Day 26 - Netzach - Gracie Shabtay
After a night of reconnecting and enthusiastically sharing our experiences from our options, we woke up at 6:45 and went to breakfast and prayers. We had the opportunity to listen to Col. Benzi Gruber - Vice President of Ethics and a commander of over 20,000 soldiers in the IDF.
Col. Gruber emphasised the difficulty of applying a high ethical standard whilst meeting the army’s needs under such a harsh time limit, a challenge many soldiers face. The three principles he shared that define the IDF and their view on warfare are; “Fight, Win and Remain Human Beings.” I think this encapsulates the sophisticated ethical code of our army. He included real videos in his presentation that showed both the reality of the war in Israel whilst also allowing us to see how the IDF’s ethics affect the dilemmas that were presented. He also explained that Israel is losing the media war; one that is of equal global importance to the physical war, and how we need to rise above the misrepresentation. I found the speech very interesting and the presentation, the raw footage and Col. Gruber’s experience really opened my eyes to the ways of the IDF.
Following this, we boarded the busses and went to Har Herzl. When we arrived, we did an activity in Family Groups that expressed how sometimes our passion for Israel and Zionism manifests in a commitment to the army and there are major responsibilities involved in this. Although this service to our land is an incredibly arduous and demanding one, it is very special and rewarding. We then went through the Herzl Museum which detailed the life of Theodore Herzl - a passionate and intelligent journalist and the father of Zionism. The curation of the museum was creative and engaging, telling his story through a modern theatre plot-line and including large rooms emulating the settings of each scene. The elegant streets of Paris, brightly lit Congress room and vivid and intricate office of Herzl aided in the storytelling and I was surprised by how fascinating the museum was.
We had lunch and were then led by our guide, Brian, through the cemetery. As we passed through the graves of political leaders, fallen soldiers and innocent civilians who are victims of terror, we heard numerous stories about their lives such as Operation Entebbe, the Assassination of Rabin and others. One thing that stuck out to me was the grave of the paratrooper Hannah Szenes. As we were hearing her story, I saw a bee pollinating the small flowers that were growing on the earth above her grave. Flowers and pollination are both symbols of life, and the bee allowing life to bloom above a grave was a very powerful and reassuring reminder of the future of Israel and Hannah’s devotion to her nation.
Theodore Herzl’s grave was a beautifully bittersweet sight. On one hand, he is in Israel - a land in which the nature is flourishing, technological discoveries are advancing and the cultural diversity is thriving. An Israel he fought so hard for. But, on the other hand, what’s the purpose? He is merely buried in a grave, unable to ever truly experience the essence of his life’s work. Even though Herzl was aware that he was ultimately working for a homeland to exist in the future, it’s upsetting to think about his end.
The Mount Herzl Tour and Museum were very meaningful and introspective experiences. Our experience was sorrowful whilst also retaining a hopeful outlook and instilling a sense of pride and gratitude within us.
We returned to the hotel and prepared for Shabbat, and were led in Shule by our past Counterpoint Coordinator, Aaron Schneider (also known as “Schnides”). Our night was filled with board games, learning with our Madrichim and an inspiring Tisch. It was a great Shabbat with Netzach and further tightened the bonds we have created over the past 4 weeks we have spent together.