all of Israel? Our time in Tzfat, or “Safed” as they call it, was spent working on our homemade kosher t’fillin (Jewish phylacteries) with Rabbi Noah Greenberg, who travels worldwide to do this project with a variety of people, visiting various historical sites, and just walking around embracing Tzfat’s unique culture.
The next week was PURIM! Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who’s goal was to wipe out the Jewish population 2,500 years ago. The story is in the Biblical Book of Esther and took place in the ancient Achaemenid Persian Empire. Who would’ve ever thought that this one event from our past would turn into such an extravaganza many many MANY years later?? But then again, are you surprised? It was definitely an experience, let me tell ya. There were non-stop festivities that began on Wednesday for 3 days straight so let’s just start there. I have never seen a place, a town, a city, an ENTIRE COUNTRY for that matter, absolutely transform and turn into one big ongoing celebration. Those 3 days were quite the time!
Along with the other Purim “mitzvot” (commandments that the Jewish people are to fulfill) of reading the book of Esther, sending gift baskets, and giving to the poor, Purim is one huge celebration. To start off the festivities, on Wednesday, I took a bus to Tel Aviv and spent the entire night, literally, walking around the streets and celebrating until about 6 A.M. when I got right back on the first scheduled bus of the day and returned to Jerusalem. Seeing thousands of people on the streets in fun and wacky costumes celebrating this Jewish holiday for hours on end was just fascinating. The next night, the excitement continued in Jerusalem all around the city with similar vibes; rowdiness, entertainment, and tons of fun. We stayed out in the city basically until the crack of dawn again, met a bunch of Israelis along the way of course, and woke up early the next morning (now we’re on Friday) to conclude the Purim celebrations. We had an adorable brunch-type “seudah” (a festive meal) and then explored around Jerusalem again to experience the grand finale of the Purim celebrations. The whole 3 day extravaganza was beyond worth the lack of sleep. Essentially, go big or go home.
After all of the Purim festivities, normal classes started up again and we had various sessions related to Israel education with incredible presenters such as Shalom Orzach, David Passig and Ze’ev Ben Shachar. Shalom Orzach is a senior educator and consultant for the iCenter, which is a national hub and catalyst for building, shaping, and supporting the field of Israel education, as well as a faculty member and mentor for the Foundation for Jewish Camp. Shalom helped us understand the distinction between the PEOPLE of Israel, the LAND of Israel, and the STATE of Israel. I gained a lot of insight from hearing Shalom explain to us the different ways we can make Experiential Israel Education more relevant in today’s day. Ze’ev Ben Shachar, who helped found the Israel branch of “The David Project”, a major Israel advocacy organization in North America, shared his experience with us in terms of how to think and teach about Israel. We were able to get a lot of helpful tips on how to educate a group, of different backgrounds and opinions, about Israel. Additionally, we went to Bar Ilan University and met with Professor David Passig, a very popular Israeli futurist, and learned about the makeup of Jewish communities from our past, in our present, and what it will look like in the future. The statistics he showed were truly eye-opening; I learned a great amount about Jewish communities around the world and where our future will take us.
It’s been a wild past couple of weeks! And it really just keeps getting better. So many fun and exciting things coming up and to top it all off, I just booked my spring break flight; I’ll be traveling to Rome, Florence, Madrid and Barcelona! Can’t wait to be ~ in my element ~ in Europe!!!
On to the next adventure…