By Rabbi David Wilfond, Director of Education
On Thursday, when the group landed in Israel and came out of baggage claim they were greeted by the counselors holding banners and signs welcoming them to Israel. They were also greeted by welcome songs sung to them by their staff. The participants loved the attention, and this helped to energize them for the adventure ahead on Sci-Tech Israel. With this good energy in the atmosphere the group boarded the bus and drove to Kibbutz Gadot in the Galilee Mountains near the Jordan River.
Friday morning, the teens feasted on a typical Israeli Kibbutz Breakfast with cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, white cheese spreads, yoghurts, eggs, and breakfast cereals. After a group orientation, the teens travelled to Mount Bental, a lookout point located at the summit of a dormant volcano on the eastern ridge of the Golan Heights. Looking out over Syria, the group began a conversation about borders and ecosystems. Observing the impact of borders on our ecological community, as well as nature’s ability to transcend borders. The teens learned about the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis, as well as humanitarian efforts of Israel to accept the wounded who arrive at Israel’s border seeking medical treatment. Later they will visit the Galilee Medical Center, where many of the Syrian civil war casualties are treated.
From Bental, the group drove to the Banias Nature Reserve which contains Israel’s biggest waterfall. The Banias hiking trails are breathtaking and contain a richness of natural and historic beauty. Teens who expect Israel to be only desert and camels are often pleasantly surprised by the lush foliage and abundance of water in the Galilee. Throughout the trip, the group will be observing, testing, and discussing water resources in Israel and their unique features. After a Falafel Lunch at Kefar Blum, the group got a chance to go rafting down the Jordan River. Then the teens returned to Kibbutz Gadot to get ready for Shabbat. Kabbalat Shabbat services were musical and lively in the NFTY style and were held jointly with participants on Mitzvah Corps Israel. This week’s Kabbalat theme was Malchut (Wonder) and Taglit (Discovery), and the teens participated in the services by reading quotes and reflecting on their own wonders and hypotheses and what they hope to discover during their time in Israel. Dinner was followed with an Oneg Shabbat of games and activities designed to build community and strengthen friendships within the group.
Saturday, Shabbat began with Tefilla themed around our value of Kesher (Connections), examining the connection we hope to make in Israel, making new friends, connecting to our Jewish identity, science and technology, and the land of Israel. After Tefilla, we were joined by Giel Matz, who is both the Managing Director of Keter Plastics and an active member of the Reform Movement in Israel. Giel shared his journey in the tech world, as well as his connection to Reform Judaism. Following an exciting and thought-provoking morning, the teens enjoyed free time with swimming, sports, card games, reading and hanging out with friends. In the evening, we celebrated Havdallah and the staff prepared the teens for the coming week. Shabbat provides the group with much needed rest and relaxation as we go into the next week of our adventure!