Na'ale 2011


Sept. 20 - Paddling in Park Hayarkon, planting trees in Neot Kdumim

Written by Rebecca B. and Eric

We started the morning with a shacharit Torah Reading service at our hotel. Tal and Emily led us in prayers, Eden and Noa S were gabbis, and Danny, Hayley and Jon beautifully read from the Torah. Alona delivered a very meaningful D'var Torah about how in this week's parsha Moses renewed the covenant with God right before crossing the Jordan River and entering into the land of Israel. This story is similar to what we're going through right now - as we leave Middle School and enter into High School, we renew our covenant with our friends, old and new, our teachers, our school and with Israel.

Our first activity of the day was at Ein Gedi with our Israeli friends from Merchavim. We had a wonderful drive through the desert where our ears popped as we dropped below sea level. Ein Gedi is beautiful - very hot and very fun. One minute you will see a desert-like view, the next a waterfall leading into a small stream. We did a short hike and stopped to take a refreshing dip in a pool of water with two waterfalls. We had so much fun with our new friends!

After Ein Gedi, we went to the Dead Sea for lunch and an experience of a lifetime. We met back up with our friends from Merchavim and ate lunch together. After lunch, we checked out the gift shop and headed to the Dead Sea. We went in the water and explored the shore and found some mud and lathered up. Shani told us that while most seas have 2% of salt, the Dead Sea has 33%, which is why we float in it and no creatures can live in it! As beautiful as the sight was, we were a bit disheartened to learn the Dead Sea is shrinking fast because of all of the manufacturers who use the Dead Sea for consumer products. When we were finished in the water, we showered and changed. As soon as everyone was finished cleaning up, we had a closing activity and parted from our new and dear friends!

Can't wait to see everyone at the airport!

Sept. 19 - Hiking in the Judean Desert and swimming in the Dead Sea  


We began our first full day in Jerusalem by heading over to Mt. Herzl, the cemetery for soldiers and heads of state. The cemetery is divided into three levels: the beginning level for soldiers, middle for heads of state, and the top level for Theodor Herzl, the visionary of the State of Israel. Our madrichim took us to well known soldiers’ grave sites where we had the opportunity to pay our respects by placing a stone on the grave. Our visit to Mt. Herzl was even more moving as we witnessed an unveiling of a soldier killed a month ago during the incident on the border with Egypt, not far away from Eilat. Other important grave sites we visited included Chana Sennesh, the first woman paratrooper, Yoni Netanyahu, brother of Benjamin and army commander who died leading the raid on Entebbe, Michael Levin, the lone soldier from Pennsylvania, Golda Meir, and Itzak Rabin. Although we had heavy hearts after such an intense morning, Shani taught us the Israeli survival method: feel the grief, but don’t hold on to it. With this in mind, we made our final climb to the top of Mt. Herzl where we sang Hatikvah in a circle around Theodor Herzl’s grave. Here, we had a surprise guest: Gal, one of our school’s rishonim last year, met us on top of the mountain and spent the afternoon hanging out with us (after many hugs and pictures).

We spent the early part of the afternoon getting to feel like a true Israeli: doing some Shabbat shopping at the shuk. We grabbed some schwarma and falafel for lunch and divided into small groups to pick up certain items for our special oneg later that evening. We got first-hand experience speaking in Hebrew—and even some haggling! We made it back to our hotel where we had a restful afternoon of free time with family and friends visiting.

As the sun began to set, we made our way to the old city. Moments before seeing the Kotel, the students received their Shabbat letters. They were truly surprised and appreciated the sentiment. For those who had never been before, they closed their eyes and had a friend lead them to the balcony overlooking the Kotel. We then had a joyous Kabbalat Shabbat in front of the Kotel, which included a special D’var Torah by Jacob C. Following our service, we had some individual time to go up to the Wailing Wall and leave notes in the cracks.

On Saturday morning, we split into different groups and visited four synagogues close to our hotel: conservative, orthodox, Sephardic, and Italian. When we all met back up for lunch, we were able to share our experiences at each different shul. We had some free time in the afternoon with some more visits from family and friends. Our madrichim led the group in a program to get us ready for our visit to Yad Vashem on Sunday. The students were very respectful of each other and really listened to what each one had to say. On Saturday night, we had our long-awaited visit to Ben Yehuda Street where we did some more falafel/shwarma eating and got some shopping done.

On Sunday morning, we visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum. We were immediately impressed by the size and construction of the museum, which had both inside and outside exhibits. Although we’ve learned so much about the Holocaust at school, we felt a much deeper connection as we saw artifacts and survivor footage. Our visit was a great reminder of how important it is for us to share these stories, celebrate the freedom we have to be Jews, and for the state of Israel.

When we left the museum, Shani again reminded us of the Israeli way of dealing – leaving grief behind and moving on to the next activity. So, in the afternoon, we switched gears for a fun afternoon with our Israeli friends from Merchavim. We started out with some icebreakers to get to know each other and then had a nice picnic lunch outside. We walked to the City of David, still getting to know our Israeli counterparts, and went on a hike in the tunnels underneath the city. We helped each other navigate through the dark tunnel, bringing us even closer to our new friends. Then, we split up into groups for an “Amazing Race” around the Old City. We ended the day on a simulated Time Elevator attraction, learning about the history of Jerusalem – while our seats moved about! Our Israeli friends came back with us to the hotel for dinner and we concluded the evening with a beautiful ma’ariv service, led by Harris and Noah S.

Looking forward to another fun-filled day in the desert,

Ms. Jaffe and Mr. Herskowitz


A touching video from Na'ale at the Kineret Cemetery.

Sept. 16 - Jerusalem

Sept. 14-15 - Mt. Bental, Kinneret, Druze Village,
Bahai Gargens, arrival in Jerusalem

Written by Noa and Eli

We began the day with last minute packing for our departure to Jerusalem, followed by morning services led by Aaron and Noah S. Hayley, Rebecca B., and Noah P. enriched all of us with their beautiful Torah reading. Then, we ate our last breakfast at our hostel in Poriya and drove away to our first stop in Haifa.

Everyone on the bus was amazed by the Bahai Gardens when they first came into view from our bus windows. It is a multi-tiered shrine to the Bahai religion. A tour guide taught us about the religion as we traversed the 700 steps. We learned countless interesting facts about the Bahais, such as that nine is their sacred number. Their religious symbol is a star with nine points, and there were 18 (nine times two) tiers. We took lots of pictures of beautiful and exotic plants that we hope qualifies for our science homework.

Our next stop was Elijah’s Cave, which is a sacred place of the Jewish people. It is where Elijah hid from prosecution. When we walked in we instantly felt a connection through our Jewish traditions and heritage. By the time we had all left, we were trembling from the intensity of the experience as a whole. Many of us who prayed there discussed the fact that we were really shaken up from the presence of G-d that we felt there.

After Elijah’s Cave, we visited the home of a Druze family, who welcomed us with open arms and wide smiles. We learned all about the Druze people, and many of us asked question after question and were intrigued by what we had learned. The family then brought out dish after dish of delicious traditional Druze food. We finished our visit with hot tea.

Our Madrichim informed us that because we had behaved so well, we had earned a reward: a last minute visit to a Druze marketplace. There, we were given 45 minutes of free time to walk around in groups of four, and were free to purchase anything we could bargain for. After a long day, we were excited to get back on the bus for a two-hour drive to Jerusalem.
As we drove into the city the madrichim closed the curtains on the bus and kept us busy by playing songs and encouraging us to sing. When the bus finally came to a stop Shani asked us to close our eyes and listen to the words of the song she was about to play – “Jerusalem of Gold” by Ofra Haza. She played the song very loudly, told us to open our eyes and we found ourselves staring at the most breathtaking sight we have ever seen, the city of Jerusalem. Our friends who had never been to Israel before were literally speechless; they did not move for quite awhile. Even those of us who have visited here before were almost crying because it was so emotional. We can’t find the words to describe the sight, the feeling, and the emotions that we experienced. When we were finally able to move we got off the bus and stood on the promenade just taking in the vision of Jerusalem. We took pictures (you’ll see them!) and hugged each other. The madrichim had grapejuice for us for shekeyanu, and they asked to take a moment to look at the city and think about what we want to get out of our visit here.

We drove up to our hostel , Agron, just as the sun was setting. We unloaded our luggage, and found our rooms which was difficult considering that many people were on the fourth floor, and the elevator could only fit a few at a time. Finally, we were all settled in and ready for our next adventure.

See you soon!

Na'ale students visited the Bahai Gardens in Haifa today.


We started our day with a visit to the Kineret Cemetery, where some of the first pioneers of the land of Israel are buried. Among some of the grave sites we saw included Rachel the poet and singer/songwriter Naomi Shemer. We had a touching moment when we sang "Jerusalem of Gold," Shemer's most famous song.

We spent the rest of the morning in the Golan Heights. We stopped at a Kibbutz Elrom where we watched a film about the battle during Yom Kippur, which focused on The Valley of Tears. This kibbutz is famous for growing delicious fruit, makes award-winning wine, and does language dubbing for lots of films and television shows.

We went up to Mt. Bental where we had the chance to walk through the bunkers used during the Six Day War. We sat overlooking Syria as Shani, one of our madrichim, did a fantastic job teaching us the significance of the Golan Heights and asked probing questions which got us all thinking about at what costs should there be peace. We realized there's no simple answer, but the reality is Israelis live with these questions daily.

Our next stop was lunch in the small town of Katzerin. After some yummy falafel and shwarma, we went over to the ancient Talmudic village where we ran into some ancient "locals" (aka Harris, Tal, Abby, Sion, Emily, Jon, Noah P, Yael) performed some skits of stories from the midrash.

We cooled off in the afternoon on a water hike at the Majrasse nature reserve. It rocked!

Headed to Haifa and Jerusalem tomorrow. Be sure to follow us on Twitter for more happenings!

A group photo from Mt. Bental, overlooking the Syrian border.

Our first update from Na'ale:

We have had a jam-packed first two days on our Na’Eleven trip (Jordan S’s nickname for our trip.) We were too excited to sleep on the flight, and when we landed we led our fellow passengers in a group cheer. At the airport, we were greeted by Alona, our school’s program director in Israel, and our three very enthusiastic madrichim: Gev, Shani, and Noa. Our first stop was Jaffa, also known as the Gate to Israel. We had a leisurely breakfast and birthday treat (deliciously chocolate milk in a bag!) for Jacob M-S’s 14th birthday. We also took this time for a short memorial service in honor of 9/11. Harris M. led us in A Prayer for the Community and Rebecca B. read a special psalm. Upon reflection, the madrichim shared how 9/11’s impact stretched beyond America to around the world.

Our next stop was Tel Aviv, where the state of Israel was declared in 1948. We visited Independence Hall and sat in the same room where Ben-Gurion and other statesman changed the history of the Jewish people. Afterwards, we split into small groups and did a scavenger hunt around town ending in Rabin Square. Our madrichim gave us a great history lesson and taught us a song in memory of Rabin.

We finally made it back to the bus! We have to admit, our jet lag greatly appreciated the two hour bus ride to our hotel in the north. When we arrived in Poriya, we were totally impressed with our accommodations. We have a beautiful view of the Golan Heights, the Kineret, Mt. Arbel, and the city of Tiberias. The rooms have been newly renovated and the beds couldn’t of been more comfortable. Not to mention, the food is almost like mom’s home-cookin! Our minha service was led by Ariella L. and Yael C.

We woke up early Tuesday morning (4 am!) to catch the sunrise on top of Mt. Arbel. We can’t say we were too happy with the early morning wake-up, but it was definitely worth it as we watched our first sunrise in Israel. We captivated the moment with a special shacharit service, led by Daniel B. and Harris M. We all had a chill when we faced Jerusalem during the service and realized how close we were.

Our next morning activity was a donkey ride across the mountain. We all had a fun time naming our donkeys and taking turns riding them. After our ride, we took a very challenging hike down Mt. Arbel. At first we were very nervous, but our fears soon disappeared as we guided and supported each other through the course to reach the bottom. What an accomplishment!

We were now ready to get wet and wild for our afternoon activities, which included zip lining into the Jordan River, rock climbing, archery, and ropes course. Then, we headed into the Jordan River for kayaking. It was a smooth, leisurely sail down the river, only for occasionally splashing our friends when we passed by them!

After drying ourselves off, we headed back to our hotel for a nice schnitzel dinner and program on the Israeli borders led by our madrichim. Wow – we’ve had a great, busy two days and are looking forward to tomorrow in the city of Katzrin. Laila tov! 

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