JOLT Israel
Lead Up to Shabbos, Shabbos Chazon and Tisha B’Av

Dear NCSY JOLT Israel Family,

I hope this email finds you well and you are having an easy and meaningful fast. I wanted to share with you our experiences from Thursday till now. It was really a perfect lead up to Tisha B'av and from all accounts it has been extraordinarily meaningful. Thursday morning, we woke up to the tragic news that a young yeshiva student was killed by Arab terrorists. It turns out that this young man was the neighbor of our tour guide Yifat. Israel is like that, everyone always know someone and each tragedy effects everyone. Our day Thursday took us into Yehuda V'Shomron but because the army was carrying out investigations some of the places we had on the schedule we were barred from going to. Most places were fine and we were able to navigate accordingly. We went to our first stop which was a magnificent outlook in Peduel.  We spoke about the life of being a Mitnachel or settler as well as the complexities and the great honor and merit inherent in that. I also spoke to the kids from that outlook about the message we were sending by coming to Yehuda V'Shomron on a morning after hearing such horrible news. I discussed that teenagers nowadays have such few opportunities to make meaningful statements through their actions. I'm sure everyone reading this email remembers the days of rallying for the release of Russian refuseniks or other important causes. Coming to an area that most shy away from in general and certainly on a day when hearing such tragic news allowed us to send a message to the Jews living in Yehudah V'Shomron and the world. We will not be afraid nor will we be forced to live our lives in fear. The response to the senseless and tragic murder of an innocent Yeshiva boy who was on his way back from buying a book for his Rebbe, is to come and show support for our brothers and sisters in droves! Not to shy away from or hide in fear. Over Shabbos, one of the questions that was asked in our "Shoot the Rabbi" session was, was there a specific moment that made you proud to be a Jew? I didn't think of it then, but it makes sense to me now that walking in the heartland of ancient Israel as a Jew, holding my head high and not being afraid made me proud. I hope it made your children proud as well. 

From the lookout in Peduel we split the group up into two. Half of the group went to the home of a women who lives on a hilltop. She actually became frum through NCSY in San Diego. She and her husband live on a hilltop in a place called Givaot Olam. It was amazing to hear her story and her passion for Israel, the Jewish people and being a leader. The other group went sheep herding in Itamar. What an awesome experience! We think of sheep herders as uneducated boors who just stand around all day. The truth of the matter is that it takes a lot of technique to do it right. We were working with only a handful of sheep and we had a tough time getting them from point A to point B. I can't even imagine how it is possible for people to move herds of hundreds. Part of doing it successfully requires one to be respectful of the energy of the sheep. In many ways the shepherd looks to direct his herd in small increments all the while understanding the nature of his sheep and when to stop them, when to start them and when to let them veer off a bit. I suppose that is why so many of our Jewish forefathers and leaders were shepherds. It wasn't just a meaningless job it was the holiest "Hachana" or preparation that one could do before leading a people. We all came together for lunch and had fresh baked pizza and then the groups switched. After finishing that activity we made our way to the beautiful Yeshiva in Itamar and just outside was an outlook. We saw and spoke about Har Gerizim and Har Aival as well as Yosef HaTzaddik who is buried in Shechem. We davened Mincha in the cool breeze with these two mountains in the distance. It was really unbelievable. 

We made our way back to Kibbutz Ein Tzurim for our last night there and after Maariv, Josh and Yehoshua (our medics, security guards and logistic guys) ran an army night activity. It was such a bonding experience for the kids and I made mention of the fact that coming into the summer people were so anxious and didn't know people and now everyone was standing next to someone whom they didn't know before but it felt like they were friends forever. To me there is no greater sign of success than that!  

Friday morning we got up early and made our way to Har Hertzel for a very meaningful and important tour. I spoke at a few places and and then Yifat took over and spoke. We had some readings from some of our NCSY JOLT Israelers which was particularly meaningful. Like I said before, everyone knows someone and we heard from Yehoshua who spoke at the grave of one of his friends who was killed during Tzuk Eitan. One of the things I tried to hit home was the fact that we need to work on creating a legacy for ourselves. We need to be people who are proud and strong but also individuals who write a story that we can be proud of. Har Hertzel is a place full of stories. How do we want to live our lives and how do we want to be remembered. From Har Hertzel we went to the center of Jerusalem and the kids had some free time to buy stuff for Shabbos and just chill out. 

Shabbos began with a beautiful Kabbalos Shabbos. We heard from Rabbi Burg from Mevaseret who is the Mashpia of NCSY Summer programs and he spoke about taking advantage of every moment and the possibilities open to us if we take advantage of our time. We ate our Seudah together and by all accounts it was delicious. I always know how good the food is by using my most picky eaters as a gauge.  From dinner we had an oneg where Rabbi burg spoke to us again and we sang together and just enjoyed each others company.   

Shabbos morning, after davening, we had kiddush, our round robbin Divrei Torah given by the kids and some down time until lunch. Lunch was awesome and then we davened Mincha and had the afternoon to relax. Of course many of the kids took advantage of the time to learn with advisors or to attend optional Chaburas. We came back together as group for "Shoot the Rabbi". The questions were really excellent and it shows that the kids are thinking on a high level. It is also interesting for me to watch the evolution of the questions. As the kids get more comfortable and feel safer in our family their questions are less generic and more specific. It is an interesting statement of their comfort level and one which I am proud of. 

We had Shalshudes together and then a beautiful ebbing. I spoke for a bit about the power of Tisha B'Av and how the fasting allows us to reclaim our own pain and hurt as well as that of our nations. It is a call to us to look back as well as move forward. After Shabbos was over we davened Maariv and loaded the buses for the Herodian. The Herodian was a palace constructed by King Herod on an artificial hill near Tekoa. It is believed that he is buried there but also it was the last place the Jews who took refuge there were able to see the burning of the second Beis HaMikdash. It was taken over by the Romans in 71 CE right after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.  We sat amongst the ruins and sang Eicha. We heard Ben Book speak about the pain of the night and we had the most magnificent Kumsitz. The place emptied out from most people, and it was just us, the cool mountain breeze and these ruins that tell a story of Jewish defiance and tragedy.

This morning we had a beautiful Kinnos presentation by several of the advisors and most of the kids are currently doing the Kotel Tunnel tours. It's an amazing experience and certainly one which is beyond powerful on a day like today. We will daven Mincha and give the kids some free time to relax and then we are off to the Kotel for the famous NCSY Summer Kumsitz of the world. 

We only have a few days left and the kids are starting to feel the heaviness of leaving each other. It will be a meaningful next few days for sure. 

I have been inundated by emails from you asking me how you can help JOLT Israel going forward. The only thing I would ask is that you spread the word of the great work that we do. We have all put in tremendous time and effort to give your children the best summer in the world. They had the opportunity to express themselves as individuals, explore religion in a way that was new and refreshing, create relationships with new kids from across North America and simply have the opportunity to live like normal teens in a wholesome setting without judgment or criticism but rather love and care for each and every child. I have seen tremendous growth with so many of the kids, each on their own level. It is also gratifying for me to hear how much they love Israel and how they see it in a different light after this trip. One of the facts that I am most proud of is the large number of kids that over the years have come with me to Israel for the summer and decided to make Aliyah because of the love they gained for the country. NCSY JOLT Israel is more than just a five week summer program. It is a family that will always be by your side, it is an experience in which everyone grows each in their own way but none the less profound. Most of all it is a new chapter for each one of us that helps push us a little closer to being the people that we truly want to be. 

So keep spreading the word and help me give other kids the amazing and unique opportunity that your children had.

Wishing you all an easy and meaningful fast. May we be Zoche to see the rebuilding of Jerusalem speedily in our days and may we only know good health and happiness, Nachas from our children, Yishuv Ha'daas and the ability to guide our children in the right way so we may be able to rejoice in seeing them as mature and accomplished young men and women in their personal, professional and religious lives.   

I look forward to being in touch with you soon.

With warmest wishes

-Rabbi Weinberg

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