JOLT Israel
NCSY JOLT Israel- So Much To Share With You!!

My Dear NCSY JOLT Israel Family,


Wow!! I have so much to speak to you about. Full disclosure: I really do try and write each night to you but as you can imagine things are ALWAYS happening, the kids need me and time is so scarce when trying to do this right. You all know me pretty well by now and every NCSYers health (emotional and physical), safety and well-being always comes first. So I am sure you understand why sometimes there is a lapse of a day or more.


I want to fill you all in on Shabbos, Tisha B’Av and the last two days that we spent in Yehuda V’Shomron and the Gush. Today will be the last day in this very special and holy area of our Jewish ancestral homeland. Each place was very important and very holy days in different ways.


Shabbos was amazing as usual. What could be bad? Amazing kids, amazing program and in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh. It’s the recipe for perfection. We gathered before Shabbos for pictures and then made our way to the Kotel for a special Shabbos Chazon davening. The Kotel plaza was jammed!! I have never seen so many people there before. It was a beautiful mix of Yeshivish, Litvish, Tzioni, Chassidish, Sephardic, soldiers (from all different observance sectors) and visitors just dancing and singing. I loved it. My favorite thing to do is to just sit amongst beautiful Jewish souls and knowing that everyone is asking for the something real, davening to the same God and all connected to one another on the deepest level. It is that moment of profound Emes that I try to assimilate into my spiritual life. It is something I draw the kid’s attention to as well. In general, my educational Hashkafa is: We need to do, at the very least, as good a job of teaching love for Hashem as we do of teaching math or science or even Chumash. Love for Hashem is not a subject that can be taught. But in my opinion, for vibrant Jewish continuity, it is the most important subject to be learned!


In any event, the cool mountain breeze, the crowded plaza, and the sounds of davening set the stage for a magical moment of Achdus. After davening we walked to Aish HaTorah where we ate our Seudah. Can you imagine!!! Friday night of Shabbos Chazon and our view during the Seudah was that of Har HaBayis! It was beyond meanigful. The Ruach, the love between all of my JOLTers. Just a big family spending time together. What could be better?! We gave the kids a choice after the meal to either sit and stay for an optional Kumsitz or go back and go to sleep. We had a nice showing of about 15 kids at our optional Kumsitz. Shabbos day we davened, had Kiddush, Divrei Torah and then lunch. We davened Mincha and then the kids had time to sleep or just veg out. At about 5:30 there were optional Chaburas for those interested and at 6:30 we had Shalashudes. The fast started at 7:46 and the previous day I had gone through all the pertinent Halachos of this unique Tisha B’Av. After the fast began we all made our way downstairs and we sang a bit until after Shabbos. We said “Hamavdil” and the kids went upstairs to change their shoes. They all came down, we davened Maariv, I said the Bracha on Aish and we loaded our bus to the Herodion.


The Herodian is a very special place. I have been going there with groups for Tisha B’Av for the past eight years. What makes it so remarkable is that it is a palace fortress and a small town that Herod the great built into this hollowed mountain top between 23 and 15 BCE, and he is also believed to have been buried there. It was conquered and destroyed by the Romans in 71 CE. That means the Jews who were living there were the last to see the actual destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. In fact, the tradition is that they were able to see the flames light up the sky just 7.5 miles South of Jerusalem. We spoke about the place, and heard Divrei Hisorarus from Jed Zaslow, one of our amazing advisors and then heard Eicha. Afterwards, I spoke for a minute to frame the evening and we had a very emotional Kumsitz. We had many people join us including Chassidim, soldiers and Jews who live in nearby communities like Tekoa. It was a very special evening.


We returned back to our hotel and went to sleep. Sunday morning, we actually did something that I usually don’t do, but it worked out in a way I never could have expected. We had an early Tisha B’Av wake up. We started davening at 7:30. After davening we had each advisor speak prior to a different Kinnah and then for the first time ever we arranged for a tour of the Kotel tunnels on Tisha B’Av. I know what you are thinking and YES it was beyond inspirational! I was nervous about it, but it turned out to be beyond wonderful. I made it optional and most of the kids took me up on it. Some stayed back for various reasons but the kids that came got an experience that they will never forget. We saw new aspects of the exhibit including but not limited to actual stone that were lying on the floor broken form the day of the destruction. I took pictures and if you want me to WhatsApp them to you just reach out and I will be happy to. We had the opportunity to daven at the spot closest to the Kodesh HaKodashim as well. It was something so powerful!


We returned back to the hotel and the kids had time to sleep and rest after Mincha. At about 6:30 we left and made our way to the Kotel for the famous and much anticipated NCSY summer Kumsitz at the Kotel. Unfortunately, our bus was not allowed to turn and drop us off and due to tremendous traffic (normal for an hour before the end of the fast at the Kotel) we wouldn’t have made it for the Kumsitz. So…when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. That’s exactly what we did, only our lemonade was sweet not sour! We went straight to Har HaZeisim. We sat together and watched the sun go down over the Judean mountains as we looked at Har Habayis from afar. We had a beautiful kumsitz of our own and I spoke for a few minutes about a question my father always asked, If Kamtza and Bar Kamtza were only pawns in the story and really it was the person making the party and the Rabbi’s who were at fault why aren’t they included in the name? Why do these guys get such a bad rap? It’s true that bar Kamtza went to the Roman authorities, but he was pushed over the edge! The Ba’al HaBayis who made the party is the most to blame and he isn’t mentioned at all!! I gave the kids a very important message and my own insight into this. It was a true Tisha B’Av message that my NCSY JOLT Israel kids were ready to hear. If you want to know more about what I said or hear the message, please feel free to WhatsApp me and I will be happy to share with you.


After our Kumsitz we davened Maariv overlooking Har Habayis. We made Havdala, ate a quick bite and loaded the bus for a drive into the Gush. We went to the Yekev Winery restaurant to officially break our fast and we did it for a very important reason. Due to the fact that many Americans are unfortunately scared to drive into the Gush, this Jewish restaurant proprietor does struggle a bit. Rather than run to eat as quickly as possible, as leaders we need to look outside of ourselves and our surroundings and see what we can do for others. So we went to this restaurant for dinner. The taste of Chesed, mixed with fresh baked bread, pizzas, pasta and salads goes together perfectly!


Sunday morning after breakfast we had a talk by tech guru Hillel Fuld. He spoke to our kids about how he got started, why he got started and the important role Israel plays in technology around the world. It was an awesome lecture. The kids were involved and engaged and took a tremendous amount from it. We left the hotel and made our way out the Shomron and took half the kids Sheep herding in the Yishuv of Itamar and the other half to a beautiful overlook called “Shloshet Yamim”. A magnificent spot in the Shomron where you can see the Mediterranean Sea, Dead Sea and the Kinneret. After Itamar we traveled to Har Gerizim and went to an overlook, looking out at Shechem and specifically Kever Yosef HaTzadik. We saw the original Shechem, the Mizbeach set up by Yehoshua and of course the Kever of Yosef HaTzadik. We spent a few minutes learning about the site and we davened Mincha there. The power of that place. Deep in the Shomron, mountains all around and we were standing over one of the holiest sites in the world. Makes you pause and appreciate so much….


We made our way back to Ramat Rachel, ate dinner and had one of the coolest night activities EVER!! We brought in a Na Nach van and danced outside to Breslov Techno. It was amazing. The kids loved it, they went wild and we all got a chance to dance on the roof in typical Na Nach style!!


Tuesday was yet another homerun! Our morning began (after davening, breakfast and Chabura’s) with some time working in Oz V’Gaon. A park in the Gush set up in memory of the three boys who were kidnapped and killed several years ago. We had an opportunity to work the land a bit. Our job was to pick up wood and help create a clearing as well as to ensure that if God Forbid there was any sort of fire, there would be no wood for the fire to spread. It was hot outside and it was tiring but I am really proud of the many kids that rolled up their sleeves and got involved. It was an awesome leadership opportunity. We ate lunch and then made our way to visit our holy grandparents: Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Sara, Rivka and Leah. We spent a few minutes outside speaking about the holiness of Hevron and Ma’aras HaMachpeila. It was quiet and beautiful outside and really special to see so many Jews coming to daven there during Israel’s Bein HaZmanim.  We davened Mincha inside and gave the kids a few minutes to daven by whomever they felt most connected to or all of them. It was a very holy experience. After Hevron we drove to Tekoa (right next to the Herodion) and we did an amazing hike called the Haritun caves. It was about a 30-minute walk down to the start of the spelunking site. The cave complex is the longest and largest limestone cave in Israel. It’s over 37,000 square feet with almost three miles of tunnels!! We obviously didn’t do it all but what we did was amazing. All around on the mountains were old stone structures, some of which dating back 3,000 years! We got back to the hotel at close to 9:00 P.M., had dinner, davened Maariv and hit the hay!


Today was our last day in the Gush and it was beautiful. We began at the Kfar Etzion sound and light show exhibit, where we learned about the holiness of the Gush both in biblical and contemporary times. It will actually connect beautifully to our trip to Har Hertzel tomorrow when we speak about the Lamed Heh. After the sound and light show I took the kids to one of my favorite spots in the entire country (I know I say that all the time) the Lone Tree. It was a powerful moment where I gave perspective of where we were standing and the history of the place and the tree, and I spoke to the kids about choices in their lives. Embracing their destiny as individuals and members of a people and on the flip side living the history of the Jewish people. Ask them about the difference between the Olive tree and the Oak tree. If they were paying attention which most of them were I think you will be moved as well. The other thing that I put into context for them was the fact that they need to start figuring themselves out. They are going into 11th grade, they will be in Israel for the year in 3 years and some may even be married a few years after that. Everyone wants to stay a kid forever, but our important discussed was about accepting that we will not be kids forever and thus we have a responsibility to ourselves to understand who we are and what we are and start making sense of things. In today’s fast moving world, our children don’t have the luxury of having people wait for them to figure it all out. It’s real life and real life in 2018 is really different than real life even 20 years ago. That is all part of leadership. They heard the message and it actually started some really important conversations among the kids themselves. After The Lone Tree we made fresh soft pretzels in Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim. We learned about baking, Halacha and had the opportunity to eat some delicious fresh baked goodies.  


We got back to the hotel and we are getting ready for the much anticipated Yom NCSY!! The kids are doing great, the advisors are beyond amazing, and we are making sure to give each child what they need to thrive and feel fulfilled.  


In summation: THE.BEST.SUMMER.EVER!!!


A quick word about the free Shabbos. Our game plan is to be at our Tel Aviv drop off location the old Alozoroff train station by about 4:00 and at the OU center in Jerusalem on Keren HaYesod at about 5:30. That’s the game plan as it stands now. Obviously there are a million and one things that could hold us up. But I really want to be sensitive to all the people picking up the kids so we will try our hardest to stick to those times. Just let people know that they may need to be fluid. All NCSY JOLT Israel participants are to meet us on Sunday morning in the parking lot of Har Hertzel at 10:00 A.M.  Regarding cabs and busses I need an email or WhatsApp confirmation if you are allowing your children to travel that way. If you have any questions please reach out!


If you have any questions or comments (always appreciated) don’t hesitate to reach out.


Wishing you all Simcha and Yishuv HaDa’as.


With warmest wishes


Rabbi Dr. Noam Weinberg

Director, NCSY JOLT Israel


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