JOLT Israel
Days 5,6,7,8,9!!! Out of this world amazing!!

Dear NCSY JOLT Israel Family,

Hello again!! It's been a while and I have so much to share with you. Allow me to say how much I appreciate the outpouring of amazing comments and accolades regarding the trip and of course questioning why I haven't been writing this week. Running a big program is a tremendous Zechus it also requires me to be more hands on in the beginning to deal with lots of different variables so as to ensure that everything is as smooth as can be for your children. With very late nights, very early mornings, tons of logistical variables and the normal things that pop up, I needed to do my own cost/benefit and I figured that you would rather me working with your kids and making sure that all loose ends are taken care of than me spending the time to write the emails. 

I had the opportunity to sit on the beach in Eilat while the boys were enjoying an awesome morning of water sports so I had some time to start writing. We are back on track and Bli Neder the emails will be more regular. 

I want to walk you through the whole week and tell you everything. It was amazing on every single level. First of all the kids are becoming super close with each other. The large majority of the normative adolescent social issues have subsided and all the kids are enjoying the close knit family vibe. This second Shabbos will be a very special one for us. The closer we get as a family the more beautiful and wholesome the experience will be. We spoke a lot about trusting the process and letting nature take its course. I have made mention, on occasion, of the fact that we are such a product of our immediate gratification culture, that when things don't work out the first time we get so frustrated and put in very little effort if any on trying again. Trusting the process means understanding that there are mountains and valleys in life and learning how to navigate them is more important than the successful navigation itself.

Monday, began with wake up, davening and a delicious breakfast in Kibbutz Tzuba. The Kibbutz itself is located in the Judean Hills on the Western outskirts of Jerusalem and the area itself actually dates back to Tanach and is mentioned in Shmuel Bet regarding David HaMelech. It was quaint and had a magnificent view of the mountains. We loaded the buses and started our journey with some time in Chevron. We met Reb Simcha Hochbaum and walked together to see one of the ancient Mikvas and trees that tradition tells us Avraham made use of. We actually had an opportunity to meet with the Palestinian Mayor of Chevron. He was kind and welcoming and actually works hard to create dialogue between the Jews in Chevron and the Palestinians.  From there we went to Beit Hadassah and learned about the history of Chevron from the beginning to today with some focus on the tragic Chevron massacre. We went from there to the cave itself and went in to daven at the graves of our holy mothers and fathers. The tradition of this being the actual location of the Machpeila caves is actually one of the oldest that we have. It was so meaningful for all of the kids and the opportunity to spend time in the city of our patriarchs and matriarchs was a real Zechus for all of us. Perhaps the biggest Zechus is that there is a strong Jewish presence in Chevron and our children had the opportunity to meet these brave Jewish souls who literally “hold the fort down” with love and passion. 

After Chevron we made a quick stop for lunch in Kfar Etzion and made our way to one of the best sound and light shows I have ever seen on the history of Kfar Etzion and the siege of 1948. Our tour guide yifat also spoke about her own personal family ties to this place and it really hit home for all of us.

We continued on to work the land of Artzienu HaKedosha a bit on the outskirts of Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim in the Gush. We helped dig the ground around the roots and remove branches and rocks from the paths. We learned a bit about agriculture and the importance of working the land. As an avid agriculturalist I myself really appreciated this activity but I think giving the kids these opportunities that they can look back on and understand the profound meaning of their actions is beyond important. 

Tuesday morning we had our Simcha Layeled training. As a reminder, the camp that we run in Chispin is for siblings of  children in Simcha LaYeled. Simcha Layeled works with children that have chronic illnesses. These siblings get lost in the craziness of a world fraught with doctors, hospitals and around the clock care. In our camp we give the siblings an opportunity to create their own narrative. They are no longer the sibling of a child with….. These children now have their own identities. We had several amazing speakers and spoke about everything from best practices in running a camp, to understanding cultural differences to the psychological sensitives that our children need to bear in mind when dealing with our Simcha LaYeled population. 

We met some of the Israeli staff that will be working with us in our camp and we went together to hike the beautiful Sataf. It was an easy hike and mostly downhill. But before walking down we had fresh Falafel, Pita and salad  stations set up for us for lunch. Absolutely delicious! As far as hikes go it was a great one to start with and the kids were super excited for it.  

Our day ended with an awesome water fight in Latrun. Two teams, water guns and the only objective in mind was to soak as many of us as we can. Water was spraying everywhere and the only thing that could be heard was screaming and laughing. What a perfect sound!! No social media just Jewish children laughing and enjoying the simple pleasures. Chasdei Hashem. After changing we all loaded the buses and drove down south to Masada. We arrived late, ate an amazing dinner and then davened Maariv. I wanted the kids to get into bed as soon as possible because we were having an early wakeup to climb Masada.

Wednesday morning started at 4:30 A.M. I made the hike up Masada totally optional. I was shocked that we had over 50 kids join for the hike up. We all did it. I am so proud of everyone. The kids that pushed themselves to wake up and do the hike and the kids that know their bodies well enough to know that they needed a bit more sleep. Sunrise from the top of Masada was magnificent and we listened to “Here comes the Sun” by the Beatles as we watched the sun come up over the Jordanian mountains.  We offered an optional tour on top which was amazing!! After davening and breakfast we went to Ein Gedi. It was perfect on a hot day. Nothing feels quite as refreshing as standing under a freezing cold waterfall in the middle of the desert. The view and wildlife was awesome. We headed back to Masada to relax for a few hours and get ready for our drive to Park Ra’anana for Yom NCSY!!

We arrived in Ra’anana and had an amazing time at Yom NCSY. The kids loved it! The energy was palpable and the Ruach was strong. I was so proud of the way we were represented. Our 60 NCSY JOLT Israel kids made me very proud. We left Yom NCSY after an awesome Simcha Leiner concert and headed back down to Masada. 

Yesterday was something really unique and an experience that I think our kids will not soon forget. We drove towards Sderot to the Tzeilim army base. It is a base in which a large part of it has mock Palestinian communities where the soldiers learn to sharpen their combat skills so as to limit collateral damage. We had a special meeting with Retired Br. General  Bentzi Gruber. He took us to an exact replica of a Hamas terror tunnel which we walked through. From there we were taken to a briefing room where General Gruber explained to us through video the steps Israeli soldiers take to hone in on their sensitivities towards life (sometimes in war things get difficult and we go from gray to black and white). It was an awesome presentation. From the presentation we watched General Gruber drive a tank and let us climb up and onto it. It is tough to describe the power that these tanks have. It is quite humbling. I explained to the kids that trips into active army bases is not something that participants on other Israel summer programs have the privilege of visiting. It’s one of those things that are simply not done. The fact that we did have the opportunity is a major statement about JOLT Israel and the way we are viewed.  I am really proud of that fact and I am really proud of your kids for living up to this amazing reputation. 

From the army base we headed down south and made a quick stop in Yotvata. The main attraction there is the fact that they have a massive dairy farm and all of the ice cream that they make is from the milk they get from their cows. It’s basically farm to table. Needless to say, the ice cream is out of this world. Also, needless to say I had a lot….

We arrived in Eilat at about 7:00 P.M. and went straight to the boardwalk and gave the kids some free time to eat and walk around. We went back to the hotel and after some free time everyone went to sleep. This morning we had another optional early morning hike called Har Tzfachot. This time only 11 brave souls made it up. I am happy that the others got the rest that they needed. Allow me to explain how amazing this view is from the top. After climbing all the way up we wait for sunrise and all around are the red mountains of the Arava. Down below is the crystal blue water of the red sea. When you look around,  you can see Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. How awesome is that!!!! There was not one regret from any of the kids that joined in this hike. After davening and breakfast we went to the Red Sea for separate water sports. The kids loved it!! What’s not to love?!

 We just left Eilat after a delicious lunch of Shnitzle from the Ice Mall. Prior to lunch we gave the kids some time in a super market to buy snacks and other things that they want for Shabbos.  We are now on our way to our Shabbos destination, Kibbutz Gevulot. We are looking forward to bonding and growing together and excited about the week ahead in Chispin. I look forward to being in touch with you after Shabbos and filling you in on what promises to be something truly special.   

I hope you now have a real sense of just how amazing things have been. It only gets better!!!!

Please let me know if you are receiving these emails and let me know the feedback you are getting from your children. I am always interested in hearing from parents. If I can do anything or be of help, just let me know. My only interest is in making sure that your children have the most amazing and meaningful summer of their lives!

 I want to take the opportunity to wish you a beautiful and sweet Shabbos. May the fast day this Sunday be turned into a Yom Tov with the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu  and may we be Zoche to sing and dance in the streets of a rebuilt Yerushalayim. Amen!

With warmest wishes

Rabbi Weinberg

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