The past week has been crazy. Everyday is an early start, and ends late. In between, we are jumping from one bus to another, trying our hardest to embrace the many opportunities we have had at our fingertips. As a result, most of the group was truly looking forward to this upcoming day of rest. There was a great feel of excitement in the air as I stood baking in the Jerusalem sun on the hotel balcony as everyone took their pre Shabbos photos.
While our experience of spending Shabbos with host families was cancelled due to security situation, Kabalat Shabbat at the hotel was full of ruach. We were able to enjoy an exquisite meal at the hotel where nobody left hungry.
When we originally left on the trip, many were skeptical that the size of the group would make it impossible for any sense of group unity however this was proven to be incorrect on countless occasions. After dinner we were all in the Shule in a group activity session. You can mention the game "link link" to any student, who will simply respond with a big smile on their face.
I believe that the tisch we had on our first shabbos in Yerushalayim was one of the most special tisches I have been to, and it was definitely the best tisch the group has had so far. When a person spoke it was dead silent. Everybody sang together and shook the walls of the room, sending our prayers straight to the gates of heaven.
In the morning, if you weren't at nine o'clock Shacharit, it was a ten thirty wake up. The announcement of such a late wake up sent many of the IST students into a hazy hysteria of relief and joy. What sweetened the deal was that when everyone came downstairs to the Shule, they were greeted by many extra Madrichim, either past Hesder boys, Sheirut girls or Counterpoint Mads. Lots of catching up with these amazing people flowed throughout the day. After lunch we had chabura learning with Madrichim, followed by free time in the hotel. We were also lucky enough to have a special panel of Madrichim discussing certain Torah concepts that were brought up during the week. Insights on receiving the Torah at Sinai and fulfilling all the mitzvot were contributed by the panel and it’s audience, whose only criticism was that there was not enough time to continue arguing the validity of their viewpoints as Seudah and Havdalah followed suit. Unfortunately, Rabbi Lewin gave his official farewell, as it was his last opportunity to address us all as a group. Rabbi Lewin has been an amazing addition to the team. He is an awesome guy with a lot of knowledge on Torah, and we will all miss him dearly when he leaves tomorrow.
Motzei Shabbos had arrived- it was time to go back in time and underground to rediscover the secrets of the building of the second temple. The Kotel tunnels weaving beneath the old city of Jerusalem gave insight into the history of our ancestors at our holy mountain. This included seeing the construction of the foundations as well as the ruins of the destroyed bricks below, and we also managed to pray in the closest point to the Kodesh Hakodashim.
Quality time in the Jewish quarter consisted of Burgers Bar, iced coffee and supermarket goods filling the shopping bags of IST students once again.
Shabbos was a perfect end to another busy week on IST. While we had time to reflect on our amazing experience, much like our tour of the ancient foundations of our ancient history, we also had time to look forward to many amazing experiences yet to come. I cannot wait to see what these Madrichim have in store for us. Shavuah tov!