JOLT Israel
NCSY JOLT Israel!!! Our Second To Last Email…..

Dear Heilige Parents and NCSY JOLT Israel’ers,

I hope this email finds you well.  So we haven’t spoken since before Shabbos and a lot has happened since then. I want to fill you in on everything. Let’s start with Shabbos. Friday night we walked to the Kotel together and davened with thousands of others who had come to be in the old city for Shabbos Chazon. We danced and sang with soldiers and friends in wide circles in the Kotel Plaza. It was a thing of pure beauty.  After davening we walked to together to Aish HaTorah where we ate our Seuda. The food was excellent but more importantly I had a chance to give each one of the kids a private Bracha for Friday night.  I was moved to tears as everyone stood on line so that I can give them their own special Bracha. My own biological children stood on line together with them, because they know as well how deeply I care for my JOLT Israel kids and I view them as part of my family.

After dinner we had an awesome Kumsitz that lasted until about 1 A.M. we sang, we laughed and we were inspired. We even had a magic show given by Yosef Friedman to begin our special time together. At the conclusion of the Kumsitz, there was a real feeling of spirituality (however one defines that) and we felt it only appropriate to give the kids a few minutes of reflection time at the Kotel. There is something very powerful about standing in front of the Kotel at 1:30 in the morning, when no one is around, and the cool mountain air whips around you with gentle breezes and you can just speak to Hashem and pour your heart out.  It was one of the moments you can’t anticipate nor can you recreate and I am so happy that the kids had an opportunity to experience it. We walked back to the hotel together and headed to bed at about 2:15.

Shabbos morning we made our own Minyan and ate lunch in the hotel (The Prima Kings). The food was excellent! Tons of choices and most importantly they had chopped liver and real Kishka. What can I say I am a sucker for old school European delicacies. The only thing that would have been better would have been a plate of Pitcha…But that’s another story.

After lunch we davened Mincha and then had rest for a few hours. We were going to have a long evening ahead of us so I wanted everyone to rest up. We had an optional walking tour as well as an ask the Rabbi session. From there we went to Seudah Shlishit in the hotel, which was amazing. Some people braved it and ate meat before the fast I for one had some fish and watermelon. Interesting choice I know but it did the trick. We davened Maariv and then went to the rooms to change shoes then we loaded our bullet proof bus and went to the most amazing place to read Eicha. The place we went to is called the Herodium. The name comes from the Greek Ἡρώδειον meaning a truncated cone. It is located 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) south of Jerusalem. Herod built a fortress, a palace, and a small town in Herodium, between 23 and 15 BCE, and is believed to have been buried there. The reason why we went there is because the tradition has it that this was the last strong hold during the Roman Seige and it was here that the last standing Jews were able to Jerusalem in flames. We were right near the Yishuv called Tekoa and many Jews from surrounding Yishuvim in Yehuda V’Shomron come to read Eicha there. We found a private spot amongst the ruins and we sat down and heard very deep words of Chizuk from Rabbi Rosenfeld. After he spoke we read Eicha and then had a beautiful Kumsitz. After we finished the kids had a few minutes to reflect and then we headed down to the bus, which took us back to our hotel.

Tisha B’Av morning we davened Shachris and then did an awesome Kinnos round robin. Each one of the advisors prepared a specific Kinnah and then each advisor went to every group presenting a bit of a background of their specific Kinnah and said it together with each group. Then we all came together for the last four Kinnos and did them together as a group. We did Eli Tzion presented by Yoel, Eish Tukad B’Kirbi presented by Rabbi Rosenfeld, The Bobover Rebbe’s Kinna on the Holocaust presented by myself and then a special tribute to Gush Katif presented by Yehuda who was one of the children evacuated from his home in Ganei Tal. They were all so moving and the kids were amazing throughout each of the presentations. From Kinnos we went to Mincha and then there was free time for the kids to sleep and relax, with the optional Tisha B’Av movie of course. At about 6:00 we loaded the bus and drove to the Kotel so that we can take part in the amazing and unique NCSY Kumsitz at the Kotel. It was awesome!! All people, men and women, Chassidim and Religious Zionists, non-observant and newly observant all sat and sang together. It was Mamesh powerful.

We left the Kumsitz towards the end and walked up to the Rova for Maariv. From there we went to the bus and quickly broke our fast. We got on the bus and drove to the Yekev Winery in the Gush for an amazing breakfast (without wine of course). It was our chance to perform a Mitzvah and help give Parnassa to a Jew who was struggling due to the current situation. The kids felt awesome about doing something unique and out of the box as well as helping a fellow Jew. I would like to say for the record that the food was absolutely amazing!! If you are in Israel and would like a boutique eating experience please go visit and spend some money there. They are good people and it’s a big Mitzvah.

After our break-fast we returned back to our hotel and packed up and relaxed for a bit. In the morning we davened, ate breakfast and then went to Meah Shearim. While there the kids were able to pick out a sefer of their choice paid for by a donor. IOt was awesome seeing the kids looking amongst the vast sea of books looking for the “right” sefer for them. After the Seforim were bought, the kids sat on the bus learning together and reading through their new treasures. You can’t imagine what an awesome feeling that was for me to watch.  With seforim in hand, we headed down to Eilat.

On the way down we stopped at a beautiful little water hike called Nachal Bokek. One of the things that I tried to point out to the kids was at that “Mah Rabu Maasecha Hashem” moment when you walk through the beautiful and majestic orange red mountains in the area of Sodom and suddenly our of no where appears an underground stream of fresh sweet water. We walked along the water and vegetation finally stopping at a small pool of water where we relaxed for a little while. We walkedback and then went to the Dead Sea. Even though it was literally like walking into hot chicken soup some of the kids tried it for the experience and it was well worth it. You can’t go to the Dead Sea and not try floating in it at least once.

After changing and getting back on the bus we headed down to Eilat. As we were driving we made sure to point out to the kids the interesting landmarks as well as the Jewish historical significance of certain places. We finally arrived in Eilat and got to our hotel. We unloaded our bags and walked straight to the boardwalk for dinner at Burgers Bar. The food was solid and we all enjoyed a meat dinner. The kids had some free time on the boardwalk and then returned back to the hotel.

This morning was awesome! We had an optional hike up Har Tzfachot at 4:30 A.M. about 24 kids opted to go on that hike. It was amazing because we hiked before sunrise and had a chance to see the sun rise over the Jordanian mountains. It was from this vantage point that we were able to see Egypt, Jordan. Saudi Arabia and Israel. Imagine the sun rising over the brownish reddish mountains, the crystal blue water underneath and the world starting to awake. For just that one moment things seemed so peaceful. Our advisor Michael brought his “Yom Kippur” Chaburah up to the top where they actually mock performed the Yom Kippur service of throwing the ram off the cliff. We bought a stuffed lamb doll (close enough) and used it as our Seir La”Azazel. It was awesome to watch it happen. We came back to the hotel, showered and changed for davening. After breakfast we loaded the bus and got ready for a day of fun in the sun. The boys rented out a boat that took us into the middle of the sea where we went swimming and snorkeling. The girls at that time, had some pretty awesome water sports…banana boating and the like. Then we ate lunch together and flipped. So the girls went to the yacht and went snorkeling and the boys did water sports. After we all had enough of the hot Eilat sun, we went back to the hotel to cool off, drink and change for a dinner in the Ice mall. It’s called that because the entire mall surrounds an ice skating rink.  After an awesome dinner in Café Café, we had free time and went ice-skating. It was a lot of fun and not necessarily what you would envision as part of the itinerary on a trip to Eilat. But it was great! We got back to the hotel davened and some kids wanted some free time on the boardwalk so Nechama and I took them for 45 minutes and then we all walked back together.

Tomorrow is our last full day together. It is surreal. This summer has been so outrageously amazing. I have come to know 40 if the most amazing kids I have ever met. Each one brings something unique and beautiful to the table and I am going to miss each and every one of them terribly. I am also going to miss writing to you each night. This was not a burden by any means; it was a pleasure to be in constant contact with you. I felt like I had all of you on the trip with me as well. I hope I gave you but a small little flavor of how amazing this program is. We literally changed lives and enhanced others. The bottom line is that no one is coming out of here the same as they went in. I believe we are all coming out better; perhaps more refined or more mature. Some of us grew in our connection with Hashem and others got to know ourselves a bit better. But everyone is coming out intact and as part of an extended family. The NCSY JOLT Israel family! That is a family will always stay together. May Hashem watch over all of these beautiful and holy Neshamos.  I am blessed, together with Nechama, Rabbi Rosenfeld, Yoel, Yehuda and the advisors to have had this opportunity to impact young Jewish lives in such a meaningful way. There is more to say but I will save it for my last email tomorrow night.

With warmest wishes

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-Rabbi Weinberg

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