Running in the Rain

"Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but its about how to dance in the rain."

Happy Purim!!

Wow, its been a long time since I last wrote, but its been extremely crazy around here lately. On March 9th we went to Akko, which is where they detained Jews after the Holocaust who wanted to make Aliyah (Immigration) to Israel. I always thought that the British were extremely neutral and decent before they handed over the land to the Jews, though how they set up their detention camps to look like concentration camps, it showed that they were very harsh. We also learned the story of young men who gave their lives for Israel and were detained by the British and hanged. I can’t tell the story well enough for it to sound good, but it really is an amazing story. Then for Shabbat last week, those of us who stayed on campus went to my Madrich, Ram’s home for dinner with his mother. His mom was so sweet and genuine and kind and made us so much dinner. She was so welcoming though she had never met us: its fairly atypical to find an unwelcoming Israeli, at least in my experiences. Then earlier this week we went to some Kibbutzim in the Negev and got to go into one of the fighter jets. We got to see David Ben Gurion’s home and Kibbutz as well and then went on a rigorous hike in the middle of the desert. It was seriously so tough but really really fun. We got to overlook a crater at the top and it was then all worth the effort. Though after we got back to campus I was pretty dehydrated. My friends and Madrichim took really good care of me and brought me to the doctor and made sure I was ok and well rested. Last night we had a super fun Purim party with the other HSI programs on our campus. I danced all night with my friend Sari, who danced like no one else at the party. It was really fun to just let go and have fun, plus it was definitely my work out for the day. Now I’m in Raanana, with my friend Sophie at her family friend’s home. We had sequential this morning, so its nice to have a break and just chill out. I love Shabbat and seriously love Israel.

xoxo,

Sagey

Never Again

The past few days have been even more physically and especially emotionally exhausting: we learned about the Shoah, the Holocaust. Since I had spent 10 years in Jewish day school, I had honored Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, for 10 years. Almost every year at school we had a guest speaker come in who had either survived the concentration camps or had family who had survived them or lived through them. I was guessing to go through these few days of learning about the tragedy like every other time I learned about it: sad about it but numb. This time, though, it was a different experience. At first it started the same way as every other time, first we learned about what happened at the end of World War I and how Germany was so desperate for a strong leader. Hitler was the one they wanted and his power soon took over not only Germany but all of Europe. It was a typical class with lots of note taking on important dates and figures. Then we watched the movie Defiance. Its a fairly recent movie and has big shot actors like Daniel Craig so I was expecting a movie that would be one of two things: a) extremely boring and definitely putting me to sleep or b) extremely boring due to the lack of acting and focus on action scenes. Luckily I was not right with either guess. Instead I watched a movie that was interesting and action-filled, yet tremendously moving and inspirational. Few people know that when Jews were being shipped off to Ghettos and camps that some Jews decided to fight back. This movie showed the story of a group of brothers who hid out in the forrest and made a “village” of Jews to help them fight against the Nazis and stay safe until the end of the war. 1,200 were saved this way by these brothers alone. The next day we took a 2 hour bus ride up North where we visited Kibbutz Lochame HaGhettaot, the Kibbutz of the Ghetto Fighters. This Kibbutz was founded by a couple of Holocaust survivors who moved to Israel after the war and started a Kibbutz. Here there is a museum dedicated to those Jews who fought against the Nazis during the War. We then went to the beach in Caesarea. There we learned about Hannah Senesh who is quickly becoming one of my biggest heros. Hannah Senesh came from a rich, assimilated family in Budapest, Hungary. After being kicked out of her school for being Jewish she decided to become religious and find out why she was Jewish at all. After her becoming in touch with her Judaism she moved to Israel where she became a member of a Kibbutz. When she found out about the War and the danger to the Jews she became frightened for her mother’s safety, who still lived in Hungary. She decided to risk her life and join the paratroopers who where going to Europe in order to save Jewish pilots. The nazis caught her and put her in Jail where they later killed her. Before her murder, though, she wrote beautiful poetry about life inside and outside of jail. As someone who also uses writing to release feeling and express myself, I find it even more amazing that a young woman no older than my cousin’s Sarah’s age, could write so wisely and live so selflessly in the end. Tuesday night we had a speaker come and talk to us. His name is Noah, and is the most famous journalist in Israel. He is the Thomas Friedman of Israel. Not only is he an amazing writer, but he is, like Hannah Senesh, an incredible hero. He has a tattoo on his left forearm. Not of today’s common dragons or Chinese characters, of numbers that the Nazis at Auschwitz thought fit his personality better than his own name. Noah’s story is incredible. He was a young man when he pretended to be a boxer in the concentration camps. There was a Nazi Sargent who enjoyed watching boxing, so they had prisoners box each other and got an extra ration of food. Noah did not box but said he did, and because of this was able to survive The Shoah. Noah was also a crew member of the famous Exodus boat, which brought in Jewish immigrants in secretly after WWII. The British did not want to host the Jews but they had no home and this was one of the many boats that tried to bring the Jewish people home. Yesterday we went to Yad VaShem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. Though I would love to write about the entire museum it would be an impossible task. There is one part I can write about and that is the children’s memorial. The memorial commemorates the 1.5 million child victims of the Holocaust. It is a dark room with a single lit candle in the middle, but if you didn’t know it was just one candle you would think it was hundreds of candles, because the one flame is surrounded by mirrors and mirrors. It shows that one of those children who were killed were not only killed with a million of their peers, but their ambitions and future generations were killed along with them. When I started thinking of what it would mean to me, I thought of each flame as a friend I have; my best friends, my cousins, my acquaintances, the kids I see walking around campus. Even if they weren’t all killed in the Holocaust, if I had lived at that time I would have been dead and therefore it would of been like they were all dead to me. I can’t imagine what gives Holocaust survivors the strength to continue living, but after learning about the Holocaust more today I gained even more respect and appreciation for them. I love being Jewish and by standing here, in the land of Israel as a Jewish teen of a new generation it shows the world that no one and nothing, not even killing 6 million of us, will stop us from being who we are and loving who we are. xoxo, Sagey

Beduine Style

Hi everyone! Sorry its been so long since I last wrote, its been a very busy and tiring week. On Tuesday morning we had group presentations about the 5 different kinds of Zionism. It was a big project and my group presented on Religious Zionism which was lead by Rav Kook, and we ended up doing very well :). Then that afternoon we took a short bus ride to a Jewish National Fund forrest where they grow trees for Israel, and we got to help prune the trees which was fun to do… my dad is going to read this and wonder why I’m not happy to prune the trees at the farm! Then on Wednesday we went up North and learned about Hashomer, which was the first defense force for the modern land of Israel. Then we hiked in a National Park which was super beautiful and full of green landscape and cascading waterfalls. Then on Thursday we went to Jaffa where we went to the Flee Market, it was quite an interesting experience with lots of rude men and police encounters. Anyways, then we went to Tel Aviv and saw where the Israel was first declared a state. Its so cool to actually see it in person after I’ve seen so many pictures. We then did a really cool thing where we interviewed 5 different kinds of Jews on the streets. We just walked up to random people and talked to them about their views of being an Israeli Jew. It was super interesting and now we’re writing a personal essay about what a Jew really is and how we define ourselves as Jews. Friday we had class again and then we set off on over a 2 hour bus ride into the Negev Desert. Last night we slept in a Beduine “village”, though honestly it is just for tourists. Anyways, we talked to a Beduine man and had some delicious traditional food. They brought out big platters of rice and vegetables and hummus and pita bread. It was super delicious and filling, and then we had AMAZING Beduine tea. The tea is amazingly sweet and perfectly paired with some yummy desserts. Then we did the talking activity from last Shabbat, this time I talked to Sam who is a really nice guy from Maryland. Its fun to get to know people on a deeper level, especially because during this kind of activity it doesn’t get awkward, its just nice. Last night we had some good s’mores and sang around the campfire like some good American teens. After sleeping last night in the cold tent, we woke up this morning at around 6:30 to have breakfast. We then went to where they had the camels and we rode them for about a half hour. They were so cute and so sweet. I do feel bad though, if I were them I wouldn’t want to have to carry people all the time. My camel we named Piccachu Aladdin. What a cutie! Then we went on a great hike in the desert and had lunch in a park where we laid in the sun. Yes, Mama, I did get some color… sorry! Now I’m home and exhausted though very ready for another week. This week we start the Holocaust learning. I know its going to be emotionally exhausting but I’m so ready to keep learning about my people’s past. Corny, I know.

Xoxo,

Sagey

A Letter to My Future Child

Today in my Core History class we had a homework assignment to write a letter to our future child after they have had their first anti-semetic encounter at University. My response to why we had to make our children Jewish is what follows: 

Dear Future Child,

 

Why are you Jewish? Why would I put you through this? Why? The real question isn’t why you, but why not you? For thousands of years your parents and great grandparents, and great great grandparents, have worked hard to continue being Jewish. We have family members who died in the Holocaust and we were kicked out of our homes during the Spanish Inquisition. Yes, you are different than the other kids: you don’t wear a cross, you wear a star, you don’t eat pork, you keep Kosher, you don’t go to Church on Sunday morning but when you come home you go light the candles with us on Friday nights. 

I love you more than anything, but before I loved you or your father, I loved Judaism. I love the way it taught me to be a good person and be kind to others. It taught me to give and to receive graciously. It taught me where I came from and where I want to go. I know that right now its hard to understand why it has to be you, but I can’t give you a straight answer. There is no real reason of why I decided to make you a Jew. Being a Jew isn’t just being apart of a religion, its being a part of something bigger than yourself or your family or your school. Its about being part of a continuous family called the Jewish people. 

I hope that you find that you love being a Jew as much as I love it. If you don’t feel it yet, I hope you hold on a little bit until you feel it. You will, don’t worry.

 

Love you,

 

Mama 

Xoxo,

Sagey

[Not Just Another] Shabbat in Jerusalem

Shavuah Tov everyone!! I’ve just gotten back from my second Shabbat in Jerusalem, and my forth Shabbat here in Israel. Yesterday morning started with a midterm for my Core Israeli history class. Thursday night was full of studying and memorizing, so after the hour and a half it took me to finish my test, I came back to my room to change and pack for the weekend. We had a small lunch before we boarded the bus to Jerusalem. Danny, one of the Core Teachers, and his wife Chana and their baby Advah, also came with us on the bus. They are a very sweet and kind family, and its fun that we got to be with them for a weekend with us! When we got to Jerusalem we first went to the youth hostile, Lev Yerushalim, and dropped off our bags, but we were quickly whisked away to the shuk (market place.) It was super packed, especially because it was about 2 hours before Shabbat arrived. But, it looked exactly like the market in Aladdin, except their were roofs over most of it. But yes, exactly like Aladdin. There were tons of food stands and some sevanier stores, but mostly tons of fruit and pastries and Rugalach. yummm. I walked out of the shuk with a basket of strawberries, a good half a pound of Halavah, and at least 15 Rugalachs. yummmmm :) Then we went back to the Youth Hostile and changed for Shabbat. We all looked so different wearing long skirts and modest clothing, but it really doesn’t bother me. We then went outside and stood in a big circle and talked about our week and then took deep breaths after talking about each day, which showed that we could leave that week behind. We could hear the loud Shabbat siren in the background. The Shabbat siren is a siren that sounds kind of like a tornado siren except that its warning everyone that there is about 5 minutes before Shabbat arrives. Isn’t that amazing - Living in a country where getting ready for Shabbat is the norm? Then we walked to the Western Wall which was a half hour walk, and it was similar to last weekend. Tons of people and tons of singing and dancing, but this time I got to do it with some of the girls who are becoming my sisters on this trip. It was really nice to do Kabbalat Shabbat again at the Wall, and being by the wall is still amazing. Then we walked back to the hostile and had Shabbat dinner. After that we got changed into comfortable clothes again and had an activity where we went into small groups, there were 2 other girls in my group, and you go through a list of questions that help you get to know the other person better. It was really a great activity because we got to know so much about each other in such a small amount of time, yet it wasn’t awkward or anything, it was just simple and nice. The rest of the night was uneventful… This morning I got to sleep until 11:15, which is so unusual and welcome on this trip. Then we all ate lunch and walked over to a park not to far away from where we stayed. We all just hung out in the sunshine and laid out on the grass. If you think about it, Shabbat isn’t just about not going to school, its really about resting and renewing yourself so that you can get through the next week. I love that about this country - you don’t have to work to have a Shabbat, it just comes for the whole country. Anyways, the rest of the day wasn’t too eventful… we wen’t to Ben Yehudah street tonight for dinner and I did a little shopping. I really love this country, and I know I say it almost every post now, but its only gotten more and more true. 

Xoxo,

Sagey

Jerusalem Day of Service

So today our bus left a little after 7:30 and we took an hour and a half ride to Jerusalem. I seriously look forward to going to Jerusalem every time we go because I fall more and more in love with it every time. Anyways, today we had a day of service in Jerusalem to take action in one of the most important mitzvhot (commandments) in the Torah - giving. So, the first thing we did was went to Yad LeKashish or Lifeline for the Aged. Its a center for the elderly immigrants in poverty who live in Jerusalem. The center not only gives them a hot meal and bus tokens, but gives them arts and crafts to do. So it sounds dumb, right? A bunch of old people doing arts and crafts at the senior center…. great. Well, thats what I thought it would be, but it was so completely different. These people are so amazingly talented. There were men making paper beads, and women making greeting cards. There were Shabbat Candle Holders being made out of silver and Menorahs being carved. These things were truly amazing. One of the most inspiring parts of this center is that all of the things that these men and women make are then brought to the center’s gift shop and sold there, where all the sales are given to the center and also the craftspeople. Their things are amazing, and I’m so happy that I was able to get some of my teachers some beautiful gifts there :) Then we drove over to a Soup Kitchen in an Orthodox neighborhood. There we split into two groups, half us went to their warehouse, the other half went to the kitchen. I went to the warehouse first, where I helped back plastic bags full of staple food items that families could bring home. I’m happy to say that I put in about 140 bags of chickpeas in different bags, that will go to a multitude of hungry families. Then we went to the kitchen and helped chop veggies for salads. I also helped serve the food to the actual people. Everyone I gave the food to was so thankful and gracious. After that we went and ate our bag lunches at the Israel museum. Its so different to eat after giving to the needy. I remember how it feels to see the impoverished  and remember how lucky I am. My family used to volunteer at the homeless shelter several times a year, and after coming home I would remember being so grateful for everything: the bed, the food, the warmth. This was the same feeling. I think this is one of the most important feelings that there is. Being grateful is so important, and one that we don’t have nearly enough in the society we live in. After eating we went through the Israel Museum a little bit… my favorite exhibit was the one we looked at about Jewish communities around the world. We saw synagogues from India and Italy and clothing from Yemen and Albania. Plus, while in there, I got to talk on the phone to J, my english teacher. She’s been an amazing role model for me, and being away from her for so long reminds me of how strong I am on my own but how much I love the people that I always take for granted. Now I’m home and once again exhausted. 

xoxo,

Sagey

Belvoir, Hamat Gader, Tzfat and Afula

Hi everyone!! Sooo today was a busy tiyul day. First we got on the bus really early and took about and hour and a half ride to Bel Voir. Bel Voir was one of the Crusader Forts during the time of the Crusaders. The time when the Christians and Muslims were fighting, and the Jews were being hated on my everyone (like the Spanish Inquisition), is super interesting because I find myself being very interested in the differences and similarities of the religions. Anyways, after pretending to be both Crusaders and Muslims at the fort, we took a short bus ride to Hadat Gedar. Hadat Gedar is where the natural hot springs are located. The springs were large and warm and super sulfury smelling. After going in for about 30 minutes (which is as long as you’re supposed to stay in), I got out and ate some good peanut butter and nutella sandwiches and other food… yummm:) Then I got back into the pool, but this time went into the super hot spring which was a little separate from the other warm pools. I went in with Michal (my madricha) and Lital, and it was funny to see Michal’s reaction to the hot water - I find it funny that it was easier for me to get in (coming from Minnesota and all), than it was for Michal (being a native Israeli and all). Anyways, we then went into the warm pool again and then got some ice cream before climbing back on the bus. The bus then drove us to the city of Tzfat. Tzfat is one of the four most holy cities for the Jewish people. In Tzfat, the idea of Kabbala came about. Kabbala (also known as the religion that Madona takes part in), is Jewish Mysticism. Its a very complicated concept so it was hard to take it all in, but the town itself is beautiful and we had some very wonderful discussions about fate there. Then, as we were walking back to the bus, we walked through a Jewish graveyard. The graveyards in Israel are very different than those in America. In Israel, the graves are above ground. The grave kind of looks like the shape of a bed and the name and person’s information and the top, in the shape of a traditional tombstone. Before getting to the bus we saw some famous rabbi’s graves as well as a section of very special graves. Why were these graves so special? Well, they are the graves of teenagers who were killed after being held hostage by some Palestinian terrorists. Yosi, one of the history teachers, read us a poem by the little sisters of one of the boys who was murdered. The boy was only 17 and his sister must have been a good few years younger than him. The poem conveyed how much this girl missed her older brother, her protecter, her friend, her role model. After the reading of the poem, everyone walked back to the bus. I had a sudden urge to kneel down by one of the young graves. Though hot tears fell down my cheeks, I wasn’t just thinking about the teens who were taken from their families. I was thinking about how long its been since I’ve talked to my own Simon. I love my brother so much and since he’s been working its hard to keep in as much contact as I would have liked. We then took a bus to Afula where we had a quick dinner. I had some really yummy falafel. Seriously so good. Now I’m home and getting ready to go to sleep. 

xoxo,

Sagey

Crawling in Bar Kochba Caves

Hi! So today we had a Tiyul and we went to the Bar Kochba Caves. The bus ride was about and hour and a half away, and the spot the bus stopped was beautiful with green grass and sand colored stones. It was pretty windy today and on and off raining, but being a tough Husky Norwegian from Minnesota, I could handle it easily. We then sat under a large tree and talked about Bar Kochba, who was a military leader who helped the lead the Jews during the 2nd Revolt. The caves that we crawled into were the caves that Bar Kochba dug for Jews to hide out in. The Jews were amazing at using guerrilla warfare, and it shows why the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) is still so amazing today. I wasn’t feeling very good today – lots of sickness is going around, but my Madrichim are so amazing here. I can’t imagine how my stay here would be without them. Also, everyone on this program is so sweet, always asking how each other are feeling and such. Anyways, now I’m exhausted and can’t wait to go to sleep. Tomorrow we have a full day of classes. We’re starting to learn about the Spanish Inquisition, which is particularly interesting to me since my Dad’s side of the family was originally from Spain but was kicked out during this time period. I’m falling so deeply in love with this country. I can’t even think about going home…. I feel like one day I’m going to live here, hopefully in the near future.

Xoxo,

Sagey

First Shabbat in Jerusalem

HI everyone! I’ve just gotten back from my first Shabbat in Jerusalem. I went with my friend, Barrett, to her family friend’s home in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Their home was so amazing, it was about a 3 minute from the Wall, so Barrett and I walked there a lot. i still love going there, and being able to spend more time there and to be able to pray was great. The Wall on Friday night was beautiful. So many people were dancing, both men and women, both religious and secular people. It was a sight to see the young Israeli Soldier Women dancing the Horah with the people they are defending everyday. Then this morning we slept in a little bit and had some breakfast before adventuring out into more of the Old City. Barrett and I were stuffed by the time we left Kiddush at one of the four local synagogues. Then we looked at the Wall a little more and then actually went down so I was able to do Shacharit. I love praying at the wall. It makes me feel so close to my people and it makes me feel religious - something I am starting to love the feeling of. Then we came back to the house and ate some lunch before settling down and reading and napping. Then our host mother brought us to the Christian Quarter and we saw many Christian tourists, which we always run into… more than you would think. Anyways, now I’m back at the dorm and I’m getting a good night’s sleep, we have a Tiyul (trip) tomorrow… I heard we’re going to be crawling through some caves? Sounds exciting!

Xoxo,

Sagey

Back from Masada and The Dead Sea

Hey everyone! So I’m back from my overnight trip to Masada and the Dead Sea. Yesterday, our bus left early and we first took a 2 hour trip over to Jerusalem. There we looked at a model of what the city looked like during the time of the 2nd Temple. We also saw some amazing old scrolls that can be traced back 2,000 years - pretty surreal. After that we walked through the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. We walked through some old basements of Sadducees who lived in Jerusalem at the time of the 2nd Temple. Unfortunately our group doesn’t go to the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, but I’m hoping that when my parents come to visit I can talk them into going to that part of town with me. Next we took a bus ride down to Qumran, where we ate lunch and did a little bit of shopping. After walking through ruins that they’ve found there we wandered into the desert where giant brown mountains of stone stand. It was breathtaking to think of how this was the same desert that so many Jews wandered through and now I was wandering through it. Everyone in my group spread out and sat on our own rock, away from everyone else. There we meditated and took some time to thought. I was so surprised every time I opened my eyes because I would expect to open my eyes to my pink-painted bedroom walls and instead I saw a wide open desert with mountains and sand and palm trees. I was also proud of myself because Sloane always tells me to meditate at home but I rarely actually take her advice. This time, in the desert, I was able to take in what she said and really apply it. Right when we got on the bus, on the way to the youth hostile, I called Sloane and told her of my meditation in the desert. She loved hearing it, but I’m sure not as much as we both loved talking to each other. Its so nice to have Sloane as a built in best friend. Next we arrived at our youth hostile. Not the nicest place I’ve seen, but it worked for one night. After having an early dinner we all took in the sights and talked to the Ibex that roamed around the hotel. We fell asleep quickly, at least I did. This morning we woke up at 3:30am… yes you heard that time right. We left so early because this morning we climbed the mountain of Masada. The climb only took us about 1 1/2 hours, really not that bad, but the climb was exhausting. We climbed in the dark, as so many past groups have, and when I got to the top is was the best feeling of accomplishment. The view from the top was incredible - for miles all you could see were stone mountains. After praying in the oldest synagogue known we split into classes and had time to learn about the history of the mountain top. If you want to learn more about that story (it becomes sort of complicated), google it and you’ll find some good explanations. After spending four or so hours hanging out up there and learning, we climbed back down (which was much easier, though still exhausting.) We then took a bus ride to the beach where we ate a filling meal and got ready for our time in the Dead Sea. We all slathered mud over each other and felt the dark mud start to dry on our skin. Letting the mud dry was hard because it made my skin stiff but once I stepped into the water it started to wash away. I was expecting the sea to hurt – everyone says that the sea hurts even worse for girls, and if you have any cuts you are completely done for. I, actually, didn’t feel any pain, despite the several cuts I have over my body from my adventures here so far. The sea was so fun… I litterally floated so easily, though my abs got a little bit of a work out. We took a 3 hour bus ride home, stopping at the Elvis Memorial in Israel sight on the way. Now, after taking a shower, I’m writing from my nice clean dorm room. So happy to be home :). 

xoxo,

Sagey