Israel Day 19: Gabe Fittinghoff

Today we were all taken to kindergartens around Jerusalem to volunteer and look after little kids. I went to one specific daycare, where children ranging from the age of 6 months to 6 years old are taken to if their parents are unable to look after them. We were met by the director of the school who explained the important role that the day care centre plays in ensuring these children live happy lives. 
We were then taken into the classrooms and it was time to have fun. As I walked in, I immediately saw the smiles and excitement on the kid’s faces, at the vision of new people coming to their classrooms. We all introduced ourselves to the kids and continued to play with them for an hour, before it was time for us to bake challah with them. The kids were all filled with excitement as the Shabbos mood slowly began to set in. It was so wonderful that we could all experience this together- who would have thought that the simple act of baking challah could bring such happiness to these kids as it did to us? 
Shabbat represents the idea of unity and peace. By baking challah with these wonderful children, we were creating a world of our own which embodies such concepts. We were bonding with them and establishing connections, which thereby created happiness, unity and peace in their lives.
Whilst there was certainly an aura of happiness and excitement, seeing these beautiful Jewish children running around somewhat saddened me, because of the fact that their parents are unable to care for them in a proper fashion. There are many families in Israel that live below the poverty line and in difficult circumstances. At this day care centre, many of these children's basic needs cannot be met by their families. It made me really think how we take so many things for granted and how lucky we are to have food, shelter, clothing and parents that truly care for us and look after us. These children will always be a reminder for me to always appreciate the things that I am blessed with. I am so grateful to have a family that loves, supports and cares for me. All of us learnt a valuable lesson of gratitude today. In this kindergarten in Israel, despite all the sad circumstances, these children had happy smiles on their faces and were so positive.
From now on every time I sit down at a Shabbat meal, I will remember these kids and this experience. I will be thankful for having my loving family around me, having plenty of food on my plate and having more then my basic needs met. We all felt that this was such a wonderful and meaningful way to prepare for our Shabbat. 
I cannot describe what it is like to experience Shabbat in Jerusalem. Being in the centre of our homeland and knowing that the whole country is celebrating the Shabbat with you. In Jerusalem as the sun sets, everything comes to a stand still and the atmosphere is uplifting. You can feel Shabbos in the air. After being in Poland and seeing how Jews were unable to practice their religion makes our Shabbat even more meaningful.
We had a beautiful Shabbat service and delicious dinner in the hotel. Which was followed by a Tish which was filled with happiness and spirit. Everyone was buzzing as once again the IST family came together and celebrated the gift of Shabbat.


Israel Day 20: Saul Oberstien

Israel Day 18: Raquel Yesner