Israel Trip 2017 – Day 3

Mifgash 2017   
Day 3
Meeting up again at the start of the day

Boker Tov!
Can you have déjà vu that is better than previous déjà vu, or does that contradict the concept? As we awoke, the sky was blue, the air was warm, and the sun was smiling down upon us all. Our day could not have started better – kids up on time, ready for breakfast, all dressed as requested in their PAC-purchased Har Vagai-King David T-shirt (thank you), followed by breakfast eaten, lunches made, rooms cleaned, and on the bus ready to go. All of this in 90 minutes following a 7:30 a.m. wake up. For the record, we are consciously delaying our typical wake-up times on this trip to give the kids more rest – we even adjusted our itinerary plan to ensure it was a more casual day – and we are trying to not over-schedule our days, as over the years the kids have said they want more time to just hang out together (hey, tell Dorin and me something seven times and we might hear it). I have to tell you, unstructured time with over 50 students is not on the top of my "to do" list, but so far it seems to be going well. 

Russ and the girls wear the hats given to students by Har Vagai
 
Around 9:30 a.m we packed our bags onto the bus and headed to Har Vagai school. We stored our suitcases and went to the Grade 8 building to meet up with our Israeli hosts. We let the mingling go on for a bit outside before moving all 78 kids into a room for Dorin to speak to them about our next activity – heading down to the Helicopter Memorial site (we also filmed part of this for our King David Yom Hazikaron Ceremony on May 1) where a tragic event happened just outside Har Vagai.
 
Paying close attention to Dorin as she prepares the group

It is about a 15-minute walk to reach the memorial site of this horrific crash that occurred in 1997 involving two helicopters that killed 73 Israeli soldiers. I have said this before, and as odd as it seems to say aloud, the memorial is a beautiful and peaceful place. What the Israeli’s created here is a space that honours the lives of these soldiers while creating a feeling of serenity and hope. I would encourage you, should you be so lucky as to travel to the North of Israel, to make this memorial a stop on your travels. To sit near the stones that mark the spots where the soldiers were found is strangely powerful and moving: it is hope itself. It was also a really nice touch that the students who led our tour groups were part of this Mifgash in Grade 8, and had come to Vancouver as part of the Har Vagai Grade 9 contingent this past November.

A glimpse of the beauty of the memorial site
 
I was very impressed with how well our students conducted themselves at this site. It was also very warm outside, so we all needed to keep hydrated. From there we walked back to the Kibbutz that abuts the school, Dafna, and after a 20-minute walk we found ourselves in a beautiful field (yes, there was another river) with gorgeous trees for shade. We stayed here for a few hours, playing games and having lunch. They also brought in one of their teachers, Peter, to speak about why he came to Israel from England. Peter told a powerful story, and the kids did well with their listening – as you know, a little jet lag and a little lunch can make one a bit tired, and sitting is not always easy. Thankfully, after a good story, there was more time to play and hang out, with music blaring while Frisbees and soccer balls flew all around. For an activity, the kids were shown how to make their own taboon (pita) bread over an open fire with what looks like an upside down wok. Some students were clearly expert at making them, while others were even better at eating them. I have always been partial to food cooked over an open flame – yum!

Hanging out, making lunch, and playing games – a fun-filled afternoon!
 
I will share one anecdote that was overheard (remember, as far as teenagers think, we adults do not exist). The girls were talking about a party that was being organized for everyone tomorrow night in Yesod Hamala (with our knowledge). The Israeli girls were asked if our girls should dress up. No, jeans and t-shirts, our kids were told. High heel shoes? No, running shoes. Make-up? No – just come as you are, they were told. Well that is not a party, our girls replied! Life is definitely simpler here, and the people are beautiful just the way they are.
 
So cultures are being bridged – we are not in Tel Aviv! We had a nice walk back to the school (OK, truth be told, we had rental cars delivered to us while we were tabooning, and I drove back to school – but I did see the students walking, so it was like I was there). Once at school, we had a 10-minute private talk with our kids.  We asked them to breathe and relax and to consider how much had happened these past few days, and we focused on how outstanding they have handled everything new as a group. They should be proud of themselves, as they have really been so good!  We talked a bit again about heading off with their hosts and how to make it a wonderful experience for their hosts and for themselves.

A group of happy boys!
 
Then all of a sudden it was near 4:00 p.m., and the tour buses rolled up, the luggage doors opened, and we ran around saying goodbye. Nothing but smiling faces as far as the eye could see. You may have noticed we did not identify students in the photos today as they all seem to be part of our group and I am not sure who is Canadian and who Israeli – definitely all family. We encouraged the students to send us texts to let us know they were well – so far few words (which is a good sign too!). We staff find ourselves back at the hotel – it is so quiet… I think we all could get used to this.  
 
We meet the students just past 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning – we are excited to hear from them and get everyone together.  Until then, we will all have to get used to doing nothing – I look forward to practising!
 
Have a wonderful Wednesday,
Russ

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