Day 32: Netzach, Israel - Tahlia Miller

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Having gone through Poland, being told about the significance of the children and how they are our future, today was such a privilege as Netzach drove off on Friday morning to volunteer for WIZO.

WIZO is a wonderful organisation that builds day care centres for children, providing extra care for families in need. Here, social workers and teachers work in tandem, looking after two classes in the morning - the babies, and the children under three years old. Later in the evening,  children and families who need to stay for extra assistance do so, and the children are fed and cared for, as social workers work professionally with parents to show them how to give their best help to their child.

As we approached a small green building, each bus split into two groups, each one heading off to one of the 195 WIZO centres. We were welcomed by a colourful garden and three of the teachers employed there, before being led into an area of the preschool for a quick briefing. Everyone was extremely excited to see the children, but first we had to get past a major challenge: fitting into the chairs that were definitely not built for anyone over the age of five! Once that was accomplished, we were led into another room in the building, where a group of small children sat on chairs in a circle, with shelves of toys and small beds lining the room.

From here, we spent an incredible hour and a half, participating with the young children as they learnt about Kabbalat Shabbat. We all gathered around on the floor, dancing to the music the teacher was playing, listening to Hebrew songs listing the days of the week. The children were adorable, moving to the beat and dancing in their seats, and watched on in attentive silence as the mother and father of the group (a young mensch and a sweet girl) lit the candles - foregoing the fire for safety reasons, blessed the wine (grape juice in this case) and ate the challah.

Once Shabbat was welcomed in, the children split into groups and joined us teenagers to play with the toys. Legos were built and destroyed, puzzles were attempted, the tallest tower broke world records, and some casualties occurred as some toys were inevitably chewed. I think it’s safe to say it wasn’t just the children who enjoyed themselves!

Sadly, our time was too short, and before we knew it we were saying goodbye to our new small friends. Many high fives ensued, and a few of us were lucky enough to get a hug. We re-entered the back room where we were briefed in, and had a small snack. One teacher, who had worked at the centre for 17 years, then told us about her experience working here, and how she helps the children and families.

Before our group left, we had a few minutes to see the play ground out the back - filled with scooters, bikes and even a small cubby house.  We saw how these children entertained themselves each day, and the efforts of the teachers here to care for these families.

Seeing these children and being able to make them smile for a short hour was such a privilege and a very fun experience. I know these children will have a bright and beautiful future, and that’s all thanks to WIZO and the fantastic work they do for these families.

Once back at the hotel, we prepared for Shabbat, the last one we would have as just Netzach. Once photos were taken and Shabbat was welcomed in, we went to shule, before hearing an interesting and engaging discussion by David Wolfowitz. He spoke about the meaning of faith, and how to use it with evidence-based context. Rather than considering a “leap of faith” from doubt to certainty, and filling that whole gap with faith, taking a small jump from evidence to certainty instead. Evidence is found by using intellect, and as David put it, in Judaism, not using intellect that G-d gave to you is almost an insult.

David then answered some halachic and Torah related questions, before we moved into the dining hall for a delicious Shabbat dinner. Full and content, Netzach regathered in the makeshift shule to hear our peers recount their experiences with their options. We were entertained with stories from Shvil (the hike), touched by the experiences from medical clowning, fascinated by retellings of science experiments, and some of us relived Gadna, while others sighed in relief, knowing they made the right choice by not choosing it.

All the options sounded amazing, and I think if we had more time, everyone would have loved to experience everything. From here, everyone split up, some going to bed for an early night, others socialising in the lobby, and a few heading to the highly demanded Tish, which was very emotional and meaningful.

The day ended very late, but happily, made sweeter with the knowledge that tomorrow would be a very late wake up, filled with a day of rest (and food of course!).

Day 33: Netzach, Israel - Leila Freedman

Day 28, 29, 30: Shvil - Josh Beutum