We used to think Halloween was cool. But Purim took it to new heights (like parties on rooftops). And not only did it take us to new heights, it was also 2 days long! That's right! There's a better version of Halloween AND it's 2 days long! For 48 hours, it was as if all of Jerusalem dressed up and celebrated together! The first night, there was a huge pajama party in the shuk. The streets of the shuk were packed with lots of people in their PJs (drunk and sober), loud music, decorations and food. We've never seen any celebration like it. For the whole holiday, people were dressed up and throwing confetti everywhere on the streets. On the last day, there was a street party all day long that was also packed with people dancing under the midday sun. It was so packed, in fact, that we couldn't take a group photo without getting photobombed! Purim was an experience to remember.
That weekend we had a special gender and sexuality seminar. After a treat of pancakes in the morning, we headed in to what was an intense day of discussing emotionally tough topics. It wasn't easy, but it was rewarding, as we discussed topics that are rarely touched on. It was an insightful day that left us all with many questions.
But the intense week wasn't over yet! At 6:30 Sunday morning we left to go on a hike in the desert. You'd normally think that it would still be kind of cold in March, but it was scorching hot (for a Canadian at least...). We hiked to, down into, inside, out of, into, back up out of, and away from the Small Crater. It was in-crat-able! At the first campsite, we were near some Roman ruins - so of course we played spotlight in them at night! We also decided to make use of the extraordinary view on the last morning, so we woke up early (or obscenely early depending on who you talk to) to watch the sun rise. This normally would have been a fantastic decision, but on this particular day we had to climb "the hardest climb in Israel," as our guide put it. It got to a 45 degree slope in parts. As tough as it was, we all made it through in the end. Understandably, we were very tired and very grateful to have a shower and a bed, returning to a regular etgar schedule.
'Til next time,
Michael and Harley
For the past 2 weeks on Machon myself and other chanichim have travelled to various sites around Israel to understand some of the Jewish peoples rich history in the locations these events are believed to have happened, this adventure has taken us to Haifa, Tel Aviv, Shilo, Tel Chai and several others. This journey has been extremely packed so I'll share some of the sites and experiences that resonated with me the most.
During The first week we travelled to Shilo, this is an area in the west bank that is currently home to a settlement near the site of what archaeologists and many Jews believe to be the site of the first Mishkan and the first capital of the Jewish people once they entered the land of Israel. While we were there we got shown what people believed to be the exact location of the Mishkan as well as the reasoning behind this conclusion, we delved into the complicated politics surrounding the distribution of this land to Palestinians and Israel today and studied the conflict between the 12 tribes and the Philistines back at the time of the first Mishkan. The part of this experience that I connected to the most was the barbecue provided to us of delicious, spicy and succulent chicken beautifully complimented with a build your own pita station topped off with with a chocolate brownie that didn't even warrant a glass of milk.
Another site on this tour I found incredibly profound was Masada, we climbed up to the remnants of the Jewish village there and learnt about the events that supposedly took place and the archaeological evidence that may contradict the Roman recount of these events. The story of Masada tells of a time when the Romans occupied the Jewish land and had given the Jewish people to option to assimilate into Roman society with freedom of religion and a local king. A small group decided to rebel against the Roman rule and was quickly crushed the remaining members of the rebellion lived upon Masada and destroyed the path to the top. They continue to live there while the Roman army established a perimeter around the mountain and proceeded to build a ramp for their soldiers to climb, history tells of the Romans reaching the top to find all the Jewish people had killed themselves to save themselves from the cruelty of Roman slavery and pillaging. Archaeologists have since found remnants of a battle including broken arrow heads and swords of Roman origin this suggests the narrative of this event may be not so clear. This site resonated with me because of the beautiful setting and the complex ideological reasoning that would have led the men to kill themselves and their families to save them from an even worse fate.
On the second week of this journey we stayed on kibbutz nachsholom by the beach and ate some terrific food every meal. While this trip was very educational and helped me foster a deep appreciation for the sacrifice made by each wave of aliyah to found the state of Israel by far my favourite aspect was getting to know the Latin American machon chanichim, due to the size of our group and the size of the rooms there was one to many English machon chanichim for the rooms so I spent part of the whole second week rooming with 2 guys from Macabi in Chile and 6 people from Uruguay I decided to begin learning Spanish and had the pleasure of meeting all their friends, eating with them, watching soccer, playing cards and singing red hot chili peppers songs.
We spent the week learning about the roles, demographics and challenges of each wave of aliyah while visiting cemeteries and museums to complement the content. With the discussion of each wave we bit by bit learnt about the politics relating to the distribution of land and the Palestinian perspective of the situation. I found the education on Palestine point of view surrounding the development of infrastructure to establish Israel as a state incredibly interesting. I was increasingly uncomfortable being apart of a Zionist movement without understanding the other sides point of view or making an effort to assist our chanichim in doing so.
It was incredible to study the commitment of people my age or a little bit older who were apart of the 3rd wave of aliyah, the years of training to work the land, the haganah, many of the kibbutzim and Homa u'migdal that was fundamental in establishing the Israel we have today instead of the Israel that was proposed and voted on initially by the UN. All these actions were structured and initiated by youth movements of the time and that made my involvement in Netzer and more specifically CaTZ ( Canberra Zionist youth movement) all the more special and empowering.
All up these last 2 weeks have been an incredible start to machon and have left me feeling incredibly excited for the months to come on Machon le Madrichim and the following months on shnat with my kvutzah and the friends from around the world I've made.