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

Senior Capstone Trip Blog

Matan Lieber-Kotz
Abbie Svoysky '18

Week 2
by Matan Lieber-Kotz '18

Hi readers! Hope you've had a good week, because we sure have!

We jumped right back into action Sunday morning as we returned to Jerusalem, this time to examine the remains of the Second Temple. Many were stunned to learn that the Western Wall is not the last surviving wall of the Second Temple, as is commonly believed. Instead, it is part of the larger base built under the temple-nearly all of which is still intact and viewable! We then retraced history as we walked up the same stairs the Kohanim climbed toward the Temple's Southern Wall. We concluded by seeing scorched bricks from the Churban (destruction of the Temple) 2000 years ago – a final reminder that evidence of the Temple exists everywhere in Jerusalem, beyond the Kotel.

After free time, we drove south to the base of Masada. When we arrived, it was straight to bed because next morning we woke up at 4 AM to begin our hike up the mountain! Snaking back and forth along the steep trail, some of us raced to the top like the ibexes we saw around the path, while some chose a more leisurely pace, which felt equally hard given the desert climate. All of us arrived well before the sunrise, and we enjoyed a beautiful Shacharit service as the sun dawned over the mountains.

Touring the ruined fortress, our preconceived viewpoints were once again challenged as we considered whether its inhabitants had been brave heroes fleeing Roman persecutors or crazed zealots willing to let other Jews suffer. We were also physically challenged as we practiced battle drills designed to repel attackers, including an exciting but short-lived fireman's-carry relay race that ended with multiple people sprawled across the ground! Picking ourselves up, we headed for the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea. Here, we floated and took a well-deserved, potentially mud-covered rest. I'm happy to report that with a few exceptions, we avoided getting salt in our eyes!

Tuesday morning, we traveled north into the Jezreel Valley, where we stopped to explore a cave system from the Bar Kochba revolt of 135 C.E. Crawling through single-file tunnels with flashlights held in our teeth, we eventually made our way into a room large enough to sit and turn our lights off, leaving it blacker than outer space. Enchanted by the darkness--and the slugs threatening to drop from the ceiling--we bonded and sang nigunim before returning to the surface, where we had an animated discussion about the ethics of rebellions.

We continued north to Tzfat, the ancient Kabbalist city. We were enthralled by the buildings, including one of the oldest active synagogues in the world, and by the store of a Kabbalistic artist. We concluded the day with free time and dinner in twilit Tzfat. While purchasing jewelry and other souvenirs on the street, one student successfully haggled a sports jersey down from 150 shekels to free!

Much of Wednesday was spent hiking Nahal Tavor after departing Tzfat. The creek, which only flows for a couple months each year in the spring, made for a beautiful hike as well as beautiful flora. We ate lunch at a popular swimming hole. Many of us took the opportunity to jump into the water...until a lifeguard showed up to tell us the water was too shallow! Although our cliff-jumping escapades were over, we excitedly toweled off for the steeply uphill final section. Once we recovered, we got on our buses and headed to the Galil Cemetery in Tiberias, where we saw the graves of Israeli musicians Naomi Shemer and Rachel the Poet. Moved by their impacts on Israeli society, we each said how we hoped to change the world in the future.

After returning to Hod Hasharon, we sojourned Thursday to Tel Aviv. Here, we went on a tour of Neve Tzedek, the first ever Modern Hebrew neighborhood founded a century ago. We then divided into groups to explore art museums, theater, and architecture in Tel Aviv, which we found to all be unique and unlike their American counterparts. We concluded our time together this week with free time at the Tel Aviv port, a revitalized development full of exciting shops, restaurants, and the crashing waves of the Mediterranean Sea.

Many of us then departed to visit friends and family on our first open Shabbat. Wherever we are now-with friends at our new home in Hod Hasharon, enjoying a good home-cooked meal, or even resting after breezing through the Jerusalem Half Marathon, we are all looking forward to reuniting Saturday night and for our trip to Europe this coming week. Hope you check in again next week!

Abbie Svoysky
Abbie Svoysky '18

Week 1
by Abbie Svoysky '18

Shalom from the Holy Land! This first week in Israel has been such an adventure!

Landing here last Monday was thrilling. Many of us, myself included, had arrived in Israel for the first time. All of us, however, had arrived in Israel for the first time with 58 of our friends. Upon completing this long journey together, just breathing in the air of the Holy Land felt incredibly special. The Class of 2018 had truly become a family after so many hours of traveling as a group, and none of us could wait to enjoy the beauty and fun of Israel together. After meeting with our amazing madrichim (counselors), we headed to the Hod Hasharon campus to unpack.

Right from day two we got to know the town around us with a quick tour, and then went on our first hiking trip to Tel Gezer. This trip set the stage for subsequent outings, which focused on helping us see and experience the history of Israel and the Jewish People. In Tel Gezer our teachers, Akiva and Elchanan, explained to us the four necessities for an ancient city, the four mem's in Hebrew, and allowed us get a better understanding of history through geographical and archaeological lenses. For example, ever wondered what a tel is, as in Tel Gezer or Tel Aviv? It's a man-made hill built over time when different peoples establish cities in the same place over and over again. The (1) arable soil for farming, (2) nearby water sources, (3) trade opportunities, and (4) protective hilltop view all make tels pretty special.

Day three brought on the tricky Gilboa hike (some of us are still a little sore). We enjoyed the awesome Sachne swimming experience to unwind in the natural pool. An extra special element of joy met us in Hod Hasharon as Purim rolled around. We all dressed up, listened to the Megillah (lots of grogger action), and danced the night away at a party! Purim morning we started with a tasty, albeit rushed, feast. While not all of us managed to eat as much as we wished, it was for a good cause -- we were hurrying to Sderot to deliver handmade mishloach manot to families impacted by terror attacks. Singing and dancing, the Class of 2018 brought as much joy to the streets of Sderot as we had ourselves in Israel so far. We finished the evening with DOTS (dinner on the street) in Dizengoff Mall in Tel Aviv. From falafel to pasta, there were choices galore in the bustling center. To everyone's delight, there was still time for shopping after some delicious meals!

The next day we packed up and left for Jerusalem. Overlooking the beautiful city, we discussed its history and similarity to the other sites we visited with regards to the four criteria for an ancient city. Diving further into ancient cities' need for water, we explored the Hezekiah water tunnels! We lit up the dark, underground labyrinth with our beautiful singing voices as well as our flashlights.

For lunch we had LOTS (lunch on the street, as you may have guessed) at the Machaneh Yehudah Shuk! The busy market was extra crowded as it was still Purim in Jerusalem, a walled city. In the colorful and noisy shuk we had fun practicing our Hebrew and our bargaining skills!

Friday night we headed to the Kotel. For first-timers and experienced visitors alike, it was a holy and emotional opportunity to connect with our more spiritual side and with Israel -- many tears were shed. After visiting the wall itself, we gathered together in a circle, arms around each other's shoulders, and sang prayers and songs together as a grade and family. Our close-knit communal experience even compelled a few strangers to join our ranks and enjoy the wonder we all shared.

Shabbat morning we split up into various Shacharit options: Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox minyans, as well as a women's minyan and a second visit to the Kotel. The various communities within the Class of 2018 became stronger as we spent time in small groups, and then again as a whole for lunch. An extended free time block helped us continue bonding and relaxing, and so did our awe-inspiring Havdalah ceremony. As we recited the blessings and sang songs, we all had so much fun and became even closer as a grade! After a quick pack-up, we left for (the tourist-y) Ben Yehudah Street for DOTS.

We returned last night to our home campus in Hod Hasharon, and can't wait for the adventures week two will bring! Stay tuned for more from the Class of 2018!