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!