Day 17

Friday July 12, 2013 ~ Dalia: Friday we woke up to the smell of cookies. We got out of bed and went downstairs to find breakfast and specially made Snickerdoodles for Miri. We ate breakfast and got ready for Jerusalem. We then headed on to the van and drove to Holon. We walked over to the blind museum and got our tickets to go in. We put our bags, cameras, watches and glasses in a locker. We gathered into a dimly lit room with two religious married couples. We were then each given a walking stick and were introduced to our guide who we later found out was visually impaired. We entered the blind museum, which was completely dark. The first room was a zoo it had trees and different smells and sounds that were easily identifiable. We talked about how when you lose the sense of sight it becomes important to listen to your surroundings to identify your location. We then went into an apartment and felt the furniture of the house. And then went for a boat ride identifying the surroundings by smell, sound and motion. Then we walked into a traffic area and it was loud and confusing. We were all trying to find each other and one of the guys walked up to Zoe thinking she was his wife. Tali was also tapped by the other man who thought she was a car and Tali set him straight. We went to a market and were able to identify it by being able to feel the fruits of the market. Afterwards we headed to the music room and listened to music. Then we went to the cafeteria but no one had money so we didn’t get anything and we talked about what we thought of the museum. In summary, we all felt appreciative for the ability to see and were amazed with the abilities of the people who are actually visually impaired. Coming out of the museum we learned that Madi had taken a few of the vegetables from the market. We asked the guide about it and they said that she could keep it. After the blind museum we took some time to play in the playgrounds nearby climbing the space ball and enjoying the swings. Then we drove to Jerusalem and came to Machaneh Yehudah. The sight of Machaneh Yehudah was immediately overwhelming. There were multiple tour groups shopping around Camp Koby, ILEAD, Mach Hach, Dorot (from Canada), Birthright, USY and maybe a few others. We got a chance to say many hellos because some of us knew a lot of the kids on the other programs. We were taken to Machaneh Yehudah and had the task of a scavenger hunt, lunch, and Shabbat-O-Gram gifts. We only completed 66% because we also had to take time for shopping, walking around in circles, and time to talk with the people we saw. We bought lunch and gifts for our friends and ourselves and talked to a lot of people. Afterwards we went to Beit Shmuel and settled ourselves in our room. We prepared for Shabbas and at 7:30 we headed to Shira Chadasha for Kabbalat Shabbat as nine people (the fab five, Noa, Rabbi, Aviva, and Saphira). The shul was packed with people there was barely any room to sit. It was a very nice service and afterwards we walked back to Beit Shmuel and had a three-course meal. After dinner we learned that the Rabbi would be leaving on Saturday night. Then we went upstairs and went to sleep.

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Day 16

Dalia ~ Thursday July 11, 2013

Note from Wed: Technically this morning at about 12am I found a jumping bug near my bed and I made Miri run to the other room to get Madi to kill the bug. Madi, Tali, and Zoe were about to fall asleep when Miri knocked on their door and it doesn’t seem like they will let us forget that. No worries Madi killed the bug and Zoe has a video for proof.

Today we woke up at 8am. Miri and I were privileged to have three wakeups: one from Aviva one from Tali and one from an iPod. We had a regular breakfast then we checked out of the hostel and drove to the cave of Bar Yochai. We went into the shul and davened Shacharit and we then left to drive to Akko. On the drive to Akko Tali and I found a bee sitting next to us. We yelled at Madi to come and kill the bee. It took a few tries but Madi succeeded and no one was stung. We went out to explore Akko and walked around the area. We went to the market and explored a few stores. Zoe found a pair of Genie pants that matched her green nails! We then walked to the shore and found a whale sculpture with Jonah inside of it. We asked him to move for a few minutes so that we could take a picture in it. We then found a lighthouse that wasn’t in use anymore and afterwards we drove to the next spot. We visited Rambam hospital, the biggest hospital in the north. We went up to the children’s floor and visited sick children. We gave out stuffed animals to the kids to comfort them and we talked to the parents trying to comfort them too. All of the kids were so nice and cute we really hope that they all heal soon. We then went downstairs to the mall to go find lunch. Miri had a plain frozen yogurt because there were no stores that were nut free. The rest of us had lunch at Aroma. We had a very interesting lunch the five of us made a Shidduch and if it works out we will have a wedding to go to in Israel. Basically Zoe wanted some chocolate (shocker) and we were debating how we would get it. We were saying we should ask the surgeon who was sitting next to the chocolate. It turned out the surgeon understood everything we were saying and passed Zoe the chocolate then the Tesslers began talking to him and we left. But Madi ran back to get his number and came back with it. Then Tali and I ran back to give him the Emergency contact card which had our Madricha’s phone number and we ran out of there laughing. We were laughing so much that some random woman yelled at us for being mental. When we all were on the bus we were laughing hysterically about what had just happened. In the moment Madi asked our bus driver Muchsan (who is Bedouin) if he knew any famous Bedouins because she knew one who had come to talk at her school. No one could stop laughing it was a very funny moment. Before driving to the horse-ranch we stopped at a market and picked up some strawberry yogurt for Miri. Then we drove to the horse-ranch. We were privileged to have a roller coaster ride driving into the ranch. We saddled up and got on our horses.  Teens from Sderot who suffer with trauma joined us on our horse ride.  With each horse following each other we rode to the beach. It was beautiful and for the most part calm. There wasn’t much chatter because everybody was focused on his or her horse. We then came back to the ranch to have a drum circle with the Sderot teens. Each kid received a drum and the instructor showed us a few beats and then we had some time to freestyle on the drums. After we all received different instruments such as a buffalo drum, an ocean drum, tambourines, and other types of drums we all played together and it was very nice. We then ate pizza and afterwards we boarded the buses. We drove back to Raanana and I had a chance to meet up with some family. Miri, Tali, Zoe, and Madi were able to learn with the Rabbi about Tisha Ba’v. We finished the learning we had been working on for Tisha Ba’v about the few stories of Tisha Ba’v. Afterwards Madi, Tali, Miri, and Zoe drew cards for who would shower and Madi broke the sink. It wasn’t her fault it just became clogged and the handle sort of fell out. But it was fixed and Saphira came over and we went to sleep.


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Day 15

Zoe ~ Today, we woke up normally (meaning that Tali woke us up and we all hated her for about ten minutes) and came down to eat breakfast which was amazing because there was chocolate spread, and we got on the bus on our way to the Galita chocolate factory. Now let me preface this by saying that I have always wondered what heaven looked like. You know, I always thought that there would be pillars, and harps, and choirs, and all of that fancy schmancy stuff, but no. That is not what it looks like. When you go to heaven, it will look eerily similar to the workshop room in the Galita chocolate factory. Basically, you walk in, and you are hit with the smell of chocolate. Kind of like Hershey Park, but a million times better. So that is the smell. Also when you walk in, you are surrounded by chocolate. Like seriously. On all four sides, there is chocolate. I think I actually started singing when I walked into the factory. Anyway, we watched a video on cocoa beans or something, but I really could not pay attention with all the chocolate going on around me. Chocolate can be really distracting. Anyway, we finished with the movie, and they gave us bowls of dark chocolate (that were solid and hollow), and then bowls of other chocolate (that were melted and were to be the filling or something. Again, I could not really pay attention because of all the chocolate). They told us to make truffles. They also told us that it was okay to eat the melted chocolate. So, as you may guess, most of the melted chocolate did not end up in the hollow bowls. Most of it was in my stomach and all over my face. Anyway, they took them away to cool, and then they gave us squirt bottles with chocolate. Pure chocolate. They said to use the bottles and make whatever we wanted on sheets of wax paper. Dalia made one of her name, Miri’s name (because we love her), and a happy birthday sign to her sister. Tali made one of a flower, and her name. Madi made three blobs because she wanted to maximize the amount of chocolate on her paper (a smart idea. But don’t worry. Aviva and Noa poured chocolate down my throat in the most loving way possible). Noa definitely made something that was wonderful, but I could not see over to that end of the table, and please. When there is chocolate in the equation (as I mentioned before) I really cannot focus when there is chocolate around. The Rabbi attempted to make a sweet little thing for Aviva that said Aviva, but it also ended up being a huge blob of chocolate that looked quite wonderful. I made so many things. I made a chocolate name for each member in my family and ate them on their behalf (you are welcome Natanya, Xander, Padre and Madre. Yes, those do count as your presents), I made a flower, a sun with sunglasses, lots of things about Israel and lots of blobs of chocolate. It was all quite fantastic. Miri was our official photographer and now has many fantastic pictures of me with an insane amount of chocolate on my face that I am worried that she will use as blackmail. Anyway, it was at that point that they took away our concoctions to cool and gave us back the bonbon/truffle things that we had been making, and this time, we were told to put them together and decorate them. They gave us four more bowls of chocolate, and then they also gave us all these toppings that we could put on. As you might guess, my bonbons/truffles could not really be located after I was done putting the chocolate all over them. Everyone else’s looked really good though. I think that Aviva should open a bonbon/truffle shop because hers looked really professional and pretty. Anyway, we all finished decorating and they took away the bonbon/truffle things to cool, and they let us explore the shop. It was really cool, mostly because there was literally chocolate everywhere. Anyway, we got the chocolate back, bade farewell to the chocolate factory (I will not comment on my emotional status as we departed the facility. All I will say is that there may or may not have been tears as we departed), and continued on our way to the biking place. When we got there, there was an executive decision made that it did not seem like such a good idea to be biking in the middle (meaning the hottest time of the day) of the hottest time of the year, so we decided to put the biking on hold and continue to the water hike. We got to the water hiking place, and started on the trail, which Noa told us was part of the trail that runs from all the way in the north of Israel to the south. She said that it takes about a month and a half to do the whole trail. I suggested we do it, but Noa said that we needed to be back at the biking place at a certain time, so unfortunately we could not. Spoilsport. Anyway, before actually getting in the water, there was a pool ish thing with a waterfall before the trail. Noa suggested we go in there to get all wet so that we would not be too hot on the trail. We all got in (it was a really shallow pool so it only went up to our knees) but it was really cold, so no one wanted to go under the waterfall and get all wet. Then, Miri said that she would get in if I did, so I said yes. However, before either of us could go in at the same time, she tried to push me under! Traitor! Naturally, the only response I could give was to splash her, so I did. This started an all out war (oddly enough the teams ended up being me and Miri versus Tali and Dalia. I don’t really know how that worked out. All I know is that once the water started flying, Madi jumped out of the pool and started taking pictures. Anyway, we were all thoroughly soaked and ready to depart when the rabbi decided to come in and join the fray. He came up from behind and started splashing us all. That restarted the war, with a new team that consisted of just the rabbi. Midway through the battle, Aviva tried to be sneaky and join in from behind, but Dalia and I spotted her and got her before she could get us. She quickly retreated. After a while, we could not help but notice that Noa was conspicuously not in the pool. We decided to rectify this by splashing her too. This did not work seeing as she was not in the aforementioned pool. This time it was us who retreated, mostly because she was out of reach. Anyway, we got out of the pool (finally) and started the hike which was really gorgeous and peaceful. We walked and walked and walked and walked, and got to the end. We were all hungry, and luckily we found a pizza place about seventeen feet from where the trail stopped, so we decided to eat there. By that time, all of us were dry, even though we had all been soaked to the skin a mere hour before. That is what the Israel sun will do to you, folks. We had a nice lunch and then continued on with the original plan of going biking. We got there pretty late, so there were not that good of a selection of bikes left, and me being me, of course I chose the most ancient bike there that only had one gear that I am convinced is the granny gear (that means that I have to pedal twice as hard to go the same distance as everyone else. It does not do wonders for your already aching muscles). Miri stayed behind with the rabbi and Aviva to learn to ride a bike, and by the end she was able to do it! We are all so proud of her. The rest of us started on the loop around the lake, and in the middle, we stopped in the bird observing place thing, and we learned about how 65 years ago, that whole place was a swamp, and the first settlers of the land had to do back breaking work to make it a habitable place so that 65 years later, someone like me could enjoy riding her bike in Israel. We continued on with the ride, my legs going on mutiny for putting them through this, and finished just in time for my legs to completely stop working, in what my mind was a strike. I attempted to walk my bike back to the stand, but it ended up being more staggering than walking. Anyway, we got back on the bus and headed for the hotel thing, and we had some time before dinner, so Noa, Miri, and I decided to have a quick dip in the Kineret. We had lifeguard Tali watching us so that we would not drown, and it was really nice because the water was fantabulous. We finished swimming and went for a four minute shower and then went for dinner. After dinner, we continued to learn the gemarah we had started on Monday night about Bar Kamtsa and the destruction of Jerusalem. It was very interesting and we had a discussion about whether (if we were the leaders of Jerusalem at this time) we would fight the Romans, or if we would try to make peace with them and why. We ended up deciding that there was no good answer, because either way there were huge drawbacks. Anyway, after our discussion, we all went to our rooms, and packed. Just as Tali, Madi and I were about to fall asleep, we got a knock at our door from Miri. Apparently, there was a giant jumping bug in their room, and they wanted it gone. We all went, but it was Madi who heroically got the bug in the end. We went back to our room to go to sleep, but once again, it was way past my bedtime. So sad.


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Day 14

Tuesday July 9  ~Tali : Today we didn’t have any unusual wake up, but Zoe did refuse to open her eyes until it was exactly 7:30.  We left Ra’anana at around 8:30 and went to Tzfat to paint a bomb shelter.  When we got there, we learned that the shelter had yet to be cleaned out and we didn’t think that we would be able to move any of the beds or mattresses that were stored down there since everything was considerably heavy.  Not minding a little extra work, we got started anyway. Before we knew it, pretty much the entire neighborhood was outside helping us clear out the room so that we could start painting it.  It didn’t take very long, but we had to wait a little before actually starting because there was dust everywhere.  There was an Ethiopian woman, Tazza who walked across the Sudan for an entire year before reaching Israel who taught us that pouring water on the floor would clear out some of the dust and soon we were able to start white-washing the walls.  Eventually we started to paint- Zoe and Madi drew flowers, Miri and the Rabbi drew a house with a Hasidic man and woman inside, Aviva drew a teddy bear, Dalia drew hearts on the floor, and Noa and I painted the railings on the wall.  In the end, we hand printed on wall and the shelter had a lot more color than it did before.  It was really nice because the people in the area could be stuck in a bomb shelter for hours of the day and there are many children who would be there too, so we wanted to make it look as nice as possible.  When we finished, the people living in the apartments near the shelter came out and told us thank you and how our willingness to help them was contagious.  They really appreciated what we did for them, especially because it is very possible that the shelter would have remained filled with the furniture for a lot more time had we not come and helped out.  They told us that what we did for them was really amazing and how the chesed we did in person means a lot more because it was more personal than a letter expressing concern.  They gave us each a cup with a candle and a tehillim in it with a quote from Rav Kook that stated that each person had a flame inside them and it is their job to take that flame and share it with the world.  Before leaving Tzfat, we went to eat some falafel for lunch.  Rabbi Tessler told the man making them that I like mine a little spicy and so the man assumed that he did as well and kept adding spices to it.  In the end though it turned out to be really good so all was well.  The next stop was rafting down the Jordan River.  We separated ourselves between three rafts; Dalia, Miri, and Noa, Rabbi Tessler and Aviva, and me, Zoe, and Madi.  My boat was up ahead the entire time until we got near the end when we let the other two boats catch up.  We began a splash fight with Dalia, Miri, and Noa for a little bit and Madi got out to swim for a little bit.  Two minutes before getting out of the boat, Zoe pushed me into the water and then helped me back in soon after.  Well, I wanted to push her in as revenge but she didn’t really give me any opportunity to do so.  We settled this with a compromise in which she had to jump into the water and get her hair wet, making it look like she was either pushed in or fell in all on her own.  I pulled her back in, but we faced some troubles when both of our hands were stuck under us, so we both kicked our feet in hopes that somehow it would lift us up.  The staff was on the beach looking at us like we were a bunch of crazy Americans, so when we finally got up, we rushed out of the raft.  After changing into clean, dry clothing, we went on the bus for a 40-minute ride to Karei Deshe, the youth hostel we are staying at.  It felt a lot shorter since we were all entertained by Dalia’s jokes about Wan, the gingerbread man, and lobsters.  We all ate dinner and then Noa took the Fab Five outside to talk and play cards before we all went to sleep.

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Day 13

Monday – Miri ~ This morning Aviva woke us up, however when her attempt to get us out of bed failed, she said, “So much for the positive reinforcement,” and suddenly construction workers came in and started hammering into the tiles. Needless to say, this got all of us out of the room pretty quickly.  Because it was Rosh Chodesh, we davened and sang Hallel together.  We ate a festive Rosh Chodesh breakfast and then drove to Bet Elezraki, a home for children at risk. We met Yehuda Kohen, the director of the home and he explained the history of the home to us. Today there are about 250 children in the home, and Kohen and his wife act as the parents of the kids even after they leave the home, which includes paying for their college tuition and attending their weddings. Afterwards we watched the choir perform a Hebrew and English song and then we went nearby the beach to make and fly kites. Although only a few managed to keep their kites in the air, everyone had a great time. After lunch, which we ate in Bet Elezraki, we traveled to Atlit. After World War Two, many Jews tried to find refuge in Palestine via walking, airplane, or by boat. However, the British, who were in control of Palestine, put a quota on the amount of Jews allowed in, and the ones who illegally tried to enter Israel were either sent back to their country of origin or sent to a detainment camp.  Atlit was a detainment camp before the establishment of Israel as a Jewish State in 1948.  We saw bunkers in which people slept and watched videos about the Jews attempting to enter Palestine. We also went on a ship similar to one that refugees traveled on. After we finished our tour, we drove to Caesaria, a port city built by the Roman King Herod. It was eventually destroyed, but what is left of it still remains to be beautiful. We walked around the area for a little while, and after taking several pictures in the magnificent amphitheater, we returned to the van to go back to the Tesslers’ house. However, when we were almost there, Noa announced that the winners of yesterday’s scavenger hunt (Dalia, Zoe, and Madi) would be receiving their prize. Rabbi Tessler said that they could choose to share it with the team that did not win, that being Tali and me. They decided to share it and Aviva told us to close our eyes. We walked off the bus and when we opened our eyes we discovered what the surprise was: manicures! We were all very excited and eager to pick what color we would be using. After we were all done, we walked back to the Tesslers’ and ate dinner, including shoko bisakit, which everyone, especially Noa, was happy about. Afterwards we went to pack up for our trip to Tzfat tomorrow, but suddenly we heard Madi and Zoe start screaming in the basement. I went downstairs and saw a giant cockroach being chased by Zoe and Madi.  Zoe trapped it in a cup and brought it upstairs and Madi let it loose outside while Tali and Dalia stayed upstairs, not wanting to come near the bug. While all this was happening, Rabbi and Aviva remained in their bedroom, most likely laughing at us. After the bug was removed from the house and everyone calmed down, we learned some Gemara with Rabbi Tessler. Since the nine days are about to start, Rabbi Tessler chose the Gemara about the incident involving Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, which caused the destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash. The days known as the “nine days” are the nine days before Tisha B’av, which commemorates when the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed. After we finished learning, we talked about leadership and then went upstairs to finish packing. We were told to go to sleep early because tomorrow we have a very busy day, including going up north to paint a shelter and go rafting, which we are all very excited about.


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Day 12

Sunday – Madi ~ We left the Blue Bay Hotel Sunday morning after a both fun and meaningful Shabbaton with families from Sderot and Ashkelon, and we traveled south to Sderot. On the way, we stopped in Rishon Lezion to pick up Noa, who is joining us as our madricha while we are in Israel.  When we arrived in Sderot, we visited two families who were victims of terror attacks. We first met a man named Yonatan and his wife Nana. Yonatan had been injured in a 2006 attack while he was at work, when a rocket exploded and shrapnel pretty much tore through his stomach and lungs.  And to this day, he still has to wear a surgical brace around his stomach in order to keep it together and go to daily hydrotherapy.  Despite this awful thing that happened, Yonatan and his wife continue to live in Sderot, and they explained to us that just through valor and faith in Hashem, they have been able to find the strength to keep going. They taught us the necessitousness and significance of fearlessness by explaining that they know they have no control over what others do and they can only control themselves, therefore they should get the most out of life and shouldn’t be limited because of the actions of others.  Both Yonatan and Nana’s lack of regret for the past and fearlessness for the future were so inspirational.  Then we met a 14 year old boy named Sagi, who suffers from trauma after a rocket landed on his home, and his mother, Etty.  Sagi often goes to therapeutic horseback riding offered by Operation Embrace and we learned about the benefit of animals in recovering from trauma.  After meeting with some people who were victims of the attacks in Sderot, we went down to the police station to see some of the rockets that had actually been used some of these attacks.  We only saw about one hundred of the more than twelve thousand rockets that had been fired into Sderot since 2000.  During the Shabbaton, we met a women who had lost her son, a woman whose husband has been in a coma since November, a man who lost his leg, and so many other people whose lives have been altered so significantly due to terror attacks. So it was so awful to know that we were only looking at only a very small percentage of the actual things that so immensely changed the lives of so many of the families we met and got to know, whose lives did not deserve to be disrupted by simply an object. Then we had pizza for lunch at a restaurant in Sderot and made our way back to Ra’anana. Aviva and Rabbi Tessler went home to make dinner, and we went with Noa to the mall in Ra’anana.  Noa made a scavenger hunt for us, and even though we had to do some crazy things, it was really fun.  Then we went back to the Tessler’s house to eat an extremely tasty dinner.


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Day 11

Shabbat – Collective Blog of the Fab Five ~ We woke up on Shabbat a bit later than expected – no worries that extra hour of sleep was beneficial. We went downstairs and went to breakfast as usual Israeli breakfast which could really be lunch. After breakfast we went downstairs for the Chidon (game show like contest) with Rabbi Ariel Feldstein. We sat at the end of the conference table and did attempt to answer some of the questions – however unsuccessfully. While we participated in the Chidon we noticed that a bunch of the little kids were running around the room (considering the babysitters weren’t babysitting). At the back of the conference room there was a stage. To the little kids this seemed to be sufficient entertainment considering they were climbing on top of it so that they could run around on it and jump on it. Then the little kids decided to jump off of it. When one of the smaller kids decided to jump off the stage Tali held out her arms just in time to catch him. We then walked to the lobby to hang out. We did our favorite thing – if you have been an avid reader than you would know that we played cards. We basically played cards with Toam until lunch. Then we went to lunch and spread out again trying to maximize our connections with the people (Disclaimer: Leadership Skills). Tali and Dalia sat next to one of the little kids who painted his face, neck and glasses with chocolate mousse – don’t you wish you had some? Then we sang some songs and Zmirot. We even tried to lead a song but it is questionable how well it worked out. Afterwards we headed upstairs and changed into comfortable clothes. We all went downstairs with Toam and met up with a little girl and we were going to walk on the beach together. Dalia and Tali went over to one of the families to ask them if they wanted to come on the walk with them. (Relevant Information: There was also a French wedding at the hotel). Mid-conversation they were interrupted by what seemed to be the mother of either the bride or the groom. She asked them to say Tehillim saying that by saying one Perek it is as if you have said a whole book. So the whole group waited for them to say Tehillim and they went to the beach (without the people they invited). They walked down to the beach and walked along the shore together. At five thirty Rabbi Tessler gave a shiur and we babysat again luckily for us the number of kids practically doubled. We played more games with the kids. After the shiur we went into the conference room to eat seudah shlishi.  Some of us ate dinner at the small tables while others ate dinner at the main table and afterwards we said Havdalah. Then we said our goodbyes to the families and went upstairs to come downstairs later on for a “family meeting.” We reflected on the weekend – the experiences we had the people we met and our thoughts and emotions. We also talked about the leadership component of the weekend and what it means to lead and the type of leader that people need.

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Day 10

Friday:Dalia ~ Madi and Tali woke up early to help make Mandelbread while Zoe, Miri and I were sleeping. Luckily for us we were forced to wake up and get up quickly because a few workers had come to replace the water tank. We then went downstairs to eat breakfast. We walked to pick up some bagels before we left. We then went in the van to drop off our laundry and then drive to Netanya to the Blue Bay Hotel where we would be staying at for the Operation Embrace Shabbaton. Operation Embrace is a non-profit organization created by Aviva that helps give people who were affected by the rockets things that the government won’t pay for but they need to move on with their lives. The Fab Five would be helping to run the Shabbaton. We drove to Netanya and almost everybody had a decent nap on the car ride. We arrived at the hotel that was on the shore of the Mediterranean. We ate our bagels and then packed a bag for each family with snacks for the weekend. We then had a second lunch in the hotel dining room while we discussed the details of the weekend. We talked about the schedule and the background of the families. We then went upstairs to change so we could go to the beach. In the lobby we met Toam who is the daughter of Michal who is one of the social workers of the organization. Toam is our age and she came to the beach with us. Miri and Zoe played in the water. Madi and Toam around the beach. Tali and I walked along the shore of the water. We met up later and prepared for Shabbat. We then went downstairs and lit candles. We were going to go downstairs for Kabbalat Shabbat however, we realized that we were giving a Dvar Torah during dinner and we completely forgot to write it. It was already Shabbat so we had to make it up and remember it. Earlier we decided we would write the Dvar Torah together so we decided to divide it between the five of us. Madi spoke first saying we had been to Europe and visited small Jewish communities. Zoe talked about how we went from seeing a small community in Europe to seeing a large one in Israel. Miri transition the Dvar to being about the parsha: Matot-Masei. I spoke about how in the parsha Bnei Yisrael is leaving Egypt to travel in the desert.  Unlike the people of the Shabbaton who are not afraid to face the enemy and they won’t run away. Tali concluded the Dvar Torah saying that the people on the Shabbaton always have a home and give us strength. We then talked a bit upstairs with various people. Miri and I went downstairs and said Ma’ariv. Then we went to eat dinner. We spread out at dinner so that we could talk to various people. Tali and I sat at two different tables we talked to some couples and families. Miri and Zoe sat with a family and had fun playing with their kids. Madi sat with a family with little kids while the Rabbi and Aviva sat with a family who had older children. During dinner we gave our Dvar Torah and it all worked out well (minus a few grammar mistakes).  After dinner we went downstairs, while walking through the lobby Tali and I were stopped by a man who began to thank us. He told us that he thinks it is wonderful that we are volunteering to help out this weekend. Downstairs the adults went into a room and they all exchanged stories and discussed then one on one and as a group. Outside the Fab Five babysat a few of the little kids playing games with them and entertaining them while their parents were busy. Some of these games include but are not limited to: cat and mouse, dag maluach, high low pickle-low, shuffling cards, and war. Tali and I (but mainly Tali) tried to convince a group of older boys to come to the activities. She did influence them to come but they did leave soon after. After the Shabbaton activity, Toam and the seven of us sat in the conference room drinking tea and playing more card games. Afterwards we headed upstairs to go to bed.

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Day 9

Dalia ~ Thursday morning we woke up to have our usual breakfast outside. (Madi woke up early that morning to go to a Croatian market with Roni, our wonderful guide and she really liked it!) We then drove to the airport and we said thank you to Roni and we all shared our thoughts on the trip. We also discussed that if we were the seven dwarfs what our names would be. The Rabbi would be sleepy because he would fall asleep on the car rides. Aviva would be Mommy because she is always taking care of us like she is our mom. Zoe would be named Drooley because when she would fall asleep on the van Roni would say that she was drooling. (Disclaimer: Zoe doesn’t actually drool) Madi would be named chatty because she loves to chat with Roni while he drives. Tali would be called Sneaky because she is very sneaky when she plays card games. Miri would be named Singy because she loves to sing Les Mis songs with Zoe. I would be named happy because everybody thinks that I am happy.  Roni would be named Grumpy but not actually because we were joking around that he is grumpy when we sing while he is driving. Truthfully I think he loves our singing and probably misses it now that we’re gone, he even took Zoe’s Nutella as his copilot.  We arrived at the airport and unpacked the trunk.  Before boarding the plane we explored the one Duty Free shop and played spit. We then boarded the plane to Turkey and luckily there was a working entertainment system and everybody watched a movie.  We arrived in Turkey and we had four hours to spend in the airport. We shopped, played cards, went to Starbucks and played more cards. (I should mention that when I say playing cards I am mainly referring to Tali and Zoe’s intense games of spit).  We then boarded the plane and were lucky enough to be able to spread out among the empty seats. We were also fortunate to listen to the safety instruction in three different languages.  Again we watched movies during the plane – although most of us had to finish our previous movie since the previous flight wasn’t long enough for anyone’s movie.  We arrived in the airport and stood waiting for the customs line to move but eventually we lost patience and began moving around. We then picked up our bags and headed for the van. We drove to Raanana and arrived at Chez Tessler. We sat down for a bit and then walked to a pizza store to eat some dinner. After we ate dinner we walked home to shower and get ready for bed. We were excited to realize that there was a small leak upstairs – where we were sleeping and the floor had to be mopped. Aviva, Tali, Zoe and I drove to the supermarket to pick up groceries for us and for our Operation Embrace Shabbaton (see more Fri). We walked around the store looking for food to give to the families of the Shabbaton – these families are people who have been traumatized by an invasion of rockets. We also picked up some food for our breakfast and struggled looking for something free of nuts and sesame seeds and eventually we gave up. We were finally ready to check out at about 12:30. We waited in lines and we checked out our Shabbaton groceries first. Then we were fortunate enough to have had the register break down. Then someone dropped a glass bottle and it shattered and the cashiers were afraid the liquid would break down the system. Fortunately they didn’t just our register was broken. They spent a lot of time trying to fix it so Zoe and Tali took the first cart of groceries to the car. Eventually the cashier made us move our stuff to another register and we had a quick checkout. We then took the groceries to the car and headed home. (I won’t mention the time because our parents will probably have a stroke) We then had a midnight snack and had the chance to say hi to Saphira (the Tessler’s daughter) and then went to bed.


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Day 8

Zoe ~ We woke up at another ungodly hour in the morning (around 7:30. It was not super pleasant). Us girlies went downstairs and davened shacharit (but for real), and then we ate another fantabulous breakfast of fruit, yogurt, corn flakes, bread, and nutella. Always the nutella, there’s always one for me and one for everyone else J. I have no idea what we would do without it. We got in the car and drove to the Lauder school where we met with two teachers, Maya and Silivia, who were both amazing women. They were both working very hard to put together the new kindergarten that is going to open in September. They then told us that we were going to be painting posters for the younger students. We decided to do all the holidays in Tishre and Shabbat, so Tali and I did Shabbat and Yom Kippur, Madi did Rosh Hashana, Miri did Sukkot, the rabbi and Aviva did a calendar, and Dalia did a welcome sign for the kindergarten. Tali and I were lucky enough to be working with two younger students from Zagreb, who came in to help us. One was named Swen, and the other was named Leon. Swen was going into 6th grade and Leon was going into 4th grade. Swen knew English extremely well, and he was translating for Leon. After a little while, Rabbi Dadon’s sons, Emanuel and Aviad joined us and also helped us with the signs. Aviad and Emanuels’ English was also very good. I am amazed at how well everyone can speak these different languages, because I am awful at learning a different language. They were all very nice (and according to the Rabbi and Aviva, Aviad and Emanuel were cute). After we finished with the art, Maya, one of the teachers, was telling us about her experience going to the memorial sight at Jasenovac just a few days ago. She told us how most of her family perished there, and she was not impressed with the memorial they had built. She said that they made it like any other memorial for the Holocaust.  It was just a museum and there was no real trace of so much pain and suffering.  Outside of the museum itself, there is a green meadow with a gorgeous lake, and it is just so peaceful, and she thinks that it does not really give justice to what happened there, and I agree in a way. If I passed that place in a car, I would never think that something that horrible happened there, and the point of all these memorials is that you are never supposed to forget. I don’t really know what my thoughts are on the subject. After we left the school, we got in the car and started on our way to Plitvice Lakes National Park. It was a two hour drive, and Tali and I sat in the front with Roni, our amazing guide and driver.  We sang for a little bit, but then we worried that Roni would throw us (or himself) out of the car, so we started playing the license plate game which was fun. We stopped for lunch at a water mill. We had more yogurt, tuna, bread, fruit, corn, salad, chips, and once again, Nutella. Seriously. I have no idea what I would do without it. I’m not even joking. We then went for a tour of the water mill which was super cool. We saw how grain got turned into fine flour, and we actually got to see how the water powered the mill. We continued on our way to Plitvice Lakes National Park, and when we got there, we went on a trolley ride to the top, and we walked down next to all the lakes which were absolutely astonishing. The water was so clear that you could see all the way to the bottom. On our way down, Roni told us that the water was okay to drink, so we all took a sip and it was the best, freshest water I have ever tasted. Unfortunately, Aviva waited until AFTER we had all taken a drink to tell us that there was a disease called the Plitvice syndrome. Joy.  I now know that she was joking.  We continued on our way to the bottom of the lakes, and it was just amazing. There are no words that can be used to describe the beauty of the place. We got back to the place we had started, and we decided to get ice cream, because ice cream is amazing. The rabbi ordered Aviva an ice coffee, and we sang her happy birthday, and the two of them shared a drink and it was the cutest thing ever, because there were two straws, and it was just wonderful. We got back on the bus, and made our way back to Zagreb.  I am writing this as it is happening, (writing on the van) so you are getting really great information here. You are welcome. Roni is right now teaching us about shifting gears. And now I am just typing my thoughts. For the next hour, you will be hearing my thoughts as I have them. Be excited about that. I am going to reflect a little bit about Croatia in general. I really like the place, and here, taking a coffee to go is just sacrilege. When you ask for a coffee to go, they look at you funny, and have to search for a while for a cup. Here, you can sit for hours at a coffee shop and drink your coffee, and no one bothers you. It is a very nice way of thinking because it teaches you to just enjoy life and not live for the future so much and enjoy the present. Also, people get around on bikes (motorcycles and bicycles), which is really nice because it is good for your health and good for the environment. Right now, Roni is singing, and it is the funniest thing ever, because he is singing in a falsetto voice. This is just fantastic. This is also history being made in front of my eyes. Right now, both Roni and Aviva are singing and dancing. It is quite hysterical. I think we are all giving them very strange looks. They are both very into it. I am actually kind of scared about both of their mental well beings. I hope they will be okay. OH MY GOODNESS. THERE IS A TINY DOG THAT IS RUNNING WITH A PERSON ON A BICYCLE. IT IS SUCH A SMALL DOG, AND SUCH A BIG BYCICLE. IT IS THE CUTEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN. Okay, so when the song ended that Roni and Aviva were rocking out to, Aviva went back to her calm, mommy state, and it became Roni and Tali’s mission to find another song to put Aviva “back in her jam”. We got back to the hotel, and we started eating dinner which Rabbi Pinny made, and it was fish, which, as we learned from Roni, is good for your brain. We went out to look for gelato, but we could not find a place that did not have some sort of nut problem, and since we like Miri in the non anaphylactic state, we decided we should probably find something else. On our way to find some hot chocolate or tea, we saw Aggi Dadon, Rabbi Dadon’s wife, and their daughter, Simcha. Both of them were really sweet, and I was again amazed at Simcha’s ability to understand English even though she was only seven. Dalia, Miri, and I taught Simcha how to play a couple games that we learned at camp while everyone else talked to Aggi. She was also very nice and I am really glad that we got a chance to meet almost their whole family. After we talked to the Dadons, we found a little café where the kids had hot chocolate (that was literally chocolate that was hot) and the Rabbi and Aviva had Lattes. We discussed what we liked about Croatia, and everyone’s research effort about an important Jewish leader in Croatia. All in all, it was an amazingly fun day, and I hope that I get to visit Croatia soon again in the future. Hint hint, madre and padre.

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Day 7

Miri’s blog ~Tuesday July 2 ~ This morning we went to the Jewish Elderly Home where we met with 5 Holocaust survivors. One of them, Eva, was a partisan who was captured 3 times by Italians and managed to escape from them every time. Bronco, who is from Hungary, showed us his amazingly accurate and realistic paintings.  Another survivor we spoke with, Miriam, had been a prisoner in the most brutal concentration camp in the area, Jasenovac, which we visited later in the day. We then drove to the Jewish Community Center. We met a few kids our age and spoke about our countries. They were very interested in Thanksgiving and our schools, and we explained to them what it is like to live in America. We then left for Jasenovac, and when we arrived we saw a beautiful field with a large stone flower in the center. We were then told that the camp had been destroyed in a bombing and the monument was built in the 1960’s in memory of those who were unable to make it out of the camp. All of us found it hard to believe that there had once been such a terrible camp there, because now the area looks very peaceful and beautiful. In the field we saw small hills and small pits. The hills represent where the prisoners worked and slept. The pits show where they were tortured and murdered. The museum that was next to the field showed former prisoners’ testimonials and even had the tools that the Ushtasha killed the prisoners with on exhibit: knives, mallets, axes, and hammers. The Ushtasha used these because they didn’t want to spend money on guns or gas chambers. The survivors in the testimonials explained how they and their families ended up in Jasenovac and how the breakouts were planned and carried through. The ceiling in the museum had the names of the known deceased of the camp. The museum guide showed us a published book with the names of 83,500 of prisoners that passed away. Many of the prisoners died due to the beatings, hard labor, (they were literally worked to death) or starvation. Families were separated, and women and children were sent to a camp 15 miles away called Stara Gradiska. Although there were no German Nazis there, Ushtasha being Croat Nazis, Jasenvoc is said to have been the camp with the worst killing methods. When we arrived back ate the hotel, we ate dinner provided by Rabbi Pinny from Zagreb.  Rabbi Kotel Dadon was also waiting for us at our hostel to meet us and speak to us. Rabbi Tessler and Aviva talked to us about leadership and we discussed leaders in the Torah such as Moshe Rabeinu. We then agreed to get a good night’s sleep since we have an exciting day tomorrow such as decorating the kindergarten of the Lauder School and going to Plitvice, a national park.

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Day 6

Tali ~ Yesterday, we started off the day by going to the beach by the Adriatic Beach.  Zoe and Dalia took over the front of the bus.  They managed to entertain us with many songs, keeping all of us awake for the ride.  We took a stroll near the water for about 20 minutes and Zoe and I had a riff off with Dalia and Miri (a riff off is when a group of people sing a song and another group cuts them off with a different song with the same word).  It was a close call, but Zoe and I are convinced that we were the winners.  When we got to the actual beach, we bought a small ball and played volleyball on the beach.  We invited a boy named Bartel to play with us, and he helped Aviva, Zoe and Miri beat Madi, Dalia, and me. Then we went swimming in the water for a little bit while Aviva and Madi bought us some lunch in the market across the street.  After leaving the beach, we went to a museum that was about torpedoes, clocks, and the emancipation of the Jews.  The stories were really interesting of how people’s lives unexpectedly changed with the outbreak of World War II.  On the way to the hostel from the museum, we played geography with each letter of the alphabet.  We got through 7 rounds before we all started to fall asleep.  At the hostel we ate dinner and then went on a walk around town.  Rabbi Tessler officially joined Dalia and I as the caboose of the group.  Then we had a family meeting with the Rabbi and Aviva about the schedule and to reflect on what we did yesterday.  We also discussed what we would do if we were leaders of the Jewish community here-would we spend the money to send everyone to Israel or would we use it to try to expand and preserve the community.  Following the discussion, we all went to our rooms.  Zoe gave us all a private concert on her ukulele and after a few card games, we all went to sleep.

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Day 5

Madi ~ This morning we woke up and went to the Jewish cemetery in Trieste where the head of the Jewish community in Trieste, showed us around. There was a Holocaust memorial and many ornate tombs, but our time there was shortened due to the many mosquitoes.  Then we went to see a Jewish summer camp where kids attend from the ages of one to fourteen.  It was so neat to see that here too, there was a place where Jewish children could come together and both learn about Judaism and enjoy exciting camp activities. After seeing the camp, Aviva joined us in a competitive game of soccer on the camp’s field. Then we went to the home of Helen Kropf, the mother of Gabriella, the owner of the bed and breakfast where we are staying.  There, she told us her story and the obstacles that she overcame as she went from Zagreb to Trieste to Assisi, in order to run away from the Nazis during the Second World War.  After hearing a unique and incredible story from a woman who has lived such a fascinating life, we went to a shopping mall and made ourselves lunch.  Then we went to Riviero di San Sabba, a detention center, where Jews and many others were held captive, killed, and treated brutally under fascist Italy. Afterwards, we went to Miramare castle, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, where we saw some of the most beautiful views that one might see.  Today was a day filled with both a ton of fun and learning.

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Day 3 & 4

Zoe ~ Shabbat: June 28 and 29th

We walked from our little bed and breakfast to the Synagogue on Friday night, and the shul was gorgeous. It was a little room, and there were not many people, but it was really cool to hear all the different tunes they sang here. It was hard to follow along though, because the page numbers in the siddurs were not the normal ones and it was translated into Italian and not English, which makes sense because we are in Italy. After Kabbalat Shabbat, we walked to the Jewish old age home to eat dinner. During dinner, Rabbi Viterbo, who was a rabbi in Padua, Italy for more than 40 years, told us his story in Hebrew and then we sang Zemirot. We walked back to the hotel, and we played cards and bananagrams until the wee hours of the morning. In the morning, we had breakfast and went to shul. There were still not that many people, and we were still in the little room in the synagogue. After services, Rabbi Hadad who is the Chabad rabbi of both Trieste and Ljubljana, Slovenia, told us about the history of the synagogue. The main shul was gorgeous. It had huge domed ceilings, enormous pillars, and it echoed whenever someone talked. We then went to lunch back at the old age home, and we sang more zemirot. We met a survivor of Auschwitz, and she stayed longer during the lunch to hear us sing, and it was a really neat experience. Afterward, we took a walk to the port where there were many, many boats. The water was stunning, and so was the weather. We went back to the hotel for some rest, but the kids stayed up to play card games. After about an hour of playing cards, Aviva came into the room and we decided to eat dinner. When we were about to eat, we heard someone in the hall calling for help, and we saw that a couple had gotten stuck in the elevator. Someone who lived in the building already called the elevator maintenance person, but she could stay to wait for the person, so Maddie and I went down to wait for him while Aviva, the Rabbi, Tali, Dalia and Miri, stayed with the couple stuck in the elevator. The elevator repair person came, and the couple got out of the elevator, and we got to talk with them for a little while. They were art teachers from Canada, and they were really nice. They went back out, and all of us sat down and played cards. We taught the Rabbi and Aviva how to play go fish, and then we taught them how to keep a poker face. After Havdala, we went out for some gelato, and then we learned some Gemara. The gemara was in the tractate of Berachot and it was about doing chesed.  The main point of the gemara was that the rabbi in the gemara just wanted someone to hold his hand and not to have a long discussion about how he was feeling.  All of the girls gave a lot of great insights into the gemara.  At the end of our learning, we got another concert by a small traveling band, so three concerts for three countries. We got back to our hotel, but I missed my 11:00 bedtime. So sad.

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Day 3

Dalia ~  We woke up and got ready for our first real day. We walked next door to the mall and went downstairs to the grocery story, which had previously been the Jewish quarters.  We shopped for our breakfast and bought cereals and milk, yogurts, bread to eat with cream cheese or nutella, pears, plums, peaches and large waters for everyone. We ate breakfast in the outside area and then packed up the van and began traveling to Slovenia. We left Croatia and paid the toll (since Croatia isn’t part of the European Union). Entering Slovenia our passports were stamped and they checked our van to make sure we weren’t trying to sneak anyone across the borders. We stopped by the river and took pictures of a castle that was turned into a hotel. We then drove to Ljubljana where we left the van to take a tour and we then explored the area. We saw a bridge that was filled with locks that couples had locked onto the bridge. Zoe, Dalia, Tali, and Miri searched the shops looking to buy a lock, unfortunately we were unable to find a lock while Madi looked to buy some pants. Afterwards we met up and ate a quick lunch outside the van. Getting into the van we said Birchat Hamazon and then drove to Trieste where we unpacked the van and with several trips on a small elevator we brought out stuff up to the hotel and settled down and began to prepare for Shabbat. More to come later,

Shabbat Shalom


(Note: Our second day together we were also in three different countries: Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy)

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