Saturday, August 1, 2015

Congress Update

Congress officially wraps up this morning! We have had an incredibly busy time and are looking forward to an opportunity to reflect on the blog during our drive up North later this afternoon. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Day 12 in Israel- Community Week, Tisha B'Av

In order to commemorate Tisha B'Av, we spent our day looking at memory and how collective Jewish memory is created. Many members of the cohort fasted, so we made sure all activities were indoors at the community center. After discussing collective Jewish memory, we were lucky enough to have heard from Andrew Lustig. Andrew is a world-renowned spoken word poet originally from New York.  After sharing some of his pieces with us, Andrew lead a writing workshop in which we created short poems about our personal definitions of love. Noam, Paul, Omer, Jamie, and Ali then lead us in a reflective activity in which we all wrote notes to each other expressing what we like about each other. After breaking the fast, we spent time meeting the teens of Yerucham at Warehouse 52, the local hang out spot for Yerucham teens. Overall, it was a great day and we cant wait for tomorrow (especially since we will be celebrating Lexi's birthday!)!!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Day 8 in Israel- Community Week

            Our theme for the day was "Getting to know your neighbor," inspired by the movie "Around the World in 80 Days!" We started the day with an encounter with a resident of an unrecognized Bedouin village located about thirty minutes from Yerucham. Due to the status of being unrecognized, the village does not have government provided access to clean drinking water or electricity. It was incredibly interesting to hear Ali, the Bedouin elder we spoke with, share his perspective on the situation. While his opinions were very clear, many of our Yerucham counterparts found his story and argument to be incredibly difficult to understand. During a maagal discussion later in the afternoon we discussed the reality of bias not only in Israel but also all around the world. The passion Ali, the Bedouin representative, and our Yerucham friends had was inspiring. We were also shown an unrecognized Bedouin village elementary school and spent time playing with some of the kids there.


            After learning about our neighbors in unrecognized Bedouin villages, we went to the Machane Tzur, a local army base for infantry training. At the base we had the opportunity to take part in a military grade shooting simulation. We were all taken aback by the simulator when we learned that it was actually used by soldiers in training. After shooting an M4 assault rifle at the simulator screen, we were given the opportunity to look around the tanks used in last summer's Operation, Protective Edge. We finished up our time at Machane Tzur with a nice picnic lunch on the grass and then headed to a local farm in the middle of the desert. At the farm, we learned about the situations that bring farmers to the Negev and how successful desert farming can be.


            We finished our evening with dinner in Yerucham's crater. The crater is one of the largest natural craters in the world. For dinner, we made a traditional Israeli poike, which is basically a stew. After we ate, we spent time hanging out with each other in anticipation for our Shabbat weekend. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Day 7 in Israel- Community Week

Our first full day of Community Week is officially complete. Hannah was our Moshe for the day and did a great job! The theme for our community week is movies. Each day, a different movie is selected to act as a guiding narrative for our activities, discussions, and encounters. Today's movie was "Chef" and it directly connected to all of the activities for the day.

We began our day at Atid Bamidbar where we met with Shai, the manager of Atid Bamidbar. Shai shared the story of the first settlers in Yerucham and how many of the first settlers were led to believe that they were in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. After our discussion with Shai, Lauren, Mickey, Eitam, and Kama passed out diaries for us all to use throughout Community Week.

Our morning was spent completing the Master Chef cooking competition. We were split into five different groups and went to homes of some of our Yerucham to cook different meals. After our meals were complete, we brought our food back to Atid Bamidbar for lunch. It was so great to try different foods from our communities (shakshukah and alfachores, for example) and share recipes.

After lunch, the famous Yerucham Cooking Ladies visited to judge our meals and tell us who the Master Chefs are. The representatives of the Cooking Ladies shared their stories of immigration to Israel and settling in Yerucham. It was incredibly interesting to hear how many immigrants were misled to believe that Yerucham was a large city when, in reality, at that time, it was a mere desert village.

Lindsy and Rivkah then lead a discussion about a story from Vayikrah Rabba in which Rabbi Yannai served as both a guest and a host. The discussion introduced us to one of the key components of our upcoming time at Congress. Some of the Yerucham teens then presented about the Israeli army and we heard a story from Noam about how his family was affected by the war last year. Inspired by Noam's story, we packed care packages for soldiers at bases close to Yerucham. We will be taking the packed care packages with us tomorrow when we visit the base.

We ended the night at a surprise birthday party for Avishay, Justin's host. It was lots of fun! We are looking forward to a lovely day in Yerucham tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Day 6 in Israel- Kennes, Community Week

Today was our final day of Kennes and we started bright and early for the buses from Sde Boker to hike Masada, the historical mountain known for the courageous act of sacrifice displayed by the Jewish Zealots 2,000 years ago.  We hiked up the mountain in our color groups and, when we got to the top, we discussed the event and how it should be communicated to future generations.  It was interesting to hear about the Myth of Masada. After riding the cable cars back down the mountain, we ate lunch and then headed to the Dead Sea for an afternoon of fun in the sun.  At the Dead Sea, we had the opportunity to cover ourselves in mud and float in the water.

After our Dead Sea experience, we finally headed to see all our friends in Yerucham. We were given a bus tour of the city and picked up our "tour guides" (the Yerucham teens) on the way. We played some literal ice breakers in which we passed around a block of frozen ice around a circle while we shared exciting stories from our summer thus far. We continued our afternoon playing even more ice breaker games and were given a mission to secretly gather information on another member of our partnership.

We ended our day with a yummy dinner and review of our exciting Community Week schedule. I cannot wait to explore Yerucham and see what we have in store!


Day 5 in Israel- Kennes at Kibbutz Sde Boker

During our second day at Kennes, we continued to explore our Jewish identities and make more connections with other Diller fellows. We started the day learning about Ben Gurion and his legacy. We conducted a mock Zionist Congress where we attempted to establish the state of Israel. We decided on the boundaries, name, language, and the involvement of the word G-d in the new state's constitution. In my color group, we decided that we would agree to the borders laid out by the UN Partition Plan. We also decided that G-d should not be mentioned in the constitution while the official language should be Hebrew with a second official language being Arabic. Finally, we decided to name the country Israel.

We then discussed the Impact Projects we will be completing over the course of the remainder of our Diller experience. All of the teens were introduced to different Impact project focus areas such as Education, Homelessness, Racial and Gender Inequality, and Teen Apathy. I chose to join the Education group and learned a lot of different ways to make positive impact in our Miami community.

After a nice lunch, we learned all about the Journey of our People with Liat, the Senior Director of Diller Teen Fellows. We then broke out into our color groups to continue the conversation on a more intimate level. In this conversation, we analyzed the different amounts of Jewish people in North American communities. It was very interesting to see that South Florida is number three on the list.

Unfortunately, I was unable to be in the Junior Counselor led unit called Rak Po because I had to see the doctor (don't worry, Mom, it's just a sore throat and the doctor said it's not contagious). Michael said it was one of his favorite discussions during all of Kennes and he had the opportunity to share poetry about his home.



Sunday, July 19, 2015

Day 4 in Israel- Kennes at Kibbutz Sde Boker

Yesterday, we had so much fun. I'm writing on Monday morning because we were all so tired from the fun activities that we fell right asleep last night. In the morning, we had breakfast in Ramat Rachel and Andrew led an interesting reflective Maagal Boker (morning circle) preparing us for the transition from travel days into Kennes. We then loaded the bus to head to Kibbutz Sde Boker. Halfway through the bus ride, we took a break at a rest stop. We met up with other Diller groups and had the opportunity to buy snacks and drinks. We got back on the bus, and one hour later we arrived at the kibbutz. 

Upon arrival, Nitzan, a member of Tzama gave us a tour of the campus. Tzama is a group of Israel Diller alumni who work on the logistics surrounding Kennes and Congress. With Nitzan we played games and visited David Ben Gurion's grave. We then had lunch and made our way to our rooms. Once settled, all Dillers met up by the auditorium. Each group made a 90 second introduction to present their communities. During our last workshop, Sandra and Hannah adapted the lyrics to Pitbull's song "Timber" which went off without a hitch! It was without a doubt the best 90-second intro and we had a blast. After presentations, we were split into color groups.

After our 90-second intros were all done, we joined our color groups. I am in the red group with Abby, which is a whole lot of fun! In those color groups, we have two junior counselors and one coordinator. Each group did ice breakers and played games until it was dinner time. While waiting for dinner to be ready, all Diller teens had the opportunity to meet and talk to each other. It was great to meet teens my age from so many different communities. After dinner we heard a speaker in the auditorium, Neal Lazarus, who spoke about the current Middle Eastern situation and what led to it. The speech was not only incredibly informative but also lively and full of jokes that everyone appreciated. When the speech ended, we had a few minutes of free time to freshen up before the "white tent". The white tent is a literal white tent with games, music, and snacks on the side. We had the opportunity to hang out with our new friends and keep making some more.  Tired from all the fun, we retired to bed at midnight excited to see our new friends again this morning!