Family Trip to Israel
Together in Israel: Reimagining the Congregational Israel Trip
By Rabbi Danny Burkeman and Lindsay POWTY Ganci
Published in RJ.org, May 18, 2015
Sad you weren’t with us on our trip to Israel in February? Check out this culinary tour of Israel on film! Claudia, one of our POWTY participants, took videos of our group tasting Israeli foods for the first time, and compiled this great video.
See the Israel Adventure Travel Itinerary
Trip to Israel Blog
Feb 11, 2015- Travel Day. 6:00 pm depart JFK.
Thursday, Feb 12, 2015-
Hello POWTY parents! I hope you're having a nice day. We have had a wonderful time in Tel Aviv today, exploring the "old new city". We had an amazing breakfast (pictures from earlier today!), then went to learn about tel aviv through a local mural. We headed to independence hall to learn about the declaration of the state of Israel, and then spent time in Levitsky market, tasting local delicacies from small shops throughout the area. Your kids had burekas, olives, grape leaves, date and almond juice, rice filled with spices and lentils and halva throughout our exploration of the area. We went to the Carmel market and did some shopping, and enjoyed freshly squeezed local juice and of course, visited Aroma for some coffee! POWTY teens are now preparing for shabbat, and soon we will depart for Kabbalat shabbat services and then will return to our hotel for Shabbat dinner.
Here are some photos from our day in Tel Aviv!
Shabbat shalom from Israel! Lindsay POWTY
Friday, Feb 13, 2015 - Today was an outstanding day exploring Tel Aviv! We started off bright an early with an amazing breakfast at the hotel. There was every type of food you can imagine from pizza to waffles to squeezing your own orange juice. After breakfast we headed to Rothschild Boulvebard and looked at different historical buildings and sights. We went to Independance Hall which is the exact place Israel was born! The meeting to declare Israel it's own state and sign the declaration was only 32 minutes long! After learning about Israels creation we walked through Levinsky Market and tried many new foods from all over the Mediterranean! They were all so good! We heard all different stories from the individuals who own the different stores. After making it down the street we hopped on the bus and headed towards the Nachalat Binyamin pedestrian mall. We found all different types of stores and got great deals on everything. A bunch of us tried our first Aroma coffee and it was delicious!!! Powty decided to take the bus back to the hotel and when we got back we chilled and got ready for SHABBAT! The whole group went to services at a synagogue to start the Shabbat together. When the services ended we went back to the hotel and had an all you can eat buffet SHABBAT dinner with amazing desserts! Now we are heading to bed to get ready for an exciting day tomorrow!
Saturday, Feb 14, 2015 - Jesse Epstein- Today we visited a secret wartime bullet ammunitions factory on an old kibbutz. Although it was not my first trip there, it still held a lot of meaning to me. Perhaps the most important message that I was able to extract from it was the fact that everybody cared and was willing to do whatever they can to help the cause so that the State of Israel would come to be. Not only that, but every job - no matter how small it seemed - was important. Without the women who sat tirelessly for 9-10 hours a day underground, dangerously filling bullets with gunpowder, or the young man who would slice every single bullet to be exactly 9 mm, Israel, as we know it today, may not be a country.
We visited Rabin Square, which was very exciting for me, as I had never been. There are so many amazing things to see and do in Israel, from sticking a note in the Western Wall to drinking Beudoin-made tea, but I was able to experience perhapd the most meaningful experience I could get right in Rabin Square. This was when Uri, our tour educator, shared his own story with us and gave us a glimpse as to what Israel meant to him. To hear what this land means to native Israelis - or "sabras", as they are called - really moves me. Yesterday, as Tali, an educator at the Israeli Hall of Independence shared her story with us, I was kn the verge of crying. Israelis are just like us. They communicate wuth each other, they laugh, they cry, amd they love their familes. However, the lives they lead have several key differemces. Every child must enter the Israeli Defense Force after high school. No Israeli I have ever spoken to is happy with this. And of course not, for who would want to send their child into battle? The question that comes to mind is, "why dont they leave? They can raise a family in America." Being in Israel made me see that running away is not an option. Staying, and doing all you can to support the country is the only thing that can lead to peace; and perhaps, soon enough, parents will not have to cry as their children leave to go protect the country.
In the eventing, Rabbi Danny lead a small Havdallah service for us right next to the Mediterranean Sea, which, once we got the candles lit in the wind, was lovely. Then, POWTY walked along the sea all the way to Jaffa, where we enjoyed dinner and shared much laughter. We are all excited to ride the camels tomorrow! !להתראות
- Jesse Epstein
Saturday, Feb 14, 2015 - Lindsay Ganci - Here's an update on our adventures so far. Last night we all enjoyed a wonderful evening of Kabbalat shabbat services at a local reform congregation before a festive dinner together at our hotel. Today, we had the chance to sleep a little late and eat breakfast before spending some leisure time wandering and eating lunch in Jaffa. We then headed to the Ayalon Institute for an incredible tour of the kibbutz that once housed a secret bullet factory that served to protect Israel leading up to the independence war. Ask your kids more about this - they loved it, and it was fascinating!! We visited Rabin square to learn about the history surrounding the area, and learned about Rabin's assassination. We then had a beautiful havdalah service at the shores of the Mediterranean Sea before a POWTY excursion through Tel Aviv. We walked down the shoreline towards Jaffa, and enjoyed some fun time at the old Railway station (now a very cool and trendy shopping and eating area) and had some ice cream (before dinner! Eek! We only live once!) before continuing on to Jaffa for another meal together (dinner this time!). We then took a brisk walk back to our hotel (and your kids were singing the entire time - even occasionally in Hebrew! Unprovoked!). It was a very special day.
Tomorrow we head to the Negev for our stay in a Bedouin tent! We will ride camels and have an authentic meal before sleeping in tents under the stars. It is sure to be a day to never forget! That said, I may not have wifi access - so please DONT be alarmed if you don't hear from me tomorrow. At the latest, I will send an update from Jerusalem on Monday night (afternoon your time) after our hike up Masada and visit to the Dead Sea.
Shavua tov - wishes for a good week to come! We will surely have one! Love from your kids!
Sunday, Feb 15, 2015 - Lindsay Ganci - On Sunday morning, our group said goodbye to tel aviv after our wonderful stay there. We boarded our bus and headed south for the start of our adventures in the desert! First stop was at an archaeological dig site, where we spent a few hours learning about and excavating a 2,000 year old cave from an ancient village. It was incredible - and we actually found artifacts we were able to identity with our guide. The brave teens then took on the challenge of "spalunking" (crab crawling through very narrow, low passages) through ancient tunnels in the caverns!! Candlelight guided us through this dirty and incredible adventure in the caves, and although we were all challenged by the experience, we all had an amazing time! After lunch en route deeper into the desert, we stopped for falafel lunch. We rode camels through the desert hills upon or arrival to the Bedouin village we called home last evening, and it was an experience to remember! Although the desert saw more rain in our 15 hour visit than it usually does for a year (!!) we had an amazing stay at the Bedouin village! We had an authentic meal, played card games and really bonded as a group, and made a forever memory as we lay on mattresses in our communal tent, falling asleep to the sound of pouring rain falling on our tents roof.
Monday, Feb 16 - Lindsay Ganci - This morning we awoke eeeearly to eat a Bedouin breakfast before heading to Masada for our climb to the top for our tour! We actually had the honor of climbing the mountain alongside IDF soldiers in training - and hearing them sing Hatikva at the peak. Ask your kids about this experience - I will never forget it. At the summit, we learned all about the sad history of the mountain and had the distinct honor of participating in a Torah service atop Masada led by Rabbi Danny. The young adults on our trip who recently celebrated B'nai Mitzvot read Torah, and it was a special experience with all the friends on our trip. The teens told me all day how special this service was to them. We then ate lunch and did some Dead Sea shopping before our dip in the famous waters, and had a fun float! Then it was off to Jerusalem for an emotional welcome at the Mt. Scopus overlook. After checking in and showering at our hotel, we headed out for a teen dinner at the Mamilla Pedestrian Mall, where we had Italian food, some time to wander and shop, and we ended the night on a sweet note with some ice cream/crepes.
Your kids are happy, healthy, and excited for our remaining days here in Israel. I'm sure you're missing them - so here are more photos of our fun!! Finding artifacts during our dig!!
Tuesday, Feb 17, 2015 - Lindsay Ganci - Shalom from Jerusalem POWTY parents! I hope you're all warm inside right now - wish we could send some sunshine straight to you! While we cannot complain when comparing thermometers, it's actually very very cold in Jerusalem! Luckily we are keeping warm as we are constantly moving and exploring and adventuring. Here's today's update!!
We awoke to start our day with a delicious Israeli breakfast and then began our exploration of the old city of Jerusalem. We walked the rooftops of the old city, learning about its history. We had a tour of the Jewish quarter, and rich history lessons from our guide about Jerusalem. We explored the Jewish quarters shops and eateries, and I took the kids to my favorite falafel spot in the old city for lunch. We then had a tour of ancient ruins of the city before we visited the Kotel (the western wall). We had a beautiful, emotional, special visit, and although boys and girls prayed separately, we had great discussion about our experiences. We then boarded the bus to head for a teen only visit to EIE Semester in Israel program, located about 30 minutes outside of Jerusalem on Kibbutz Tzuba. Most importantly, we reunited with our POWTY pal Jackie, who is a student there. We also met with the principal of the program and other current students for a tour and question and answer session about the program. We had dinner on the kibbutz and even played at their outdoor gym. It was a great visit! As a special treat to our kids at the end of our POWTY evening together, I took them out for late night pizza - both the regular kind, AND the sweet kind! We enjoyed our treats and now we are hitting the sack. We are waking up eeeeeeearly tomorrow for our day trip to the north!
Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - Lindsay Ganci - Shalom POWTY parents! I hope you're all having a great day in NY. POWTY had an amazing day today! We awoke eeeeeearly this morning for our big bus trip to the north of the country of Israel. We had a great early breakfast and hit the road headed north to Tzfat, the mystical city home to Kabbalah. After our bus journey, we arrived and started our tour of the city at a beautiful glass blowers studio, where we got to hear her stories about her crafts of painting and glass blowing, and then watched her create a glass pomegranate in her studio. It was inspiring! Ask your kids about her words of wisdom once they are home - they were very inspired by the experience! We also toured local synagogues in the city, learning about their history. We then had some time for shopping and tasting local delicacies, and everyone found meaningful treasures to take home. Mezuzot for family members, Judaica and jewelry, and even a Tallis for family at home! It was a fun and special shopping experience through the busy, drizzly and beautiful cobblestone streets of the ancient city. We also enjoyed crepes, fresh squeezed local fruit juices, Yemenite savory street food and of course, chocolates. It was a wonderful visit! On our drive back to Jerusalem, we stopped at the Kinneret (Sea of Gallilee) for a visit to the cemetery on its shores, where Israelis poet laureate is buried. We read her poetry, and after some reflection time, we all wrote our own, and some of us shared them with our group. We then made our way back to Jerusalem! Our teens went to dinner across the street with the wonderful Lifson family, so that I was able to have dinner with a friend currently studying in Jerusalem!! Public thank you to the Lifsons :) and your kids had a great time! At the moment, they are hanging in their rooms as I write this from the lobby. Soon we will all go to sleep after a wonderful day!
Claudia and Addie - Today is day 8 of the trip. We woke up early to drive to Tsfat. In Tsfat we went to an art gallery and watched as a woman with an inspiring life story named Sheva Chaya blew glass. after the art gallery we walked to an old synagogue and learned about the different ways they pray there. After the temple we walked around the variety of shops and galleries and purchased gifts for ourselves and others. We then got back to the bus and drove to the LaDa'at Kinneret Cemetery. At the cemetery we stood at Rachel the Poetess and talked about her life story. Then we had a chance to write poems or draw pictures about the beautiful view of the Sea of Galilee and how the cemetery inspired us.
The glass blowing was what I found most interesting because it was truly mind-blowing (pun intended). The way she could morph a simple piece of glass into something visually appealing was inspiring. However what I found most inspiring was her story of how she transitioned from Darcy, her original name, to Shevachaya, which essentially means light. This transition was represented in her paintings because she went from painting dark images to lighter happier images.
Thursday, February 19, 2015 - Lindsay Ganci - Shalom POWTY parents! I hope you're all having a great day at home. Here in Jerusalem, we have had an eventful day! The weather in Jerusalem has been very exciting - very cold and lots of rain - and we are anticipating snow tomorrow! How lucky we will be to see Jerusalem dusted with snow. That said, today's weather didn't stop us from having some amazing experiences here in Jerusalem, even if we changed some plans.
We started our day with breakfast and then headed to Yad Vashem for a powerful and emotional visit. We spent a few hours in the main museum learning about the holocaust, and then visited the children's memorial. Each of your children had their own unique, powerful experiences throughout our visit, and I've had rich conversation with them all about their thoughts and feelings as we continue to reflect on the visit. Ask them about this when they get home - I know you'll appreciate the thoughtful, introspective, sensitive things they think and feel on the subject.
After Yad Vashem, we headed to the famous and fabulous Machaneh Yehudah market for wandering and a fabulous lunch on the go. Everyone tasted their favorite things, and as a special treat for your kids, I got a whole lot of local treats for them to sample! We tasted dried fruits and nuts, freshly baked challah, halva, cinnamon pastry, and the best: hot chocolate marzipan ruggelach pulled straight from the oven!! Although it was rainy and cold, we've been making the most of our time. Your kids are such troopers - no one complains or gets upset - they are making memories in all the moments with me - and I'm so proud of them!
Our afternoon Tikkun olam project was cancelled due to rain, so we came home for warm showers and naps before some card games and dinner in the hotel lobby. It was special bonding time! We ate comfort food in comfy clothes on couches in the lobby and spent time reflecting on our day (and catching up with our social media feeds :)) - and we are feeling rested and excited to make the most of tomorrow.
Friday, February, 20, 2015 - Lindsay Ganci - Shabbat shalom from snowy Jerusalem, POWTY parents! Yes, you read correctly: snowy! POWTY awoke to a snow covered Jerusalem this morning! The weather interrupted our scheduled plans, but we ended up having a wonderful day! After a later breakfast than usual (your kids were happy to sleep in!) we bundled up for a very soggy and slushy snowy walk through the city of Jerusalem, because snow here is SO incredibly rare and we wanted to enjoy it and see it for ourselves. We threw snowballs, made a snow rabbi, and we even found an open coffee shop for some cappuccinos and ice cream cones! Even with our feet wrapped in plastic bags in our sneakers to avoid the slushy ice from freezing our toes, we had a wonderful late morning and afternoon. We came home for lunch in our hotel lobby and enjoyed some down time with cards and games. We took showers and prepared for shabbat, and then enjoyed an Israeli food taste test with our whole group! Everyone brought new snacks and special treats to share with the group, and we all enjoyed engaging with Israel in this delicious way.
We headed to Kol Haneshamah, a reform congregation in Jerusalem for Kabbalat shabbat services, and then enjoyed a private, delicious shabbat dinner at our hotel. We ended the night with a fun game of "Heads up" on the lobby with friends from our trip, and at the end of the night, your sweet, amazing kids surprised me with a small clay goat (my absolute favorite animal! It's weird, I know, but I love them!) as a souvenir and a "thank you" to remember our amazing trip. How lucky am I???