Our time in Poland was coming to the end which started with a long bus ride to Majdanek concentration camp. When we got to the camp, it was a bit of a shock. Everything was so well preserved. I didn't fully expect everything to be in the condition that it was. One exhibit we went to was of shoes. Thousands and thousands of shoes in huge crates. We were tasked with finding a pair of shoes that spoke to us and writing a story about the person who they once belonged to. This was very emotionally difficult for me because there were so many different shoes and thinking about and imagining the events their owners went through was horrible.
That night we went to a yeshiva that was revolutionary for its time as it had a place for those studying to live. It was very cool to be in such a revolutionary place and daven mincha together as a grade.
The start of our next day was the end of our trip to Poland. We started off the day where some of the Warsaw Ghetto wall
still stands. Sitting on the floor — looking at the wall with the bits of barbed wire still put in place and hearing some stories of Jews who were inside the ghetto — it was eye-opening to what life was like inside the ghetto. This was the last thing we did in Poland before heading back to Israel.
Our first day in Israel was very relaxed, which I was very thankful for as we had arrived at HSI at 3:00 am. My friends showed me around the campus and the town as it was my first day with the group in Israel! That night we went to a restaurant which we had delicious hummus and pita and had fun with some karaoke. We sang all kinds of songs from "Bohemian Rhapsody" to "Hot N' Cold." I had so much fun being with the grade and singing and dancing! Our first day back in Israel was a good mental break and rejuvenating day from the physically and emotionally exhausting Poland trip.
Finally it was Purim and everyone was very excited to celebrate with a Purim party. Costumes ranged from zebras to Barbies to angels and devils and of course the winners of the costume contest, children on leashes. It was a very nice break from our daily busy schedule.
The next day, we were supposed to go to a concert to see Static and Ben El Tavori perform but soon after we arrived, it became apparent that the concert was for very young kids so we did not end up staying. We got back on the bus and drove to Tel Aviv in heavy traffic and concluded the night with dinner on the streets in Tel Aviv.
We ended our relaxing week in Tzfat. Once we arrived we had free time to go shopping and admire the views. Some of my family is from Tzfat so it was very cool to see where they are from and the culture they grew up in.
Saturday was a very lazy day as most things in Tzfat were closed due to it being Shabbat. We took a short walk to a cave which, aside for the awful smell, was a very special experience. We walked into total darkness but after a minute reached a larger circular room in which we proceeded to sing as a grade. It was a very unique moment because, at least in my mind, it symbolized our trip so far. Starting in Israel, the light, then traveling to Poland where we learned about the darkness of the Holocaust, and then coming back to Israel, back into the light, and coming together as a community as a grade.
Once this amazing experience was over, we walked back to the hotel where we had a lot of free time. This made for a perfect opportunity to talk with classmates and get to know people better and just have fun playing games or singing songs. We sang once again as we ended our time in Tzfat with Havdalah.
Though I am still adjusting to the responsibility of having to wake up on time and keep my room clean, I have had a great time so far in Israel! I am very excited for volunteer period and to experience what the rest of our time in Israel has to offer!