Israel Trip 2017 – Day 10

Mifgash 2017   
Day 10
A beautiful day for a visit to the Kotel

Hello Chaverim,
 
The last day is always a bit of an energy flow – emotions run high (and low). Kids are excited about going home – and excitement in kids does not always translate perfectly in adult speak (nothing Tylenol can’t handle). Overall I think our students handled the emotions of the day very well and these are great learning experiences for them.
 
The best experience today though was the first experience – visiting the Old City of Jerusalem – just being in Jerusalem really. We had a lovely stroll through the ancient streets. We went past the old Roman Market and had some Jerusalem bagels – fresh and warm from the oven. All that did was make us hungry so most went to the bakery next door and ate even more. Or, our guide, stopped us numerous times to tell us a story – truth be told, she does go on a bit – she clearly would make a great HOS!
 
One of my favourite moments on our walk is always when we reach the perfect vantage point to see the Western Wall – the Kotel. Everyone is jockeying for position and each camera is pointed in only one direction. And then, a few stairs later, and a moment to get through security, and the courtyard and the wall is directly before us. Thoughts turn to the note you brought, or the note you are now going to write to place into a crack in the wall for your private conversation with Hashem. You can feel the eagerness of the kids, like race-horses chomping at the bit, to be released, to go, to feel, to touch.
 
I walked over to where the boys headed – they were fast. I was pleased to see so many boys wrap Tefillin. I find the experience at the Kotel to be so peaceful and spiritual – hard to describe really – it is one of the things we do each trip that I look forward to every time. Finally it was time to meet for the classic photo by the flagpole in front of the Kotel – it is both routine and special – it is one photo that everyone chooses to be in. 
 
As happens every year, it was time to leave way too early – we never get enough time in Jerusalem. Our trip is focused on the North and our goal is to build friendships between our students and their Israeli peers – a living bridge to Israel – and we know from experience that this trip will support and encourage our students to visit Israel again – but I wish we could give them more than a taste, but it is better to leave them yearning for more…
 
By now it was closing in on 11 a.m. and it was time to leave to for the one hour drive to Tel Aviv where lunch and shopping at the Carmel Market awaited us – and the sun stayed for the journey – thankfully the bus has air conditioning. As you likely know, the market is where you get everything from beauty products, to food products, to knockoff products. Traffic was bad (or normal perhaps) and so the students ended up with but 50 minutes to shop and eat lunch – a challenge indeed. I know you really want to know what I did (well I bought ‘the list’ I was assigned from home and ate a farewell shawarma…so sad).

Ophir, VTT’s Shinshin last year, was excited to meet so many friends in Israel
 
One lovely side note at the market is we met up with Ophir, one of our Vancouver Shinshiniot from last year. Ophir (now in the IDF) worked at VTT and she was so thrilled to see her former students – it looked to me as though the feeling was mutual. We left from the market around 1 p.m. to walk over to Independence Hall. This is the same building and room from which David Ben Gurion proclaimed the existence of the State of Israel at 4 p.m. on May 14, 1948. I have used this line before but apparently this was the first, and last, Jewish event that ever started on time! They have a great film here, which we watched, and then, unfortunately, the room in which the actual event occurred was busy, we were only able to pop inside for a moment.

Outside the Palmach Museum: Jenna, Ashlee, Ethan, Eitan, Ben M., Yoel, Josh, Maaor, Ilana, Isabel, Aelan, Kyla, and Keren 

From here (now about 2 p.m.) we headed to a new experience for us – the Palmach Museum. On the plus side this experiential museum is very interested in telling the story of this army from before Israel’s Independence to after the conversion of this group to the present day IDF. The downside was that our group was so large there was much waiting around as different groups went through. Though they do a wonderful job of making the story real (well, the story is real so that likely helps) – it gets two thumbs up from me aside from the waiting around part.
 
By now it was 5 p.m. and the students were pretty tired so you are thinking our next stop would be the hotel – and you would be…wrong. We decided we could fit in a trip to Yafo – driving by the beach, which was in full swing and looked like a good place to hang out today. But we decided to enjoy another hot bagel in Yafo and a walk to the boardwalk and a look at the beautiful view – is it possible to get tired of staring out into the Mediterranean Sea?

Last photo in Yafo overlooking the Mediterranean Sea
 
OK – you win, finally we were at the hotel to check in and get settled. There was no getting settled though as kid after kid had visitors coming to see them and other kids were leaving as they were extending their stay in Israel (still more are leaving us before we leave for Vancouver – 14 in all are not returning with us).  It was a mini-balagan, but all with lots of hugging – so that makes it all good and worthwhile in my books.
 
By now, we were at almost 9 p.m. and Lu, Esther and I left the hotel party to go and meet with a group of alumni – we had eight alumni join us for dinner – they are such a wonderful group and they are all doing so well and whether they are in Israel for a short time or a long time they are loving it.

Back Row L-R: Russ Klein, Shmuel Hart ’16, Raffi Freedman ’11, 
Johnny Raich ’11, Ariel Claman ’08, Yoni Dayan ’05, Yehuda Mivasair ’08, 
and Lu Winters
Front Row l-R: Igal Raich ’09, Alex Berger ’12, and Esther Mogyoros.
 
Every year I like to take a moment or two along the way and reflect on, in a non-judgmental way, your children. I have all the time in the world for teenagers – especially when I am disappointed in their decisions. We had those moments but that is what learning and growing is about. I can tell you that they too did not like all of my decisions (unless they involved approving food and/or bathroom stops). It is tough for all of us to travel so intensely – there is little space and even less privacy – and I must say that 52 kids has its own special challenge of size (and not just in travel spaces). For the kids, there is less control and more unknown. I just want you to know that our chaperone team really enjoyed our time with your children – we all had our moments but we truly had some great fun together – and every moment was valuable and important. I have no doubt that this trip was worth it to them not only for the Israel connection, though that is huge, but for the personal connection they have made to themselves and to their peers in sharing these travels and travails. It is all good, and perhaps the tough moments, and surviving them, are the best moments.
 
A few final words of gratitude – much of what I shared last year because the thanks are the same and as sincere. I would really like to recognize the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and the Gesher Chai Committee – without their financial and logistical support this trip would be virtually impossible for us to share with our students (and the JFGV helped more by providing additional support to families requiring additional financial assistance). In addition, I want to acknowledge the Betty Averbach Foundation who also help by providing additional financial support to our students for this trip. 
 
Also none of this happens without the incredible work and care of Dorin Eilon-Heiber who not only organized the mifgash on our behalf, but also was the Mother Bear for all of us here in Israel – Dorin is our heart and we could not do it without her. Special thanks to Dorin, Matt Dichter, Lu Winters, Aron Rosenberg and Esther Mogyoros for giving up 12 days with family and friends – this trip is quite the commitment and they were each superstars! Matt and Aron are not returning to Canada with us – we will miss them and our other 14 kids on the return flight. I also want to thank Alex Monchamp – Mr. Mo – for keeping King David running without me – as always he has done a wonderful job – and to all the teachers and staff that support him and our other students – my sincere thanks.
 
Finally, my priority every year is that the kids will fall in love with Israel (and Israelis) and from what I have observed, once again I get to go home extremely happy (and as per usual, equally exhausted). 
 
Flight Info: 
Israel to Toronto – Air Canada 85 departs at 11:45 a.m.
Toronto to Vancouver – Air Canada 33 leaves at 8:15 p.m. and arrives in Vancouver at 10:10 p.m. 
 
Please be there, on time, to pick up your children
 
See you soon, 
Russ

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