Israel Mifgash - Final Day
Shabbat morning had a different vibe to it, and not just because it was shabbat. While we all woke up in what by now have become our comfortable homes, it didn’t feel like just another day on the trip. Probably, because it was the last one.
Following a morning of packing, thanking and saying goodbye to our host families, and mentally preparing for the long trip home, we gathered at Hugim one last time, took one last photo with the families, and headed Tel Aviv-Jaffa with our Israeli friends, where we will spend the day until it’s time for take off.
The drive south along Israel’s Rt. 2 on this beautiful sunny day, with the Mediterranean to our right, and the slopes of the Carmel to our left did cheer us up, though the thoughts of departing didn’t let go. Within the usual bus soundtrack of laughter and snores, one could occasionally hear a whimper or two.
Not wanting this day to get too sentimental, we had a full program ahead. Our first stop was at Anu – The Museum of the Jewish People. Anu ,which means us/we in Hebrew, located on the campus of Tel Aviv University, was built upon what used the be Beit Hatfusot – Museum of the Jewish Diaspora – an outdated and gloomy place which made most visitors wish they currently were in the diaspora. Not so is the case with Anu – this brand new museum is an incredibly inviting, interactive, accessible, and coherent gallery space, in which one can get lost wandering for hours. While we could not afford so much time – on a day in which time was our enemy to begin with – we were able to visit some fascinating exhibits about Jewish culture, humor, and music.
With the staff on Anu locking the doors behind us, we sprinted to the Tel Aviv Port, making sure we arrive there before the sun does. Tel Aviv’s port, located in the northern end of the city, where the Yarkon flows into the sea, has known many chapters in its history – from a competing with the old port of Jaffa, through harboring legal and illegal Jewish immigrants, to hosting the Levant Fare. Today, the port no longer functions as an actual port, but as one of Tel Aviv’s entertainment centers, with many restaurants and cafes, a popular farmer’s market, shops and concert halls. We spent a two relaxing hours at the port, and headed to Jaffa – and old Arab town from which Tel Aviv emerged, and eventually united with.
See the photos above? Flying a drone over a major body of water takes a certain amount of courage, which luckily our bus driver/drone photographer, Igor, possessed. So does stopping a bus in the middle of Jaffa’s busiest street to unload 30 students, and for that we are grateful to you, Igor. We got off the bus, and went to meet Doris. While some people are known for making an entrance, Doris takes it to a new level. As we entered her beautiful home located in a quiet Jaffa street in the Ajami neighborhood, we were welcomed with loud festive Arab music, and with Doris – standing tall above us all, with her shiny green robe – leading in dance, song, and the traditional Zahrarid, or Kululu in Hebrew. We couldn’t resists but join her.
As if this welcome didn’t energize us enough, Doris served us strong black coffee from beans that her family has been grinding for nearly 150 years, along with some baklava. Once we settled we finally got to hear who Doris is, and why we are visiting her. Doris Hiffawy, who’s last name means “from Haifa”, is a unique voice within the Israeli society. An Arab, Christian, empowered woman (minority within a minority within a minority), is not something you meet everyday, and we were fascinated to hear her personal story, as well as her insights and perspective about living as a Christian Arab in a Jewish state.
It was already past 9pm when we said goodnight to Doris, and as a way of prolonging the inevitable, we made one last stop in Jaffa’s Old City, walking down from a vantage point looking over Tel Aviv towards the legendary Abulafia Bakery, for one last Shawarma and falafel late dinner. From there, we headed to the place in which this adventure begun – Ben Gurion Airport. We bid one last teary farewell to our Israeli friends, and made our way in.
Less than 6 months ago, on an ordinary Thursday evening, a group of strangers gathered in a synagogue to learn about this program they signed up for, and meet the others who did the same. Shortly after, this group of students from numerous temples, communities, towns and school across MetroWest embarked on a shared journey, which concluded this week.
Where exactly this journey led them, they can’t yet tell you. They could tell you – and they did – about the places they visited, the people they met, foods they ate, and stories they heard. They could tell you – and they shortly will – what made them happy, excited, tired, cry, or all together at once. But they can not tell you where this journey took them, as even though it had finished, it is not complete. Tam ve’lo nishlam, as the Hebrew saying goes.
The paths, directions, and destinations of this journey will continue to be written in many years to come – in the way they choose to integrate Judaism in their busy teenage life; in the relationships they will keep, grow, and create; in the school they decide to go to, and the kind of students they will be; in the place Israel will occupy in their hearts; and in the Jewish lives they will choose to lead.
But, we’re not just going to leave you hanging. Although we might not know where they’re going, we know where they are right now – in bed, probably – catching up on sleep, battling jetlag, and and calculating what the time in Israel is. And from this very raw, exhausted, and emotional place, this is what they have to say:
Over the past 10 days I was able to see a place that is both beautiful in culture and significance as in beauty.
We traveled up mountains and went down into valleys, navigated minefields and saw the caves and sunset of the Mediterranean Sea.
I had a great time over the past 10 days. It was a completely new experience that I will remember for the rest of my life and I’m glad I had the opportunity to go on such an amazing trip.
The trip to Israel has been an experience I will never forget. Of course while seeing all of the sights and learning about history and Israel was valuable, easily my favorite part of the trip was the people. I’ve made best friends and it’s crazy to think I wouldn’t have met them if it wasn’t for this program. Since the second we had to say goodbye I’ve been excitedly awaiting the next time I get to see them. I now know that I will always have a home to go to when in Israel and I can provide a home for any of the Israelis in the US. I’m incredibly thankful for this experience and I wouldn’t be the same without it.
This trip has been a one of a kind experience that I am truly grateful for. Sobbing for the past hour saying goodbye to the Israelis showed just how special this program is and the people who take part in it. From learning about this program 30 minutes prior to the informational seminar to experiencing a top 3 moment in my life, amazing scenery, places and weather, enriching my Jewish Identity and meeting new amazing friends, I have loved every moment of this trip and program. Staying with a new family for 10 days was the weirdest/coolest thing. Having to try and learn a bit of basic needs in Russian as the parents didn’t speak English was a whole experience on its own which brought some challenges. This only made the bond between me and my host family, especially the kids even stronger. Experiencing the differences in everyday items such as two buttons on the toilet seat, wild cats, wild boars, and much more was crazy and confusing. The love I have for the Americans, Israelis, and my new family that I met through this program is something that I will be able to take with me for the rest of my life and am extremely grateful that I was able to take part in this truly amazing program.
Originally I came into this trip skeptical, specifically because I was spending my February break with people I wasn’t too close with. But as the week went on and I spent more time with people, I realized this was an experience I wouldn’t ever forget. Jerusalem was truly the turning point. Spending the nights in the room with my friends and just laughing and hanging out created a bond I won’t ever break. I became close with Israelis that will stay in my hearts forever and I would never hesitate to sob walking away from them. As we went to Yad Vashem and Mt Herzl I felt myself connect more with my religion and the people around me because it was such a heartbreaking experience, but at the same time it was amazingly special. As the end of the week neared the connections I made with Eden and Michelle and many others grew and I never felt so close to a group of people, not even at home. Today (Saturday/Sunday) was the hardest day. It hit, and it hit hard. But we spent it well, watching the last 7 minutes of the sunset, eating pizza, laughing, telling stories, remembering the jokes we made along the way and most importantly crying into each others arms as we said goodbye at the airport. I think HiBuR was an amazing thing to happen to me and was really life changing. It’s 10 days of my life I will never forget. (Shout out to Shoni and Rabbi Lisa for making this possible for all of us.)
This trip was one of the best weeks of my life. I made so many friends that I will see again soon. I loved staying in Haifa and I think I might move there someday. The food there was so good and the views were amazing. I got ice cream almost everyday from the best shop ever. This was an amazing experience and I hope to do it again someday. My favorite thing we did was in tel aviv on the last day when we were on the boardwalk. There was a fenced off beach so some of us jumped the fence and went in the water. It was really fun.
Going on this trip was an experience I will never forget. This was my first time in Israel and it was so much fun. I learnt about the culture, the food and many other parts that make Israel an amazing place to visit. I made friends that I know I will have for many many years and tried so much food that my stomach hurts. Even though some of the bus rides were really long (especially the one coming back from Jerusalem), everyone sang to the music and we were all talking and having fun, so we all stayed awake (most of the time). With all the activities that Shoni and others helped plan, we were always busy with something fun, new and exciting to do, so I never once thought about missing home. I was so sad to leave, but I know I will be back and see all of the friends that I made.
Eliana Krasnow: The past 10 days had its ups and downs but all in all the whole experience was really incredible. I met super great people and loved being able to experience a totally new and different culture than one I normally experience. It was cool how we were able to tour nearly the entire country in just a matter of days! My favorite parts were Masada, the Dead Sea, the last day in Tel Aviv, and free time with friends. I know that I made friendships that I will have for years and years to come and are definitely hard to say goodbye to. Oh and boars were cool but scary and i didn’t like the cats and i liked how you could walk to nearly anything.
I had an incredible experience in Israel making connections that will last a lifetime. Between the classic tourist things like visiting the Dead Sea… to the experiences I couldn’t get any other time like sitting in a big group of my best friends listening to music and singing along to every word. I wildly anticipate returning soon to continue making new memories, as being home has left me with sadness after such a great trip! Not to mention the food I ate was incredible.
This past week while we were staying with our Israelis we got to learn about their lives in Haifa and we got to learn more about what it means to be a Jew in Israel. By staying in a home that was not like mine I was introduced to a completely different way of living, such as new food and different social norms. I got to experience many interesting adventures such as hiking up and down Masada, floating in the Dead Sea, and going to many informational museums. One thing that really stuck out to me about this trip was how easy it was to become friends with the Israelis that we were not staying with. Many times during the week we would go to one of their houses and hang out until all of us Americans got too tired and had to go to sleep, because of this we all became very close to both the other Americans and the students from Haifa. We all made connections that we never would have been able to without being a part of this program and we are going to stay in touch in the future. We were all very sad to go and many tears were shed but we all will remember this adventure for a long time.
My Israeli experience was unforgettable. From the time we saw the Israelis surprise us at Ben Gurion to when we said goodbye at Ben Gurion, I will never forget a single moment I spent with such lovely people
It exhausts the mind just to recall the events of our trip! Whenever I wasn’t learning new facts about the state and people of Israel, I was finding insights about life in general by feeling how it flows in a different part of the world. It was so good to connect with everybody on the trip. I’ve also never had so much good food in such a short period of time before!
At the start of the program back at the first meeting my plan was to stay with only 3 of the specific people that I knew going into this trip. Now on the other end I can tell you that I was totally wrong. I made some of the greatest and closest connections I’ve ever had in my life through this trip. Staying with Ofek was like having a brother and I’m truly blessed to have that relationship. On a more touristy note, the experiences and things I saw here in israel were unlike anything i’ve seen before. At the Western wall I felt more connected to my judaism than I have ever felt. The dead sea was a crazy surreal experience which I will never forget because of its uniqueness. Although all these places were super awesome to visit, the last day was in fact my favorite because of the true connections shown. The tears shed really shows how truly great this program is in creating across the world life long relationships.
This week was a week full of surprises. The surprises came from all sides, even within. I was surprised by the landscape, the culture, the politics, the schools, the people, my friends, but most of all myself. I was surprised by what it all meant to me and how it seemed like a good dream that I didn’t want to wake up from. I learned about Israel and Judaism, and I met many wonderful people. I ate good food for every meal and I think I put on a few pounds. What surprised me most, though, was just how deep the bonds we formed in that short week went.
Haifa is a very beautiful place. I woke up every morning and saw an amazing view of the city from the window. In 10 days, we managed to see not only the major attractions, but a piece of our hosts lives. I got to see a boar. I got to try new foods, and I love food. I really enjoyed the school in Haifa because it was way more fun than in America, and the teachers were way more laid back. I’m excited to go back to Israel.
This trip was like nothing I have ever experienced before. It was so cool to be able to meet and bond with kids that we would of never connected with without this experience and seeing how similar two cultures across the world could be. I enjoyed seeing the similarities and differences in our culture and the way we live and getting to see the Israelis do the same. I learned so much about history and Jewish culture and met so many fascinating and kind people.
After the first introduction zoom meeting my immediate response was “no.” I didn’t want to do the program at all, but various people were able to change my mind, and I’m so glad that they did. This program was incredible and unlike anything else I had done before. Not only did I get to visit a bunch of new places, I was also able to make unforgettable connections with new friends. Reuniting last Thursday night after four months away from each other, was amazing, and the surprise element made this exciting moment even better. After the first few days staying at Naomi’s house, I already felt like a part of their family. It was so fun getting to know her family and seeing what the normal day to day life of an Israeli family is like. The culture shock during this week was real, especially at school. There were some key differences, which I either did not except or just wasn’t able to imagine properly without actually living them. After a fun week of ups and downs, the last day came to be very bittersweet. We got to spend the last day together up until the very last minute (they left the airport at midnight), but those last 30 minutes were impossibly hard. We had to say goodbye to our new Israeli friends who we had grown so close to, without a set time for seeing each other again. I’m very hopeful that I will see most of them again, but leaving with that uncertainty caused a lot of tears, but also lots of hugs. Overall, this experience was absolutely unforgettable, and I wouldn’t give up the friendships that I made for anything.
This trip is the coolest thing I’ve ever done. It showed me that I’m capable of traveling far away and without stopping. I was able to be spontaneous and tried so many new things. Haifa is the first city where I’ve been able to walk around at night feeling safe and comfortable. I tend to connect with nature related places much more than cities, but I feel just as connected to Haifa as I do to the White Mountains. This whole experience has reminded me how much I love being around people, and that I should put more effort into spending time with people that make me happy. Now that I’m back I’ve been able to appreciate things that are unique to Massachusetts so much more. (Except for the depressing lack of sunlight). I’ve decided that I’ll go back to Haifa many, many times. Next time I’ll make sure I see a boar.
As we conclude this Israel Mifgash, we extend our gratitude to:
- CJP and the the Boston-Haifa Committee, for making this program possible.
- Our local synagogues and clergy partners – Rabbi Polisson of Or Atid, Rabbi Leigh and Rabbi Pollak of Kerem Shalom, Rabbi Breindel of Beth El, and of course Rabbi Eiduson of B’nai Torah for co-leading both mifgashim.
- The amazing staff at Hugim – Hagit, Natanella and Nurit.
- The wonderful and kind host families in Haifa who made us all feel right at home.
- The local Boston families who trusted their children with us.
- Our spectacular tour guide Gili – see you again next year!
- Our fearless driver/entertainer/drone photographer Igor.
- The medics who kept us safe, Ali and Oren.
- And above all, our amazing students from Boston and from Haifa – we enjoyed every minute with you.
Rabbi Lisa Eiduson
2 thoughts on “Israel Mifgash – Day 9 (Final Day)”
Such a fantastic trip and experience! The student traveler reflections are heartwarming and Shoni’s colorful and detailed blogs made it easy to travel along with the group. Am so glad for the community that HiBuR is up and travelling again! Yasher koach to all.
Heartwarming blog that captures our prayers for the Jewish future. These teenagers are our future!!