JOLT Israel
NCSY JOLT Israel- Our Last Shabbos Together in Israel…

My Dear NCSY JOLT Israel Family,


What a week!!! It has literally been nonstop! The kids are running on adrenaline at this point. We know that our time together is quickly coming to an end together and we all feel the heaviness of that day coming. We don’t want it to end! I hear the conversations already of reunions and get together’s after the summer (which has become so much a part of the reality of JOLT Israel. The summer ends, but our deep connection with each other never does!)


Let’s begin with Sunday. Refreshed and well rested we all regrouped at Ramat Rachel. Hugs and smiles were the order of the day. Everyone came back refreshed and excited to be reunited with their JOLT Israel family. After packing up the buses we headed towards our first stop, volunteering in Yaffo in the “Amuta L’Kidum HaChinuch” “The organization for the advancement of education”. There we split up into two groups and we packed food for the needy and heard a talk from the manager there about poverty in Israel and why our work was so important. After leaving Yaffo we headed south to a little Yishuv called Nitzan. This is a very important place that I always bring groups to. It is there, in Nitzan, that a few of the refugees from the Gush Katif expulsion set up a small museum to remember the beauty of Gush Katif and the circumstances that divided a country. I specifically like the museum because it doesn’t focus on who was right and who was wrong. The focus is to talk about the beauty that was Gush Katif and the pain that was felt all over the country, especially amongst the soldiers who had to forcibly remove the inhabitants. The vivid images played out before us as we saw brothers on both sides holding each other and crying. It was not a proud moment in Jewish history and is still painful to watch. We finished our time there and made our way down to Masada which is where we have been for this past week (with the exception of one night in Eilat…I’m coming to it). We got to our very nice youth hostel in Masada and felt the heat hit us as we walked off the bus. We ate and relaxed.


The next morning after our typical routine we loaded the buses for a drive back up to the Shfeila (Beit Shemesh area). We started our day with grape picking. Straight off the vine. Huge green grapes, sweet like sugar!! We learned the Halachos special to Artzeinu HaKedosha. When picking fruit straight off the vine or the tree it can be eaten without having to be Mafrish Trumah or Maaser. However, once it is collected in a basket (like we had) they cannot be eaten without first separating Trumah and Maaser. We were Mafrish everything together and obviously took the opportunity to stomp on the grapes in a wine press and make fresh grape juice.  After lunch and Mincha we did a 12 kilometer bike ride (on dirt bikes) through the Shfeila up towards Chirbat Etri, which are the remains of a second temple village, which was inhabited by Jews for about 800 years. The ruins include Mikvehs, a burial cave, a wine press, an oil press, and hiding caves from the Bar-Kochba revolt in 132 CE. Everyone returned back at our hostel at about 9:30 P.M. and after dinner and Maariv some braved their exhaustion to join our first part of a several part series exploring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in depth.  


Tuesday morning was another awesome day, as I’m sure you suspected!  We did an awesome hike called Ain Ovdat. A desert hike with the most amazing views. The quiet, the hot breeze, the enormity of it all really allows one to reimagine themselves and their place in this vast world. I wasn’t able to go on the hike but I did have the opportunity to take in the majestic view and all I can say is “Baruch SheZachinu!!”. From there we went to Sde Boker where we visited Ben Gurion’s Kever. We learned about him and his life’s work. He was an impressive individual with a legacy that we all enjoy! We even got a tour of his house. It was really interesting, so humble and simple. I was particularly impressed with his expansive collection of Seforim. Yotvata rest stop, about 30 minutes outside of Eilat. All of the milk, yogurt and ice cream is made fresh from their cows. It was awesome! Finally we made it to Eilat. We unloaded our stuff, ate dinner, davened Maariv and went to the boardwalk where we gave the kids some free time. The truth is, it was such a nice evening, not too hot, with a soft breeze off the sea. It was good for the kids to have some alone time. They walked around, shopped a bit and took advantage of the stores. One interesting thing is the sheer number of religious Jews that frequent Eilat. It’s really unbelievable. I remember years ago you could hardly find a kosher restaurant. Now!!! You can hardly find one that isn’t Mehadrin.


Wednesday morning there was an early morning optional hike up Har Tzfachot. One of my favorite hikes in all of Israel! It’s not the physical exertion which is also great (feels like an hour and half on the stair master), but the sight when you get to the top is something that is tough to explain. I’ll try…Imagine the red, arid and rocky desert mountains all around, with the crystal blue water of the Red Sea glistening down below. On one side is Israel, the other side is Egypt, across the sea is Jordan and then farther down in the distance you can see Saudi Arabia. It’s wild!! We came back to our rooms, and got ready for davening. After Shachris and breakfast we loaded the buses with our luggage and went to our separate beaches for water sports. The cool refreshing water was a welcome addition to the hotness of the day. After water sports we took out bus to the famous Ice Mall for lunch and then loaded it for our return back to the Masada guest house where we were staying.


Thursday after Davening, breakfast and Chaburas we headed out towards the Vidor desert agricultural center for an interactive tour of some awesome agricultural innovations that is truly making the desert bloom. After spending some time at the visitor center we went to Yerucham and chilled in the park with some residents who taught us how to do basket weaving. It was actually really cool and a ton of fun. The kids had a great time doing it and I just love giving them these out of the box experience that are so unique. In general I like exposing the kids to as many unique cultural experiences as possible. Not only is this trip a once in a lifetime experience, but the experiences are also once in a lifetime. The cultural exposure that they have had over these five weeks will make each and every one of my JOLT Israelers more cultured individuals which I hold in general is an important thing. From Yerucham we drove to a special spot called Snapir HaKatan. A beautiful but not too intense uphill hike that gives you a gorgeous birdseye view of the Machteish (the natural crater in the Negev.) We returned to Masada and made our way to dinner, followed by dinner and some chill time.


This morning we had an optional early morning hike up Masada to see sunrise. The kids came back from an awesome hike, we davened and then ate breakfast and loaded the bus. We went straight to the obligatory Dead Sea stop. No trip to the South is complete without it. I explained to some of the kids that when it’s really hot outside going into the Dead Sea is like walking into hot Chicken soup (with A LOT of salt)! From there we went to Arad and stopped off at a store for the kids to buy Nosh for Shabbos. Some of us opted to spend that time getting Pizza Hutt instead. We continued our trip to a beautiful and quaint Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim. We got here a little while ago and the kids have been relaxing and hanging out together. Keep in mind what I told you, they are literally trying to make the most of every minute together, knowing that Tuesday we go our separate ways.


One of my favorite things about working with NCSY Summer is the honor that I have, to give these kids a wholesome summer experience where they can just be kids. So much of what they are bombarded with in life is so advanced and pushes them to be adults before they are ready. Coming on JOLT Israel reminds them that it’s ok to have fun and be a teenager and the craziness and peer pressure that they experience in their respective schools doesn’t have to be their reality. For just a a few weeks they can focus on who they are, learn about themselves and do so in a safe environment.

NCSY Summer, Great kids, wholesome programming, clear goals and an amazing staff is the recipe for true success.


I am going to get ready for Shabbos because we have our last pictures together in just a little while. I am looking forward to being in touch soon with a recap of Shabbos. We have a few more days of fun and then our memories are what we take with us. Thank you all for believing in me and  JOLT Israel and what we are bringing to the table. I have seen tremendous growth among every single one of my kids and I truly believe that each their lives have been enriched for the better. I am truly blessed to be a partner with each and every one of you and of course so have built such a deep and meaningful realtionship with each one of my JOLTers! 


Have a beautiful and sweet Shabbos.


With warmest wishes


Rabbi Dr. Noam Weinberg

Director, NCSY JOLT Israel


Visit JOLT Israel

© 2024 NCSY. All Rights Reserved.

Facebook Instagram instagram