Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cohort 6, Workshop 4

On December seventh, the Diller Teen Fellows of 6C had a workshop at the Squirrel Hill JCC. We started out with defining our personalities using the Jung and Meyers personality test. This helped us to understand each other better to make it easier to work with one another. Next, we were divided into four or so groups and given tennis balls and told not to cross a certain line. Then Chris laid out hula-hoops across the floor and told us to play the game. What the game was specified as was not given. It ended up being most groups tried to throw the balls at a specific point, usually on the far wall or the interior of one of the hula-hoops. After the activity was finished, we were asked to explain the purpose of the activity. The answers varied but the one that personally stood out the most was that we won't be able to play the same game and work together if we don't all have the same goal in mind. This was a segway to the Journey of Bread & Water, a process used to achieve these goals. The Journey of Break & Water outlined the steps in the process to planning our next shabbaton which will be done mostly by us, the teens of 6C. We were then divided into different groups; each group was designated a certain aspect of the shabbton to plan. The workshop ended with us beginning to plan the shabbaton in our small groups.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Day 11 came to an end with a beginning.  During our Ma’agal Lyla at our final night of Kennes, our cohort spent some time in reflection.  After a long day and a long week or more, it was nice to take it all in.  We all thought about our New Year’s Resolutions, which was fitting considering our cohort was about to go to the best Diller New Year’s party in the Negev (desert that is).  We also made wishes for the New Year for others in our cohort.  It’s weird to see how far we’ve come and how easily we can connect to one another.  It was a nice way to end our year together.  Afterwards, we headed to “white tent”, to see the other cohorts and to get down on the dance floor.  We had Marissa with her classic rap song dances, and Riberi and Mark singing the Taylor Swift songs loud and proud.  There was Meital keeping us pumped up and making sure Gabe, Jamie, Becca, Allie, the guys, and me were all on our feet.  When white tent ended, all of the cohort gathered all the Bamba, Goldfish, pizza, ice cream, and Coca-Cola -written in Hebrew might I add-and met at the top of the cliff right on the desert sand.  We were lucky that Papa Chris bought us pizza, because I wouldn’t say the dinner was the most edible of foods.  By Chris’ mistake, we all were give our noise makers fifteen minutes early, so not only did we blow them as loud as we could, disrupting the entire desert, at midnight, but we blew them every single moment leading up to midnight as well.  We all stood facing the vast desert lying before us and counted down.]

              “Ten!”  Someone almost fell of the side of the cliff.
               Nine!” Everyone got their noisemakers out, and got ready to blow them again as if their                      affect would be different this time.
              “Eight!” Should we do a count off?  Do we have everyone? C5 Count off!  Micah!
              “Seven!” Is that a goat animal thing staring at us?
              “Six!”  Wow, this would be an artsy picture!
              “Five!” C5, that’s us.
              “Four!”  I hope the Ben & Jerry’s hasn’t melted all the way yet…
              “Three!” Someone blows their noisemaker pre-maturely.
              “Two!” It’s almost 2k15, the graduating year for some of us.
              “One!” All of our noisemakers break and instead make noises ten times louder than before.
              “Happy New Year!”

It didn't feel so happy at 4:30 am this morning when our alarms went off though.  All of us groggily climb out of bed, throw on our Diller t-shirts we’ve been instructed to wear, and drag our now overly full suitcases to the buses.  Grabbing a pastry on the way out, we all take a seat on the bus.  Actually, we take two seats each, because most of us plan on sleeping on our way to Masada.  That’s right; we were on our way to climb Masada.  After a windy and seemingly dangerous cliff drive, we arrived at Masada.  We were all given a bag of assorted breakfast items first, because it’s important we have the energy we need to trek up the mountain.  Among the many strange things that have been given to us to eat in the past few hours, this might have been some of the weirdest.  Unsure of what to make of that which came out of our blue bags, we found ourselves each with a can of tuna, a tomato, some mayonnaise and ketchup, a whole cucumber, peach nectar, an apple, a candy bar like snack, some chocolate paste, and Halva.  With our stomachs either full with the most random assortment of breakfast foods, or empty because of the lack of compatibility between our provided foods, we began our ascent on the Roman path up Masada.  The hike up wasn’t so bad.  There were some big steps and maybe a few instances where going uphill tired the legs out beyond return, but there were no injuries or major difficulties.  When we got to the top, the view was breathtaking.  You could look out and see the sea at one end, and miles of vast sand and dried up river banks the other sides.  It was so beautiful being so high, until you realize, you’re only barely above sea level.

At the top, our tour guide first told us about the importance of Masada.  It was a fort for the Jews that lived there, especially when it came to protecting from the Romans.  The King Herod who built his palace on the north end at the top of Masada was a genius.  He had the right thinking by building his home at the side of the sea, with a view so magnificent.  We looked out to see the beauty of the sea, he may have seen one day, only to find that the sea had dried up and was now much farther away.  Next, we were guided down into one of the cistern.  After climbing down a set of steep and big steps, down underground we were told the story of the Jews that lived there on Masada.  When the Romans came, they were outnumbered, and had the choice to either fight or die fighting, or to commit suicide and save their children and wives from terrible abuse.  After, learning that they chose the latter, we were able to think about what we think about the whole story.  Being that all of the Jews died, and the only account of the story came from someone who became a traitor and joined the Romans, it is unclear whether the story is true or not.  With some deep thoughts in our mind, we made our way back to the surface and were lead to the other side of the mountain to take a Diller North American teen’s group picture and to catch the cable car down.  Before a lunch much like that of what we’ve been eating at Sde Boker, we talked about what was good and what was bad about our time here, and were able to provide positive feedback to Diller international.  We then boarded the bus for a whole new load of excitement.

Arriving at the Dead Sea was a cool and weird experience.  First of all, many of us learned the lesson that you should always wear shoes while at the sea.  However, more than that it was amazing to finally be at the Dead Sea after seeing it from so far away on Masada.  We were also officially at the lowest point on earth.  We had a lot of fun as a cohort figuring out the proper way to float and swim in the sea, and surprisingly, to some of us, we didn’t need to tread water.  After our bodies were heavily salted, and feeling pretty slimy, we parted our sea, and made our way to the mud instead.  Thinking we were slimy before, seeing us now was a whole different experience.  Head to toe, we were a complete composite of sulfur smelling, thick, grimy, but relaxing mud.  As we walked, the sand stuck to the mud under our feet, making it feel like each step had a five pound weight attached to it.  Now, adding to the list of things I don’t understand about Israel, we were meant to wash off the mud in salt water showered.  Not only did I struggle getting all of the mud off with my eyes closed, but I also temporarily blinded myself.  I had to be guided to the freshwater showers, which were farther away and of such a lesser quality.  In the end, we ran back to the locker rooms to shower and change in what felt like the speed of light, to board the bus again for our return to Jerusalem one last time.

We got one last chance to visit the Kotel.  It was nice to end the trip the same way we started, with Jerusalem and the Kotel.  It was a lot less crowded so we got to touch the wall and stand right up against it, without much difficulty.  It was a really great ending to a fast paced but meaningful trip.  Next, we went to the light show in the museum at King David’s tower.  Walking in, there were projectors showing short animated clips of stories that seemed to be the placing of Moses in the river and other moments in history.  Then, we took our seats and got to see a very impressive show about the history of Jerusalem.  We started with the story of Adam and Eve and ended with the message that we must do whatever we can to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  We saw all of the different people to inhabit Jerusalem, and all of the strife, and we were all very impressed.  The only thing that could’ve made it better would be if we all had the common sense to use the timeline of events they gave to us before the show to help us understand what was going on during the show.  Lastly, we had free time on Ben Yehuda Street to buy our last souvenirs and gifts, eat our last bits of Israeli food, and spend time on our own in Jerusalem for the last time.

 We ended with our final Ma’agal of our entire experience.  We talked about the ways we can sum up the most important connections, principles, and teachings of Diller in one word.  It was weird to see how much we all have grown and changed, and how well we really got to know each other.  Now, I sit on the bus, writing the last blog for Diller Cohort 5.  It’s been a good one, I’d have to say, and it’s weird to be saying the last remarks, because I know that there’s so much more to look forward to.  Even though most of us are asleep right now, as final preparation for our 5 am flight, I think our eyes have been opened in ways none of us could imagine, and I’d say we’re all better and stronger people because of it.

-Jess Hertzberg

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Beginning of North American Seminar

Today was rough as it was the day we all dreaded. We had to finally say goodbye to our new home in Karmiel and Misgav. I woke up with Amit for the last time and ate a small breakfast while just spending our last moments together. I wanted to make every last moment with him count. It made me so happy when he let me know he was coming to the RayMan with me. A few of the other Israelis met us there. It was sad but we were happy they were at least there with us. Once the bus arrived after a touching and meaningful ma’agal we reached the moment when we had to physically leave our home. For me personally it was terribly difficult. I thought I had done all my crying the night before but nope, I was wrong. After giving Amit, someone who has become more of a best friend and brother to me, a final hug I boarded the bus. It felt a little awkward with another cohort on the bus with us in San Francisco, but quickly that awkwardness left once we started to talk and play some games with them.      
We stopped for lunch at a strip mall/plaza kind of place. We all got really good coffee and hot chocolate at Aroma, a popular coffee shop. We were all given money to buy lunch. I went with Mark and Jacob Riberi and we had a good time just walking around and having fun. We got back on the bus after about an hour or so and drove the rest of the way to Sde Boker where we were going to have North American Kennes. I’m not really sure what happened during that half of the bus ride because I finally succumbed to the exhaustion I have felt throughout this incredible trip. We arrived in Sde Boker after a little while driving and it ended up being located in the Negev Desert which I didn’t know.

The view from of the land from Sde Boker is just too amazing for words. Noah and I went over towards the face of a cliff and took some pictures of the landscape. After a while we put our luggage in our rooms and headed to opening ceremony. We were then split into the same color groups we were in for the Mega Night we had in Tel Aviv earlier last week. After some ice breaker games we went into the hall where we had opening ceremony. We then had a presentation/lecture type of talk about the history of the Jewish Diaspora. Then we went back with our cohort and had a Ma’agal to break down our day. And now as I type this at a dance party outside our rooms I can say that this trip has been one I know I will never forget. And to think that all of this can happen in one day just amazes me.

~ Max Cohen

Sunday, December 28, 2014

School visit and trip to Haifa

Today was an experience unparalleled by anything I've ever done. For the first time in what seems like eternity, I entered an unfamiliar place called "school". After waking up at the break of dawn, aka 8:00 A.M., gal and I began our day with a hearty breakfast of eggs and toast. We met Amit and Max at a bus stop where we proceeded to take a cab to school. For only 15 shekels, we arrived at Mountain Heights in just under 10 minutes. The organization of the day was unfamiliar to max and me as we were coming from a rigid, consistent schedule. In many schools in Israel, when a teacher calls in sick, no substitute teacher is assigned. Class is just cancelled for the day. But some parts were similar. It was very difficult to understand what was happening in the classroom so I felt right at home. After two hours of physics, we felt it was time for a change of scenery. We explored the school, running into countless awestruck Israelis as we weren't wearing the typical school uniform. Interestingly, we even met some of the Dillers from next years cohort. Ally hit it off instantly with them as she is the JC for Cohort 6.

We left school around noon to walk back to the Raymons. After convening with the other Fellows, we had an American ma'agal over lunch. Through discussing our homestays, we really got to understand how the Americans felt about these last couple days. Following the ma'agal, a few Americans and Israelis, including myself, led a discussion comparing the IDF and the U.S. Armed Forces. This really hit home with many of the Israelis as they expressed their various opinions on the mandatory service. Then we boarded the bus for Haifa.

After an hour long drive, we arrived at a Go-Kart arena. We were divided into 6 teams, coordinators included, and began a 50-minute race that included refueling and switching drivers. After a tight finish, the winning team popped champagne on a podium. After the celebration, we got on the bus back home to the Raymonds. Following a delicious pizza dinner, we hung out until the parents came at 9:30.

~ Mark Rollman

Shabbat of Community Week

Friday started like all the other days earlier that week. With loud alarms that we ignore until we realize where we are and the adrenaline kicks in. Everyone met downstairs for a heavy breakfast. Once we were all fed and partially awake we got on the bus and went on our way.

First stop was Rashbi's tomb. Where the woman went on one side to see the tomb of Rashbi and the men went on the other. We all got time to reflect on everything we have been doing and take some time to ourselves.

Tzfat was next. We took a tour around the village and through the buildings. Discussed the history of the ancient city. Midway though our tour we decided it was a good time to dance and sing! After all, Shabbat was coming and we all needed to get into the happy mindset. We then Continued with the tour and became more aware of our surrounds. We Enjoyed a quick lunch and a little free time to walk around and retrace our tracks. We drove back to Rayman's and prepared for Shabbat with our homestays.

Everybody prepared for Shabbat in different ways. Alice and i prepared by making a challah. Unfortunately more flour ended up on our faces than in the actual dough but we had an amazing time! This whole trip has been an amazing time! 

~ Jamie Eisner

This Saturday we had a full day to spend with our hosts and their families, rather than spend Shabbat with the cohort. This day was something my host family and I had been discussing from the first day I arrived at their house. There were so many amazing options of places that we could go, but I decided that we would travel to the port city of Akko. In the morning, we woke up and had a quick breakfast before making the drive to the city. They told me to eat light because I would be trying a lot of new foods today, and they were certainly not wrong.

The drive only took about a half an hour, but the changes in scenery and design were astounding. No longer were we in the modern, mountainous region of Misgav and the Upper Galilee, but the warmer, ancient port city of Akko. Our first stop on our journey took us to walls built by the British during the crusades. On top were rows of cannons used to keep the Muslims, and later Napoleon’s army, out of Akko. The city has always been important as it was originally the only port city in northern Israel and is still one of the centers of shipping today. After the walls, we passed the gate of the city, a looming mass that can be defended from all sides. After seeing the ancient part of the city, we jumped forward in time to visit the markets of the city.

Unlike the Carmel Market in Tel-Aviv, the shops of Akko had, according to Naveh’s Father, received a “facelift” and he was not incorrect. While there were some dirty sections, most of the market had been renovated and designed to look like a Mediterranean bazaar.  Instead of the usual shaky metal or wood structure, these stalls had solid plastered walls as well as real wood doors. These new stalls also were home to restaurants as well as souvenir shops. The market is also where I started my food adventure in Akko. We had tastes of everything from knafe, a Arabic desert similar to baklava, to carob plant. I couldn’t believe the range of different foods I could find in this small area. You could spend a whole day trying food their and only get through half of the stands. Of all of the food I had tried that day, the most memorable was by far the humus and falafel. This has been the best food I have eaten here yet and I doubt it will be surpassed.

After my food experience, Naveh and his father saw some Arab friends they knew from cycling and we were invited to their house for coffee. Everything they talked about had to be translated for me, but seeing and hearing about the different lifestyle was eye opening. I remember at one point they started talking about getting a visa to go to America. Through the translation, I learned that it is basically impossible for them to ever go there, and according to Naveh’s father, going to The United States is as realistic as going to the moon. Seeing these people face to face opened up a part of the world that most Americans, and also Israelis, never get to experience. After a few cups of coffee it was time to go home, and with mixed Hebrew, English, and Arabic, we were off and back to Misgav for the night. All in all this Shabbat has been not only one of the most memorable days of this trip, but one of those events that stick with you as you progress through life.

~Collin DeWitt