December 15, 2014
Volunteering Day One by Sarah Sack:
A 2 hour bus ride later and some wise words of wisdom from Miriam telling us about Emunah couldn't prepare us for the amazing feeling of the place. Emunah children's home is a safe haven for children at risk. It is a residential home which can house 110 students at a time and 90 after care students. The home, which was opened in 1949, provides three hot meals for the students everyday.
After learning a bit about Emunah we ate lunch with the students, which was then followed by our daily Aroma run. Despite the language barrier we were able to form a connection with the kids through body language and smiles. We played with them, danced with them, helped them with their homework, watched tv and ate dinner with them and with the final parting words of Miriam which was "lock your doors and have a good night sleep" we were finished with day one. One thing we all realised at the end of this long and emotionally challenging day, was when we all received a metaphorical 'slap in face' due to the fact that we just don't appreciate how lucky we are and how much our family does for us. When we look at the kids we are suddenly conscious of how much we take for granted. As we were told by the director of the home at the start of our day "we are all born underneath a star and we are the ones who are blessed to have been born under a very lucky star." It is imperative to always remember those who are not so lucky, as we gain our own knowledge and strength from those who are worse off then us. We begin to appreciate the true beauty of our lives, and we know that even if life isn't always perfect if you smile to the world the world will smile to you.
Midrasha Day One by Keren Lax:
As we piled onto the bus with our bags, holding firmly onto our notepads and pens, wearing our long skirts, we looked and felt like the ultimate Midrasha girls. There was this mixed sense of excitement and nerves as we drove through Jerusalem, the amazing place we were going to spend the next few days. The Madrichim were beyond excited as they told us about all the amazing speakers and how we were going to 'delve deep into Torah learning', but it still hadn't really clicked what was so special about sitting in long talks, taking notes and reading sources. We got to Midreshet Yeud and got straight to it. A young Rabbi, called Rabbi Gavriel Friedman, came into the room and began, full of energy he introduced 'The Power of Speech'. He jumped around the room, singing, smiling, teaching as we all were engrossed by what he was telling us wiping the tears from our eyes as we laughed uncontrollably at his hilarious and entertaining class. The basic message of Lashon Hara had become something so much more, something that even as sixteen year old girls we have complete power over, something so small yet so powerful, capable of making or breaking how a person views themselves and their future. The little chant we learnt in preschool of 'Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me' was dispelled by Rabbi Friedman, as we learnt the phrase from Psalms, 'He’emanti ki edaber'- 'I believe because I can speak,’ speech being explained as the key to our belief in ourselves and others. That first talk gave us a glimpse of the next few days, which very quickly got us, excited for the days to come! We then had a quick power break and went straight back into Midrasha mode. Abi Blackman began, introducing a whole new concept of medical ethics and a completely different take on Torah studying. She explained the concept of human cloning and rather than focusing on Jewish law, looked at Jewish thought. Our different opinions were flying around the room passionately but we soon learnt that some debates have no end, just an idea that leaves you thinking with a whole new perspective. Then a lunch break and a quick run to the supermarket for our essential avatiach ice creams before two more shiurim. With the frightening incident that was occurring in Sydney, we spoke about the idea of terrorism in relation to the story of Dina with Rabbi Gidon Silvester and ended on a lighter note discussing Chanukah with Nechama Goldman Barash. After going back to the hostel to get ready for dinner we were on our way to Ella's uncle, Rabbi Greenwald. We all sat around the room with our bagels and cookies as Rabbi Greenwald introduced himself and his awesome story as a once Counterpoint Madrich. The way Rabbi Greenwald spoke was so relatable and he had us all sitting in complete silence. An idea that I think stuck with all of us is that everyone is precious and has something special within him or her. To be honourable, you need to find that something within you and then find that in others. Our first day of Midrasha had come to an end, all 22 of us ready to learn and try find that something special within us! Classic IST style we ended the day with a hashtag, L.Y.N.S - Let Your Neshama Shine.
Technion Day One by Asher Katz:
My visit to the Technion started with a scenic drive up north from Jerusalem to Haifa, following the beautiful coast. Shortly after arriving at the Technion, the 21 of us moved into our first lecture about robots and how technology is enabling them to walk. The practical demonstrations and 3D modelling videos created a fun and interactive learning experience. The next class was even more fascinating as our group witnessed the production of hydrogen and learnt about the ability of hydrogen and fuel cells to power the future as alternate sources of energy. Following that we were then given a detailed lesson about marketing innovative technology. All together the day was very fun, as we were exposed to concepts, technologies and facilities that are state of the art, with all of us learning lots of interesting new facts, and we are looking forward to the day tomorrow.
Yeshiva Day One by Zac Klein:
Today as a small group of fourteen boys, we travelled to Gush Etzion to attend yeshiva during our optional program week. On first glance the amazing architecture of the building took the abstract form of an eagle, and inside the eagle were a web of classrooms, libraries and auditorium halls bustling with the sound of enthusiastic yeshiva bochrim. We were first taken into a small room hidden in the library called Amsterdam, filled wall to wall with religious texts of which the oldest were made in the 1500s, all ready to be revived with the Torah study of the students. We were given an extremely interesting talk by Rav Stephen Kaye who was able to relate the seemingly irrelevant wording of the four passages of the Birkat Hamazon to our own lives, explaining that despite our prior thoughts, the after meal benching was about a lot more than thanking Hashem for the food. The day progressed, with some learning on the Torah’s teaching regarding jealousy in preparation for a talk with one of Jonty's contemporaries Rav Pini Cohen. This was followed by a tour of the site by Aaron Schneider, a former Moriah student who was studying on the year-long program MTA gap year program, who had a good go at convincing us to join him during our gap years! After a good lunch elbow to elbow with the rest of the learners we were introduced to another ex-Moriah student Nathan Seidman who explained that learning Torah was not as relaxing as it sounds, having an early seven AM start only to finish later that evening at 11pm! It then seemed pretty obvious why some of the yeshiva bochrim were caught napping in our earlier sessions. The demanding schedule, however, can't be that bad since Nathan had already booked his flight to start his second year at the Gush.
We were then taken back into the Beit Midrash for a collective Mincha service. Our day ended in a rush, quickly learning in pairs with MTA students from all over the world. The South African student with whom I learnt, gave an insightful look into actions that resemble G-ds good deeds and how those actions are responsible for the Jewish people's bad reputation. Suddenly on our way back to the bus we where stopped for a quick talk by an extraordinary individual - Steve Garr. Steve, who lives in the area, inspired us with his ability to juggle different professions. Whether working as an anti terrorist trainer in Calibre 3, studying his seventh year at yeshiva to become a rabbi or running his inspirational organisation that allows kids with disabilities, globally, the opportunity to study at yeshiva in the Gush!
Needless to say, none of us were awake after two minutes on the bus, exhausted after such a thoughtful and informative day.