Taglit Birthright Israel - Mayanot 18 Blog

Day 8

Friday, December 13, 2013 - 8:05 am
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray

Austin Boral 16 and Dylan Krouse16


T’was the morning before Sabbath,

And all through Jerusalem Gate,

All the children were worried,

We would miss our big date.


Yesterday was a miracle--

It snowed and it snowed,

But we made it to the Old City,

Of our ancestors, years ago.


Earlier that day,

Our beloved soldiers departed,

Eight amazing new friendships,

We made since our trip started.


We waited in the basement

While the storm continued to rage,

Using all of the wifi,

To check our Facebook page.


In Hanover this weather

Would feel like a storm,

But we would have our Bean boots

And feel much more warm.


But we are woefully unprepared,

And so is the city,

Everything is shut down

Oh, what a pity!


At the Western Wall we stood,

And learned about the story,

Of our land and our people,

And the remains of King Herod’s glory.


We each wrote a note,

Curled into a ball,

With our hopes and our prayers,

To fit into the Wall.


Today Yad Vashem

Is where we should be

The Holocaust Museum

Is what we would see.

Instead a survivor,

Came to speak to us.

In the lobby we listened,

Because we couldn’t take the bus.


We learned of her past--

A truly powerful tale,

Of her fight for survival,

She persevered without fail.


The importance of these stories

Cannot be undermined,

It is our responsibility

To pass them through time.


After our guest said goodbye

It was time to explore,

We trekked to the market,

Escaping from the hotel’s door.


With hunger in our tummies,

And bags on our feet,

We stomped through the terrain,

On a mission to eat.


We found – according to Ronan

“Number 1 rugellah in all of land!”

It satisfied our hunger,

But the cold we could no longer stand.


We hurried our frosty feet,

Back to the hotel,

One journey was enough for the day,

We won’t celebrate Shabbat at the Kotel.


We now finish this tale,

Of our eighth day of Birthright;

Good Shabbas to all,

And to all a good night.

Day 8 Update from Rabbi Gray

Friday, December 13, 2013 - 2:02 am
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray

We are trying to make the most of a tough situation.

The snow is really deep and the city is more or less shut down. 

We are going to have a hotel guest who survived ww2 by hiding, speak to the group.   

for the first time in 5 days no one on the trip is sick:) 

We are stuck in the hotel today and will reasses tomorrow, tomorrow.

Shabbat Shalom from White Jerusalem.

Day 7

Friday, December 13, 2013 - 2:01 am
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray

Robbie Tanner 16 and Adam Baer 16


We thought it would be fun to give out awards today because everyone on this trip is a winner. Although not everyone is mentioned, we really do have great things to say about everyone on this trip. Everyone brings his or her enthusiasm, curiosity, and intelligence to every activity, fueling the power this trip has had on all of us. Without further adieu, let’s see the winners!


Outfit of the Day: Blaine Steinberg. Congrats Blaine on winning this award, although there were a lot of good outfits. We have a very fashionable group. For those that did not see, Blaine was wearing a really nice sweater with great elbow pads, green jeans (very trendy), and a nice multicolor scarf. She was warm, comfortable, and looking mad cool – good work Blaine! Second place goes to Chase Klein for his light blue polo hoodie.


Repeated Outfit of the Day: Emily Uniman. Emily wore her blue shirt with white stars for not only the second time this trip, but also for the second day in a row! I mean, if it’s cool, repeat it I guess. Second place also goes to Chase Klein for wearing his light blue polo hoodie five days in a row.


Water Shoes of the Day: Ben Levander. These shoes were not on display today and have only come out once over the course of the trip. But guys, I assure you that these are truly amazing water shoes. They look like fancy boat shoes but they are completely waterproof! How neat is that?!?


Glasses of the Day: Alex. Shout out to Matt Ross for having really cool actual glasses, but our bus driver Alex was rocking some amazing sunglasses today. Although he really likes giving us a hard time and is very anal about how we put our bags under the bus (another shout out to Matt for getting yelled at by Alex every time he puts his bag in), he was looking fresh. This man looked like he was ready to drive, which I really appreciate. He has done a great job driving so far this trip.


Hat of the Day: Ronen. There were a lot of really good hats out today, including Rabs’ Red Sox hat, Adam’s Masters hat, and Tamar’s nice hat. However, none matched Ronen’s. Today, Ronen proudly wore a bright orange Mayanot hat. Great marketing on their part with these hats. For those who don’t know, Ronen is our fearless, and slightly offensive, leader and tour guide. He really knows how to make fun of Jewish Americans, but isn’t so good at taking flack. He specializes in dishing the jokes, but his specialty is definitely not being the target them. He also specializes in the history and theology of Kibbutzim, flash floods, King Herod, and the fact that “Israel has “number one Potassium export in world.” In all seriousness, we love Ronen in the same way we love our ultra-conservative, somewhat offensive, Zionist grandfather. Well, not really, but we like him okay and he really did explain the idea behind a Kibbutz pretty well.


Song of the Day: Od Yavoh. Ronen played this song on the bus this morning five times; it was cool.


Meal of the Day: Shawarma in Tel Aviv. We went to a good shawarma place in Tel Aviv today. We knew it was a good establishment for three reasons. First, there were Israelis in the restaurant, a very good sign. On a similar note, the menu was entirely in Hebrew, which is also a good sign. Finally, and probably most importantly (as Ronen taught us), the restaurant had three roasting sticks. Most places have one, maybe two if they are good. But three, that’s the sign of something special!


Coolest Part of the Day: The coolest and most interesting part of the day was learning about the Chabad Terror Victims Project (CTVP). This organization does really amazing work. CTVP is a non-profit that, with the help of Chabad Houses throughout Israel, helps victims of terror and war and their families in any way possible whether that be financially, emotionally, spiritually, etc. We heard stories of CTVP sponsoring Bar Mitzvahs for family members of soldiers killed in action, funding trips for wounded soldiers to travel all over the world, paying hospital bills, and much more. We were graced with the presence of one soldier, Ziev who had been injured in the Second Lebanon War and suffered from his injury for seven years until finally having his leg amputated. Throughout his entire rehabilitation, CTVP was there to help and they also took him on a ten-day trip to New York. I think his story and his presence had a large impact on our group, and I think this entire presentation was one of the most meaningful experiences of the trip.


City of the Day: Tel Aviv. Today was the only day we really spent time in Tel Aviv, and we all really enjoyed it. Tel Aviv is very impressive: clean, bustling, and has become a place of very high property value. I think we all left excited for Jerusalem, but a little disappointed we did not have more time to explore the area.


Best Purchase at the Market: Austin Boral. Max Samuels had a really great purchase in buying an Israeli mixtape at the market. None of the soldiers knew what it was but that’s fine! Good music is good music. Yet, Austin had an even better buy. Austin got a reversible hooded sweatshirt. The front half is waterproof and a nice navy blue. The other half is the big winner though as it is a bright, neon green. He looks eerily like a traffic conductor in it.


Recap: Another great day for Mayanot 18.

More Photos

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 11:40 am
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray




Day Six - Tel Aviv

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 11:37 am
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray

Hilary Hamm

If other Birthright groups were to hear about my 12-hour hibernation last night, they would certainly be jealous. However, these hours were much needed after my all-nighter in the middle of the Negev. Next time I spend all night writing a 20 page research paper over improvements in Indian crop storage, I will be thankful that I am not sharing a 40 person tent during a rapidly spreading epidemic instead.

            Needless to say, I was in a great mood after my luxurious slumber. We started off the day by heading from Netanya to Old Jaffa. Ronen gave us a brief tour of the area while the tsunami like storm that my mom had warned me about rained down upon us. Our next stop was Independence Hall in Tel-Aviv. We learned about the importance of Tel-Aviv during the creation of the Jewish state and how the beginning of Israel meant the creation of a home for displaced Jews around the world.

            Our history lesson ended, and we continued our search for Israel’s best shwarma and falafel. Unsurprisingly, Tel-Aviv’s delicacies exceeded my expectations. One of the best parts of my lunch was my conversation with two of our Israeli soldiers, Amitai and Sagi. I’m constantly amazed at the similarities we share (like our love for music festivals or our confusion over Miley Cyrus’s transformation), and even more amazed at how much their presence has enhanced my experience on the trip.

            Although the trip has had its rough points (cough cough “the plague”), I’ve learned more in these 10 days than I learned during 10 weeks in some courses….. sorry to throw you under the bus Socy 1. Whether it was talking to the soldiers about life in service, overhearing a debate on the value of bar and bat-mitzvahs, discovering the bravery of Jews atop Masada, or contemplating my own place within Judaism, I will certainly have a lot of great memories to reflect upon when I return home.

            Right now we are on our bus ride to Jerusalem, and I am buzzing with excitement. More to come soon from the Holy Land!


Day 5

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 11:34 am
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray

Jake Levine   

  After a tough night in the tents, day 6 began with a hearty breakfast of pita and chocolate frosting with the Bedouins. Next, we hopped on an energetic pack of camels and rode around on a cool loop to see some of the desert. After taking some camel-selfies, the time came to say goodbye to the Bedouins and their great hospitality. We then embarked on a group hike to see the natural springs of Ein Ovdat and got our exercise on while climbing to the top of a cliff with an incredible view of the desert that surrounded us. The morning continued with a visit to David Ben Gurion’s tomb. Ben Gurion decided before his death that he wanted to be bonered in the desert because he saw its development as the next great challenge for the Israeli people. Our mall tour of Israel then started back up with a stop at the mall of Beer Sheva, in the hometown of our security guard/medic Timor. The team had time for a quick lunch and some of us indulged in soup or salad from Café Aroma.   A longer bus ride followed to the town of Natanya outside of Tel Aviv. After 36 hours of no showers and little sleep, a few hours were set aside to get clean and rested before the night out at the port. We went to a club where we partied with ourselves since we were too early for the local scene. And most importantly, we celebrated our very own Daniel’s 22nd birthday. 




“Boot and rally!” a wise man once said. And oh did we! Despite a trip to the hospital and a night of a vicious sickness in the luxurious Bedouin bathrooms (and in and around my…tent), we rode some camels. Mine’s name was Jones; coincidentally, there are no coincidences, but we found a camel named Gellman. Her pace was feverish. The Bedouins showed us great hospitality, and the direction to the nearest hospital…it wasn’t close J.   Getting on the bus was a relief after a night of dealing with the “jubonic” plague. 

day one photos

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 11:21 am
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray


Mt Arbel




Ein Gedi Spring



Day 4 Dead Sea, Massadah and Ein Gedi

Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - 10:42 am
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray

Rebecca Gollub `14

Going to the Dead Sea has been something I have been looking forward to the whole trip. Waking up to clear skies and warm weather increased my excitement even more! While the Israeli soldiers came to breakfast in pants and sweatshirts, we were dressed for summer. On the way to the Dead Sea we saw the caves where the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered thousands of years ago. We experienced the famous feeling of floating effortlessly in the clear warm water of the Dead Sea while looking out at the mountains in Jordan. We all came out of the day with smoother; more exfoliated and moisturized skin from the mineral mud we doused ourselves in. We dried off by basking in the sun and headed to our next destination, Ein Gedi. This desert oasis is a natural spring where all of the ibex go to drink and the tourists go to hike. We got to the top at the base of a waterfall and had a view of the large canon we were in with the Dead Sea and mountains of Jordan peeking through. One change of clothes and another falafel later we were fuelled and ready to summit Masada. We rode up to the top in a cable car and spent a lot of time walking through the ancient civilization learning about what life was like for the 1,000 Jews that lived there 2000 years ago. We are very fortunate to have an incredible tour guide that can paint a picture for us of our ancestors struggle on Masada, allowing us to really appreciate how fortunate we are to be here viewing these beautiful sites today. On top of Masada we had a panoramic view of the Dead Sea on one side and the Roman siege camp on the other. We sat in the old synagogue and learned about how the Jews struggled morally struggled when they saw that the Romans had forced their slaves, fellow Jews, to build a ramp up to the top of Masada so that they could be conquered once and for all. Instead of fighting back, 900 Jews living on Masada bravely ended their lives to save their fellow brothers and sisters. We were asked to look introspectively at what our ancestors did and see how that commitment to their people and religion could apply to our lives today. As if we weren’t already dirty enough, we got off the bus at a Bedouin camp site and set up mats on the floor of our tent where we were to spend the night. Don’t worry if your kids haven’t contacted you, there was no wifi in the tent. We heard from a member of the Bedouin community and went to dinner where we ate dinner on the floor in small tables with our friends-Bedouin style. We ended our fabulous, event packed day with a break out session. I was fortunate enough to be with the Rabbi for this time where he gave us the opportunity to vocalize how out experience has been here, our highlight of the trip and what we are looking forward to. I look forward to getting even dirtier tomorrow morning when we wake up for a camel ride! Stay tuned for pictures!

Day 2 Shabbat

Monday, December 9, 2013 - 2:35 am
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray

Robbie Herbst

Shabbat began with some quick prayers and growling stomachs as we awaited another delicious meal at the Ohalo Manor. After we eagerly gulped our Kiddush rations of wine like we just had our Bar/Bat Mitzvahs (not enough to get drunk, of course), we tore into a variety of Israeli delicacies. While I was frustrated by the ongoing realization that meat is injected into most dishes here (being a Jewish vegetarian seems increasingly oxymoronic), I can’t stay mad in a country that has such an abundance of hummus, yogurt, and unidentified but tasty vegetable dishes. I have it on good authority too that the chicken was just as good as everything else offered. Rabs explained why he had to opt for some more Austrian Airlines kosher TV dinners (the meat has to be slaughtered with even more stringencies), and we all were glad that we had finally escaped the international traveller’s diet. Unfortunately, this was our last dinner here, but our ongoing luck with food seems to indicate only good things to come from Israeli menus.


Shabbat never felt so good as sleeping off jet lag on Saturday morning. Many of us missed breakfast, but the cleverer ones on our trip found a way to sleep in AND get more Ohalo Manor food. After waiting off a rain delay and a certain hotel room that took some liberties with showing up on time, we were ready to start our day of leisure. Eventually, we embarked on one of Ronen’s patented walking tours of the nearby Kibbutz. This entailed the startling realization that Ohalo Manor was actually situated on the same Kibbutz. Along with my failure to notice the very obvious lake right next to the hotel on the first night, I’m starting to think that I wouldn’t notice if we left Israel all together. We learned about Israeli water resources and continued our ongoing education of “things Israel is number one in the world at.” Water conservation is on the list, which is pretty cool for the more sustainability minded on the trip. We first visited the Kibbutz dairy, and many of us tried to feed the cows. I will spare the gorier details, but we got to smell and step on some exciting new things. The cows weren’t as thrilled as we were; mine wouldn’t eat out of my hand even after 5 minutes of intense eye contact and utter stillness. We visited the calfs as well, and some of us noticed a random peacock just wandering around. I think it, along with the cats and pigeons that roam around stores and the hotel, are all in an animal gang slowly taking over the country. At the Kibbutz proper, we spoke to some residents, including an awesome old man who was really psyched to talk to us (“Shalom Shalom Shalom, I go home!”). We learned about the privatization of Kibbutzes and the according proof that socialism doesn’t work. Sry Lenin. Nonetheless, Kibutzes are still a really unique form of living that has survived almost a century in Israel, and we got to see much of that first hand.


Back at the hotel, we had a great Q&A with Rabs that covered such topics as the future of Judaism, why Chabbad is sweet, the afterlife, and Crossfit. After all the wisdom, we needed to decompress a little, and we put on some brief skits about the differences between Israelis and Americans. Lesson learned: though we Jews are funny, we know little to nothing about Israeli stereotypes. I have to assume that most Israelis don’t go to Caribbean islands to ask about wrapping Tfillin, but its probably pretty safe to guess that we all would spend the whole time on vacation complaining about service. Oi Vey. We ended Shabbat with Havdalah, a fun ceremony of songs and scents. Apparently Zev did the same thing at his Bar Mitzvah, making it a nice call back for him (Mom, I know you are reading this, and I really think we missed a good chance to scare the gentile friends).


Immediately after, we headed to the bus to hit the town in Tiberius. Though we had to miss an Ohalo dinner, we were all excited at the prospect of Israeli beer (but not enough to get drunk, obviously) and this boardwalk that Ronen kept talking about. We all knew that all the cool kids hang out at boardwalks! We started at Big Ben, Ronen’s recommended pub, and most of us got dinner there. It was a delightful callback to American cuisine, complete with plenty of ketchup. We experienced the full extent of Israeli wines (their two options, red or white, are supposedly some of the most popular wine choices in the world). Hearing us discuss the relative “grimness” of our meals made me feel like we were all back at Dartmouth eating dining food! I particularly enjoyed the EDM music that seemed to be constantly increasing in volume. I would say it was the musical equivalent of the food. We also saw the Dartmouth Hillel group, who assured us that they had been having as much fun in Israel as us. Eventually, the more excitable amongst us (cough cough KDEs) turned Big Ben into a regular dance party, complete with a multi colored disco ball (the one that all my friends had at THEIR Bar Mitzvahs. Thanks a lot Mom). We turned an otherwise questionable dining experience into a pretty good time. Due to popular opinion, we left Tiberius 15 whole minutes early and returned back to Ohalo. We had one last night in American insularity before the soldiers joined us. We are now on the bus heading to the Golan Heights for some ATVing. I’m sorry if that last sentence was a little scary, Mom. Just focus on the eight active duty IDF, not the ATVs. Or the international geo-political conflict. Stay tuned for more news from the Holy Land!

day 3

Monday, December 9, 2013 - 2:33 am
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray

Carrie Wolf

The rain began as soon as we left Ohalo Manor, but that didn’t stop us from heading into the mountains up to the Golan Heights. On our way, we stopped in Tiberius to pick up eight Israeli soldiers who will be traveling with us for the next five days. Just like us, this is their birthright, an opportunity to better understand and connect with their homeland. We have been having lots of fun with them so far and are looking forward to getting to know them better. After about an hour more on the bus, we got off for a jeep tour in the mountains. It was still raining but we threw on the extra large yellow raincoats the company provided us and hopped into the cars (3-6 people per jeep). We followed in a single file line up a very bumpy, wet road and some of us even got to enjoy some mud in our faces as we sped through the giant water filled potholes. Even though it was foggy and rainy we still got some beautiful views at the top of the mountain as we listened to Ronan’s history lesson on the series of wars that have taken place in the Golan Heights. With our pants and shoes soaked through, we got back into our jeeps and were all ready to head back to the base, but just as we were about to take off, one of the cars broke down. We stopped and waited as our guides tried to fix the jeep. Try as they might, it would not turn on….so we left it there along with the six students who had been riding in it...Just kidding! Luckily there was extra room in the other jeeps so everyone made it down the mountain safely. On our way we grabbed a couple of ripe grape fruits off the trees to eat later. So delicious! When we finally made it back to our bus we were quick to find our dry clothes to change into and headed to a shopping mall in Kiryat Schemon for lunch. Now we have three and a half hour bus ride (spanning half the length of the country) down to the desert near the Dead Sea where we will stay at another kibbutz.  

First day in Israel - The holy city of Tzfat

Friday, December 6, 2013 - 8:06 am
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray

By Max Samuels `15


Today was our first full day in Israel! We woke up at 7:00—probably earlier than most of us were used to—and had a nice breakfast at our hotel. Afterward, we immediately boarded the bus and headed to the Arbel Cliff. On our short hike up, we encountered our fair share of mud and ants, but it was all worth it. We had a beautiful view of the Sea of the Galilee from the top, and our tour guide, Ronen, gave us a brief rundown of Jewish history from the Ancient times of King David to the present day.

Our next destination was Tzfat, one of the four holy cities in Israel. It was a little colder up in the mountains (but we managed to avoid rain the entire time!). In Tzfat we were given a brief introduction to the four holiest cities, and Rabbi Gray explained to us the origins of the Chabad movement. After these interesting talks, we toured the city. Our first stop was a famous Sephardic synagogue, in which the famous song, L’cha Dodi, originated. Then we did some shopping—buying kippas, t-shirts, and other chachkis from a local gift shop.

After souvenir time, we had our first Israeli lunch! Some of us had Schwarma and others had filafel. We ran into the Dartmouth Hillel group and spent some time hanging out and eating. Some of us got the opportunity to wrap tefillin with some Hassidic Jews. I commented to a friend that it was amazing that these guys were simply asking us to wrap tefillin for the mitzvah of it, not expecting anything else in return.

After lunch, we headed to our last destination: Avram’s Kabbalistic art gallery. For me, this was the coolest part of our day. Avram moved to Israel from Detroit 20 years ago, and has been studying Kabbala and making Kabbalistic art ever since. He had a fascinating story, and was super passionate about Judaism, Kabbala, and the fact that we were in Israel—and in the holy city of Tzfat, of all places. He gave us an introduction to what Kabbala is all about. More than anything else, I was impressed with the passion and energy he brought to the subject. It was nice to see someone so genuinely happy and excited to see young American Jews in Israel. Looking around the room as he was speaking, I was fascinated by how his words and thoughts were affecting all of us. I think he had a real impact.

And now we’re on the bus heading home for Shabbat. It was a great day; we have lots of pictures, little souvenirs, and full stomachs to show for it. Looking forward to the days ahead!


Sunday, December 1, 2013 - 10:34 am
Posted by Rabbi Moshe Gray

On December 4th Rabbi Gray and 34 Dartmouth students are set to embark on Chabad at Dartmouth’s 8th Birthright trip to Israel. Chase Klein `14 and Hilary Campbell `14 recruited 48 students, of those, 33 were accepted to go on the trip.

We will be in the Holy land for 10 incredible days. Follow us as we journey from the north of Israel and the Golan Heights to the south of Israel where we will spend time with the Bedouins. We will learn about Jewish mysticism in Tzfat, one of the four holy cities, and visit the very building where the modern state of Israel was declared. The students will experience floating in the Dead Sea and dancing Friday night at the Kotel.

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