A JK-12 pluralistic school that engages students in an exemplary and inspiring general and Jewish education.

Trip Blog

Jeremy Schooler

REFLECTION ON THE SENIOR CAPSTONE TRIPS
By Jeremy Schooler

After a whirlwind last week, which included finishing our sea to sea hike from the Mediterranean to the Kinneret, spending a night in the Golan Heights and visiting Mt. Herzl and the Kotel, we're finally back in the USA. It feels very weird being home again, from sleeping in a room alone, to not having days packed with hikes or long bus rides, to something as simple as not using shekels anymore. However, all this down time without constantly having 60 other people around has given me time to reflect on the trip.

Senior Capstone Trips

The first day we were in Israel, it rained. After we lugged our bags to our dorm, we had an orientation with the Muss directors. On that first day, three months seemed like it would be an eternity—there was so much we would be doing, visiting all sorts of places, some we'd never heard of traveling to two other countries, etc. And now, looking back, it has flown by. It became a routine. Every day we'd go on some new hike, or to some new city, exploring what we'd learned about in school all these years. All of a sudden, two weeks had gone by and we were off to Gadna. This was the first time we were split up for any extended period of time (into two girls' groups and two boys' groups), but all that did was allow us to grow closer with the group of 15 people in our unit, because we spent every moment together for four days.

Soon after Gadna, we left for Europe. This was one of the most memorable and meaningful parts of the trip for many reasons. Obviously there were the visits to the camps and other Holocaust landmarks, for which we had been preparing mentally and emotionally and which obviously were going to be sad. However, unexpectedly, there were parts of our trip to Europe that were actually fun and happy. I remember vividly the day we visited the Buczyna forest, which in my opinion was the most grim and somber part of the trip. Our guide Akiva told us how the Nazis would take whole communities of Jews to this forest, and throw them into huge pits. Both Benjy and Akiva then spoke to us about the young children that were buried there, and how their bodies were poured out of dump trucks into the now covered pits we were standing beside. We were all thinking about our own families, all the way across the world, that, unlike those children, we would eventually be able to go back to. At that point, our madrichim gave us letters written to us by our own parents about the Holocaust and our families' histories. As sad as that whole experience was, what we did after was amazing. We stopped at a Polish Yeshiva, where we ate, danced, and sang Jewish songs for hours. The fact that we could go somewhere that was, in my opinion, the most grim and morbid place on a trip filled with some of the most grim and morbid places in the world, and then be so joyful afterwards was incredible. It meant that we, as the Jewish people, could understand and see the atrocities in our history without letting them hold us back.

When we got back from Europe, we headed off to our volunteer periods. I had an amazing time living in Tzfat for three weeks, exploring the city, learning about Kabbalah and volunteering with the elderly. The 20 of us who were in Tzfat got very close with each other and made many memories and jokes together, but at a certain point I couldn't wait to go back to Hod HaSharon. Nothing was more consistently fun or entertaining throughout the trip than the crazy nights on campus in Hod, and I missed being with the whole group. This was probably why, when we all left for Passover break after volunteer period, I hung out with other JDS people as often as I could. We'd gotten into a rhythm on the trip (and I guess in all of our years at JDS too) of being with each other every day, so it felt weird to not see anyone for a while. And now, after almost four days back home in America, I am getting that feeling again.

Senior Capstone Trips

My two favorite highlights of the post-Pesach part of the trip were going down south and Yam L'Yam. On our way to the very southern tip of the country, we stopped to spend a night in Bedouin-style tents and went rolling/jumping/running down huge sand dunes, which was extremely fun. The night in the Bedouin tents was one of my favorite nights of the trip, because it was very different from anything we'd done. It felt like a huge slumber party, all of us in the same tent, in the middle of the desert, singing around a campfire, and then having a big wrestling tournament on our sleeping mats. After riding camels the next morning, we continued down south to Eilat, where we were able to go snorkeling and scuba diving in the Red Sea. Snorkeling there was incredible, because with the water so clear we were able to see stunning sea life up close.

Yam L'Yam, our hike from the Mediterranean Sea to the Kinneret, was our final major trek in Israel. It seemed daunting at first, hiking more than 50 miles up hills and rocky terrains, but I can honestly say it got easier and more fun each day. We played games while we hiked, which made the time pass very quickly, and before we knew it we were near the campsite. I chose to do the harder hike each day, not taking the bus at all, and it definitely paid off in the end and felt very rewarding to get to the Kinneret completely on my own power. Once we got there, we had a great time all swimming and singing together, another one of my favorite spontaneous moments from the trip.

Right before we left to come home, we spent a day in Jerusalem, visiting the Western Wall one last time and going to Mt. Herzl. This was a very meaningful and appropriate way to end the trip and it concisely illustrated why Israel is so special. As we left to go to the airport, it rained again, which it hadn't really done since that first day. It was a fitting send off for home, with something that was was dreary, but unavoidable and necessary.

I can confidently say that this was not only the trip of a lifetime, but the greatest three months of my life. Thinking back on the trip and looking through pictures already brings back so many fabulous memories, but it also leaves me with a bit of sadness that it's over. Not just that the trip is over, but our JDS careers as well. I don't want it all to end, but since it had to, I wouldn't have changed the last three months at all.

Carol Silber

Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut
By Carol Silber

Yesterday, I hung out at my cousins' house for a family gathering. Last night, I attended a fun barbecue with a few other families.Today, I spent the day shopping at Montgomery Mall with my little brother. Needless to say, Memorial Day in America is a wildly different experience than Memorial Day in Israel.

It already feels like a long time back, but just two and a half weeks ago, my classmates and I had the privilege of being in Israel for Yom HaZikaron, Israel's holiday to commemorate its fallen soldiers and victims of terror. For the entire country, the commemoration began on the evening of May 10. At around 8 p.m., a siren rang all across Israel, announcing the start of the somber day. When the siren went off, my classmates and I were gathered at a tekes (ceremony) that was run by Masa Israel, an organization that provides opportunities for young Jewish adults to come to Israel. During the ceremony, we learned about six individuals who had lost their lives during their service in the Israeli Defense Forces or who were terror victims. One of the stories that was shared was that of Ezra Schwartz, who was from Massachusetts and was killed in a terror attack earlier this year while on his gap year at a yeshiva. Ezra's mother attended the ceremony where we were and lit the torch that opened the ceremony. Most of us agreed that the ceremony was quite moving, but that parts of it — like when the band on stage played a loud song accompanied by flashing lights -- felt a bit more like a performance than anything else. Along those lines, many students felt that the ceremony that we attended was a very American ceremony, and several students said that they would have liked to attend a more authentic Israeli ceremony.

The next morning, we attended another tekes, this time on our own campus. The students from Alexander Muss live on the same campus as students from the Mosenson Israeli boarding school. The students from Mosenson led the tekes. Several shared memories of their friends or family members who had been killed in battle. The ceremony also included several songs sung by the students. For me and many others, this felt a bit more like the true Israeli experience. Unlike the Masa ceremony, at this ceremony, there was not a sense that stories had to be told to provoke an emotional reaction from audience members who would otherwise be stoic. The ceremony felt very natural and commonplace, despite the unnatural character of what was recounted during the ceremony.

For me, the most meaningful part of Yom HaZikaron was what we did later in the afternoon. Our madrichim (counselors who have all recently completed their service in the IDF) led sessions for us that opened up a space to discuss Yom HaZikaron in a different and interesting way. I attended a session led by our madricha Noa. In our session, Noa challenged us to consider the word hero, and to question its widespread use. The conversation brought up many fascinating questions — is anyone who dies in battle a hero? Are people who died in terror attacks heroes too? Is there a danger to labeling deceased individuals as heroes? This discussion was incredibly complex and was made much more significant by Noa's participation and perspective as an Israeli who is all too familiar with soldiers and civilians being killed.

After these discussions ended, it was suddenly time to get changed and get ready to go out to Hod HaSharon's local Yom HaAtzmeut festival! In Israel, Independence Day starts as soon as Memorial Day ends. We spent the evening enjoying festive music and good food at a family celebration near our campus. We spent the next day at Herzliya beach. While we were swimming in the ocean and playing soccer on the sand, several jets flew overhead as part of the annual Yom HaAtzmaut airshow. After that, we went back to campus for a barbecue to culminate the day.

Being in Israel for these two days gave me a lot of insight into Israeli culture and lifestyle. Although it may seem obvious that there is a sense of sacrifice in a country where every 18 year-old is drafted, you don't really feel that sacrifice until days like Yom HaZikaron. And although it may seem obvious that Israel is incredibly resilient given all of the wars it has fought, you don't really feel that resilience until you experience the shift from the sadness of Yom HaZikaron to the pride of Yom HaAtzmaut. Without a doubt, I can say that being in Israel for these two days were a huge part of what made the past three months in Israel more than amazing. These two days taught me so much about the Jewish state and were most definitely a defining part of our transformative experience in Israel.

Mordechai Cohen

Dear Parents,

This is the last update I will be sending this session. I am writing this update as the students are finally back in the USA. In the updates, I have tried to convey to you their experiences as the students crossed the country, volunteered, immersed themselves in their history and heritage as well as the culture and language of Israel. We hope that students return home having had a fun, enjoyable and meaningful time on the AMHSI program as well as filled with inspiration and knowledge from their teachers and madrichim who guided them on this incredible journey.

Please find below an update regarding students' final days in Israel.

As you know, the students' last Shabbat was spent on campus with Elhanan. The students had Tefilah, and ate the Shabbat meals together. The group ended Shabbat and brought in the new week with a raucous and exciting Havdallah.

Sunday, the students departed for their tiyul to the north. They began the day with an overview at Mitzpeh Gadot and learned about the Golan Heights.

They then visited the 1973 battle zone, known as Hill 77, which was the site of one of the most important tank battles of the Yom Kippur War. Because of this battle, the place is also called the "Valley of Tears". The heroic deeds of the tank crews and infantry units who fought in this battle stopped the Syrian onslaught and prevented the Syrian army from overrunning the Golan and invading the valley below.

From this place you can look into Syria and I have even been there were you can see the mortar shells of the rebels and the government troops being fired back and forth. Here they learned about the current situation in Syria.

The last place visited on Sunday before arriving to their lodging, was Kibbutz Misgav Am, the northernmost settlement in Israel near the border with Lebanon. They met Ariyeh Ben Yaakov, an American Oleh who was a farmer on the kibbutz for many years. Ariyeh spoke about his personal Aliyah story, why he chose this particular kibbutz and the special challenges of living in this region of the country. He was able to convey to the students all that is special about living in this area as well as the challenges. One of the serious challenges, of course, is the danger of terrorism from Lebanon, which has been a constant threat since the late 1970's. The region experienced many skirmishes and wars. Kibbutz Misgav Am was a victim of a horrible terror attack. Nevertheless, and despite this, the kibbutz and the entire region have achieved much, which is clearly visible. Ariyeh was able to convey all that is special about living in this area to the students.

The group finished their travels at Kibbutz Gadot where they checked into the kibbutz Guest House. Kibbutz Gadot is located on the bank of the Jordan River below the Golan. It was founded in 1949 by Nahal Brigade youth and a number of Holocaust survivors in 1949. It was built more or less on the site of a Moshav that was overrun by the Syrian army during the War of Independence. It was named Gadot (River Banks) due to the fact that the kibbutz had fields on both banks of the Jordan River.

During the 1950s and 1960s the kibbutz suffered from several assaults by the Syrian army and was hit by many artillery bombardments from the bunkers above. During the Six Days War in 1967, the kibbutz was once again bombarded and most of its buildings were destroyed or badly damaged.

On Monday the students chose one of two hikes near Nachal Zavitan and with their different teachers heard the story of Eli Cohen, one of Israel's greatest spies that provided very important information thought crucial in the 1967, Six Day War.

Tuesday was "Symbolic Day" - the last day of the program. We refer to this as symbolic day because the activities we choose are symbolic visits and activities to help the students review much of what they experienced to bring closure to the program.

Before leaving campus the students planted a tree. Israel is one of the only countries who each year plants more trees than were cut down.

The students shared in whose honor they planted. One of the Madrichim mentioned that she was planting it in the group's honor. A teen mentioned a grandparent, another mentioned the Israeli soldiers. Another mentioned a cousin who will be a Hayal boded. Others mentioned parents. It was a very moving planting ceremony and allowed the students to feel that they were each leaving Israel one tree greener than they found it when arriving.

From planting, the group drove to Mt Herzl where they visited Israel's National Cemetery where many of Israel's prime ministers and other leaders are buried. In addition, Mt Herzl also has a military cemetery. Visiting the cemetery gave the students the opportunity to pay homage to Israel's leaders and heroes. This was an important element in putting closure to the program.

The students had their final discussion and a chance for a visit to the Kotel one last time. The students then had some free time for dinner and some last minute shopping in Jerusalem, before arriving at the airport, saying good bye and eventually starting their flight. I was at the airport to see them off and their moving goodbyes to the staff.

I would like to thank Akiva and Elhanan as well as Noa, Omri, Dor and Aluma for being for being such dedicated and inspiring teachers and madrichim.

After four months in Israel, we are certain that your children are looking forward to coming home and to sharing their exciting stories with you, their family, as well as their friends. Our students often tell us that the AMHSI experience is transformative, both on an educational level and a personal one. Students may be tired from a long flight and many weeks abroad. Naturally, they also may be a little sad to return to their lives after an exciting time abroad packed with new and exciting experiences. While we have found that this feeling quickly dissipates as their wonderful memories fill up this space, we encourage you to allow your children some time and space to reflect and process this experience.

The child you picked up from the airport may be different from the one that you dropped off just a few weeks ago. This person may be more conscious of their identity, both as a Jew and as a human being, as well as of the future and the impact they might impress upon it. Students often also return home with greater confidence and independence in preparation for college and the life that awaits them in few short months or a few short years. Many also possess a deeper awareness of the Jewish religion, having been exposed to Jews and Jewish experiences of all different kinds on our program.

We believe that our program empowers students by instilling in them a thirst for knowledge, a desire to make their heritage their own as well as skills and tools that will serve them for the rest of their lives. In years to come, we are certain that you and your children will be able to reflect back to this time in their life and appreciate how much they gained and how much they grew. We hope that this is only the beginning of a lifelong journey that students began at AMHSI.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the confidence you placed in us in sending your children to us this fall. I don't know whether we can adequately express our appreciation and thanks to you for giving your sons and daughters such an important gift; the gift of an educational experience in Israel.

Lastly, I would also like to thank CESJDS. We value our long and fruitful partnership. We are continually impressed by the quality of the CESJDS' students and their amazing school. We are most grateful for the concerted efforts of Nancy Wassner. I would also like to thank Rabbi Malkus. We feel we are in a true partnership with CESJDS who helps us every step of the way to take care of your children. I would also like to thank the entire CESJDS community who enable us to take the senior class under our wings for this incredible experience. It is our privilege working together and I look forward to continuing our excellent relationship.

I would appreciate hearing any feedback that you would like to share with us. In addition, please feel free to reach out to me personally with any wonderful stories or other important feedback on our school. I hope you will recommend this program to your friends and suggest that they also send their children to AMHSI.

We wish our students a soft landing home and hope that you and/or your children will come back to visit us the next time you are in Israel.

Bivracha (with blessings),

Mordechai Cohen
AMHSI Head of School

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Mordechai Cohen

Dear Parents,

This has been a very special week in Israel.

On Tuesday night, the country started its national observance of Yom Hazikaron l'Chalalei Ma'arachot Yisrael ul'Nifge'ei Pe'ulot Ha'eivah Ha'eivah (The Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism). The students joined other AMHSI students along with thousands of gap year students for a special memorial ceremony at the Latrun, the Armored Corps Memorial. As in all Israel, the event began with a minute of silence. It was followed by the stories of 6 Israelis—all immigrants at some point in their lives from Russia, France, Brazil, and the USA, who fell in Israel's wars or from terror attacks. It was a very moving ceremony.

On Wednesday morning Israel continued its observance of this solemn day. At exactly 11:00 am all of Israel stood at attention as air raid sirens blasted through the country. Everyone stood in silence, cars stopped in the middle of the highways and at school the flag was lowered to half-mast in tribute to those who lost their lives. Students and faculty from both AMHSI and the Mosenson High School participated in a moving ceremony to honor the fallen. All of the former students of our schools who lost their lives either as a soldier or as a civilian in a terrorist attack had their name read. There are too many names. One of the names read was of a former classmate of mine who was murdered in a terrorist attack in Hebrew University. She was an aluma of AMHSI. Her name was Marla Bennett. May her memory live on as a blessing. On this day filled with sadness, unfortunately, everyone has someone to mourn. In the afternoon the madrichim ran various activities appropriate for the day.

On Wednesday evening the entire country changes gears and begins to celebrate Israel's Independence Day. The streets of Hod Hasharon turn into a massive party and your teens celebrated throughout the night dancing to live music on Israel's birthday. This is the best time to visit Israel!!

Thursday the festivities continued as it was beach day on Israel's birthday with fun in the sun, surf and sand. Thursday afternoon the students came back to campus for a delicious BBQ, the traditional way Israeli's celebrate their nation's birthday.

This Shabbat is an open Shabbat. Some are staying on campus and others are going to visit family or friends,

I look forward to sending out another update next week

Mordechai Cohen
AMHSI Head of School

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Mijal Altmann

WEEK 11
By Mijal Altmann

Our first week back from Pesach Break was probably the most exhausting week so far in the trip. We kicked off the week visiting Sderot, the city that "swallows rockets," learning about the conflict with Gaza and what life is like living under the constant threat of danger.

We then spent the majority of the week in the Negev. The first night, we spent a very loud night all together in the Bedouin tent with an certain unwelcome visitor with eight legs, a huge camel spider that looked like it could easily bite off the limbs of one of our more petite grade members. That day, we went to ride camels, which was calming. We then went to a sand dune, which was basically like a water slide made out of sand. It was exhilarating going down the dune, but excruciating climbing back up as one can imagine. That night, we drove down to Eilat, where we partied on a disco boat.

The next day, we were given an option about which hike we wanted to go on. I went on the more challenging one, Har Shlomo. The view was astonishing and interesting, because one could see four different countries from where we were standing. We learned about some of the issues that are going on in places that were just a few kilometers away, in the Sinai peninsula. We spent the eve of Yom Hashoah on a kibbutz, where we also spent the night. The next day, we went to David Ben-Gurion's house and grave, and talked about why he felt that the Negev was where the future of Israel lay. Overall, the trip to the Negev was very educational and immersive.



Gaby Pilarski

PESACH BREAK
By Gaby Pilarski

This Passover break I met up with my family in China. This wasn't my first time in China (it was my eleventh), and it wasn't even my first Passover in China (I think my fourth.) By this point, I'm used to it. We either do our own Seder at a restaurant or hotel, or find a Chabbad willing to host us. We eat kitniyot and do our best with what we've got.

I had always thought that we brought the Jewish to China. There's no anti-Semitism there because there aren't really any Jews there. And the Chabbad houses are full of Israeli businessmen who never really seem as integrated into Chinese culture as my family. This trip though, I learned that Jews had been in China long before I had.

This Passover I took a "Jewish tour of Shanghai." To say that I had low expectations would be the understatement of the year. But what I learned astonished me. As it turns out, Shanghai accepted 18,000 Jews who were fleeing Europe during the Holocaust. Shanghai required no papers to enter, proving to be a safe haven for the Jews and allowed them to establish a Jewish community there. At its peak, there were six synagogues and four Jewish cemeteries. But few, if any, of those Jews or their descendants are in China today. The Chinese Cultural Revolution caused almost all foreigners to leave China and regrettably only two synagogues remain, while all the cemeteries were destroyed during the revolution. In their place today are memorials and the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, where Jews and Chinese alike can learn about the refugees of the Holocaust.

Traveling around Poland and Prague helped me connect to my Polish roots, and visiting China helped me connect to my Chinese ancestry. I never would have dreamed that in both of these very different places I could learn more about my history as a Jew.



Carol Silber

UPDATE FROM ISRAEL: JUST BEFORE PASSOVER
By Carol Silber

Chag Sameach (almost) from Hod Hasharon!

There is so much to look forward to with Passover and an exciting last month of the trip coming up, but I'd like to take some time to reflect on what we've been up to for the past several weeks. Just last week, we all returned from three weeks of volunteer period. During this period of time, we had the choice to go to an ecological farm, a Kibbutz or to the ancient city of Tzfat. I chose Tzfat, and was very lucky to have a meaningful and interesting experience during my time there. Since Jeremy already wrote a lot about the Tzfat experience (check out his post below!) I'll just keep it quick and tell you a bit about the volunteering that I did while in Tzfat.

Every morning in Tzfat we each would leave for our respective volunteer work sites. There were several places where people from our group volunteered: a soup kitchen, an old age home, an English library, a construction site, a youth orphanage and more. For the majority of my three weeks in Tzfat, I had the incredible privilege of working at a preschool for children with special needs.

At home, I have spent several years volunteering for The Friendship Circle. It is always so much fun and so rewarding to work with kids in Friendship Circle so I was naturally excited to have a similar opportunity in Tzfat. The experience was truly amazing. Every morning, when my peers and I would arrive, huge smiles filled the kids' cheeks. They would greet us with a כיף (high-five) or a חיבוק (hug) or an excited "Shalom!"

Our mornings with the class were filled with games, arts and crafts, songs and cheers. One of my favorite days of volunteering was when one kid came up to me and sat on my lap while we sang Passover songs together. Although there were times when it was difficult to communicate with the kids because it was hard to understand them, when we sang together there was no barrier at all.

Since then, we have returned to Hod Hasharon and gotten back to our routine of busy, exciting, destination-packed days. We had a great weekend that included Friday morning at the beach in Tel Aviv and Shabbat in Ein Gedi. Then on Sunday, we resumed our journey on the path of Jewish and Israeli history. We visited a detention camp where British soldiers detained Jewish immigrants who arrived while the White Paper, which severely restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine, was in practice. Seeing the detention camp was a very eerie experience as it had an uncanny resemblance to several of the concentration camps that we visited in Poland just a few weeks ago. After visiting the detention camp, we headed to the Carmel for a beautiful hike to finish the day.

On Monday, we started the day at the jail in Jerusalem where many young Zionists were imprisoned for their work in the Palmach, the Irgun or Lechi — the various Zionist military groups that were dedicated to fighting the British and to protect Jews from Arab attacks before Israel's independence was declared. There, we discussed the controversial tactics of these groups, and learned the powerful story of Moshe Barazani and Meir Feinstein, two members of these groups who were sentenced to death, and chose to blow themselves up using a grenade rather than be hanged by the British.

Following our visit to the jail, we went to the Castel, a historic battle site from the war of Independence. The Jewish soldiers won this battle, which turned the tide in the war and gave them access to the road to Jerusalem. After visiting that crucial site, we went to Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, where we learned about the decision to declare independence, listened to a recording of Ben Gurion's proclamation, and sang Hatikva. Following that, we discussed what Israel has succeeded in doing since its establishment, and what work is still left to be done.

Today, we volunteered for Leket Yisrael, an organization that provides healthy food to those who cannot afford it. We spent the morning picking beets which was a lot of fun and a great way to give back especially with Passover coming up. That's all for now! Chag Sameach to everyone!!



Jeremy Schooler

WEEK 8
By Jeremy Schooler

Shavua Tov from Ein Gedi! This week, the three volunteer groups, from Tzfat, Kibbutz Kramim, and the Chava v'Adam Farm, wrapped up their volunteering and reconvened together at the Muss campus in Hod HaSharon.

I spent the last three weeks in the holy city of Tzfat, volunteering at an old age home, a soup kitchen, and renovating/painting rundown buildings. Some of the others in Tzfat also went to a kindergarten for kids with special needs, or volunteered at a library. My favorite part of Tzfat was the old age home, which I chose as my volunteer option as often as a I could. Most of the residents were Russian, and emigrated to Israel after the Soviet Union fell, so there was a bit of a language barrier. However, we spoke to them in what Hebrew and English they knew, and also used hand motions and translating apps. Throughout our time in Tzfat, each of us made specific friends at the old age home, who we would visit with regularly (along with the other residents). For me, it was a Russian man named Evgeni, who was a Soviet Army veteran and former champion boxer in Russia. Evgeni and I would spend time sharing intergenerational stories, tossing a ball around, talking about sports or drawing. He was very happy to have someone below age 80 who he could see on a regular basis, and we always ended up having a good time together. There were also residents such as Ruth, Mikhail and Lev, who we would visit regularly and play games with. At least Four or five of us really sharpened our Rummikub skills at the old age home, which I'm sure we can use to really impress our grandparents when we get back home.

Another aspect of Tzfat that was different than at Muss was the food preparation. Each day in Tzfat, there was a different set of three people who were in charge of all the meals. We had leeway with making the food, so as long as we could put it together with the ingredients they had in the kitchen, we could make it. This produced dishes ranging from ratatouille to fried chicken to the more basic grilled cheese, pancakes or lentil soup. And the smoke detector only went off twice!

Other than the volunteering, one of the reasons I liked Tzfat so much was that we had a plethora of free time to explore the city. There were shop owners in the Artist Colony, next to where we lived, that we grew to knew and become friends with. After a short time, it seemed like we knew every corner in Tzfat, along with many of its residents. Part of this was due to help from some friends we made. One of the people working part time at Livnot u'Lehibanot, the hostel we stayed at, was a basketball player from New York City named Trevor. Trevor plays for the professional basketball team in Tzfat, and brought us all go to one of his games, along with taking us around the city. He was easy to pick out, as pretty much the only person in shorts, a tank top and a backwards hat in the very religious city of Tzfat, and he knew all the best places for food (stopping at Schnitzeliya became part of the daily routine when walking back from volunteering). In return, we taught him about some of the rituals and traditions he witnessed, and answered questions he had about Judaism.


As fun as Tzfat was, I was excited for the whole grade to get back together on Thursday and become one big unit again. We weren't all in Hod HaSharon for long though. After all the hellos, we left for Ein Gedi, where we spent Shabbat. We stayed at a youth hostel with a fantastic view of the mountains and the Dead Sea, and we had a nice, laid back Shabbat. On Saturday, there was a hike for those who wanted to go, where we went up to a spring, and had a chance to swim. Later this week, we will be going to sites from the time right after WWII. We will be visiting Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, a displaced persons camp, and a prison from the time of the British mandate, among other sites.

It's hard to believe, but after these few days of touring it will be Pesach and our group will be splitting up again. We don't have all that much time left on this trip, so it is important to appreciate and try to absorb each day we have left together, and try to make them all count. The trip has been an absolutely unforgettable once in a lifetime journey so far, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Chag Sameach!!

Mordechai Cohen

Dear parents,

Yesterday the groups finished their volunteering. I saw and spoke with a number of students back on campus yesterday. What they shared with me was inspiring, in short they shared with me that they had an amazing time and had felt that they both impacted Israel as well as deepened their own understanding of the Jewish State.

In the south at Kramim the group worked in their various areas. Laundry, kitchen, and vineyards.

In Tzfat, students worked at a food pantry, renovating housing of the elderly and working with developmentally challenged children. Campus security was upgraded and included a night guard.

Modain, the organic farm – They had ODT (outdoor training) activity, bonfire and worked in the various departments of the farm.

The most powerful part of their experiences was the people they met and how they learned to live together. Whether the Kibbutz, farm or Tzfat they met new people who shared and taught them new ideas. Most importantly they learned to be more responsible, to clean and cook and how to get along with a group of people. It's very hard, there is no real privacy, you have to do everything yourself. Both the students and their madrichim noticed the changes in the students from when they started to when they ended their volunteering. The groups bonded in new ways. The spirit of the group is wonderful.

The students are now at the beach and will soon by driving down to beautiful Ein Gedi, the desert oasis near the Dead Sea. There they will spend what I hope will be a lovely Shabbat. This is the last Shabbat they will spend before the Pesach break and the group as a whole is excited to all be back together again.

I look forward to sending out another update next week

Mordechai Cohen
AMHSI Head of School

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Mijal Altmann

WEEK 6
By Mijal Altmann

Last week was the first week of our volunteer period. The options were Kibbutz Kramim, Tzfat, and Chava v'Adam, an ecological farm. I chose the farm. My experience on the farm has so far been both exhausting and amazing. The farm is unlike anything we have seen before. The food that we make and eat is 100% vegan and mostly grown here on the farm, the toilets are compost toilets, and the showers are heated by the sun. On cloudy days, one can expect to hear shrieks and yells coming from the outdoor shower area.

Every day, we choose to work on different options, such as mud building, which consists of helping to build walls of buildings, as the structures here are made of mud; greenhouse, which is helping to grow the plants that will be planted in the gardens in the summer; agriculture, which ranges from weeding to cleaning out the toilets and putting the compost in other compost bins; going out of the farm to create gardens in other schools that hire the farm; and the most tiring but fun of them all, Farm Day, a day that consists of cooking for the entire farm from 5:30 am to 7:00 pm. Usually, we work during the morning, and after lunch we have a workshop such as herbal medicine, gathering, mud building, or arts and crafts (from recycled material, of course). Both the workshops and the work is usually led by the "shinshinim", the Israelis who are here on their Shnat Sheirut, or year of service before the army. I have had some amazing conversations with them while working together. While they are only a year older than us, they have a very different perspective on the world and their futures. In addition to bonding with the shinshinim, however, we have also had lots of time to bond with each other. We have had many bonfires and time to just relax with each other, especially during the weekend when ours was the the only group on the farm. So far, my experience on the farm has been really enriching and relaxing, and I anticipate more to come in the next two weeks.



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