The group was set for an exciting day, starting off the morning in the Old City. The boys and girls were separated, and four different groups were stationed around Jerusalem, where we would all attend classes at different Yeshivot and Midrashot.
My group was warmly welcomed to Yeshivat Hakotel, which was established around 45 years ago, shortly after the 6 day war. We were all put into different classes, where the idea of Chanuka and it’s miracles were discussed. The concept of Hallel was incorporated into the class, and as one of the sources stated, “Hallel is said as we the Jews are no longer slaves to a different nation, yet the people for our one and only G-d”. This session was very captivating and it will always be evident in my mind during the time of Chanukah.
After a short break, one of the great Rabbi’s in the Yeshiva then welcomed us. The main goal of this meeting was to ask Rabbi Jesse Horn any questions which we have grappled with. “Of course I wont be able to answer every question, because I just don’t know some of the answers,” said the Rabbi. The class was stunned by the Rabbi's honesty and thoroughly appreciated it. However, this didn’t trouble our group, as in depth discussions of G-d’s existence, Jewish history and the conflict of science and religion were tossed around the table. Rabbi Horn’s argument toward belief in why G-d exists has thoroughly impacted the way in which I think, and I believe will truly stay with me forever.
After a truly inspiring morning, the group met together at the Zikit I.D.F special forces compound. As we drove up to the abandoned hospital all I could here was “What are we doing here?” and “What is this place?” Fear possessed all 138 of us as we were unaware of why we were standing in front of artistic, uninhabited hospital. As the group walked forward with trepidation, the main instructor, Steve Gar gave us a short introduction. The afternoon activities were compiled of an interesting krav-maga course where we learnt about self defense against a knife, along with a short tutorial on camouflage and a small game of laser tag. Everyone was so thrilled to be outdoors experiencing a taste of the intense spirit of the IDF.
After all the activities, the group met together on the roof top of the compound, and as the wind blew and the sun began to set, Avichai led a beautiful Mincha service. After the final Kaddish was said, the group formed into a U-shape, and Steve Gar gave a truly inspiring and unbelievable speech. “My family is all of you…. And my goal is for you to come home, to the Land of Israel, and feel safe.” He spoke about his encounters with terrorists on a day-to-day basis and gave every single person in the group a reason to be a proud Jew and part of the nation that is so truly special. As we stood at the top of this building, gazing into the striking sunset, chills ran through our bodies. Never before have I felt so connected to Israel. As it got darker, Steve Gar ended off by congratulating the group for travelling to Israel in a time of such terror, and further complimented us on the bravery we showed for making our way to this holy country. “Most of my family know me as a gentle person. I stop being gentle when my family is threatened, my family being all of you, and I will do anything to protect you, and the family of Israel."
We made our way back to the hotel, and after a filling dinner, we received great news that Hadayah was visiting us, and that we would have the opportunity to buy their famous jewellery. All the girls swarmed the stall with excitement, looking to order a beautiful new piece of Judaica.
The final activity of the day was a workshop set up for us in which we could design and create our own unique Chanukiot for Chanuka which was a spectacular end to a meaningful day. Rest is much needed tonight as we all must relax for yet another effective journey ahead.