And once again, the reason for that is the incredible amount of time that the Netivot program has taken. But, BH, it has been an outstanding run and below is my last posting regarding the group. I plan to return to regular postings in the next day or two. I can not believe that pretty soon, I will be writing about our one year anniversary in Israel!
As I write this last posting for Netivot-Chicago 2010, the students are moments away from landing in Chicago. I can not believe that the program has come to an end! it seems like yesterday we all went to the airport to greet the plane. *sigh*
Here are some final highlights and thoughts as we bring this program to a close.
This last week was a hectic one and an emotional one, as well. After bidding goodbye to the schools and their fellow students, we all headed on a tour of soem sights in Tel Aviv including the location of the founding of the State of Israel, Heichal Ha'Atzmaut. We had a chance to be in the Mediterranean and do some shopping in the flea market in Old Jaffa.
The next morning, we went to visit Yad Vashem. There really is not much that one can write about this, but suffice it to say that it was an overwhelmingly intense morning. After lunch, we went to the Rabin Youth Hostel where we heard once again from Michelle with Stand With Us, a "hasbara" organization. She was magnificent in explaining to the students the issues with the Gaza boat incident and answered many unasked questions.
We were all treated to a dinner in the city by the Aarons who were in town and this was followed by an evening known as the "Preida" or the (beginning of) saying goodbye. A few short speeches were then followed by the kids putting on skits, and as the saying goes, a good time was had by all.
The next morning, Friday, our day began at Har Herzl. The most poignant moments were our standing in front of the graves of Michael Levin and two others whom our guide (Miriam) knew before they were killed by Arab terrorists. I recited a Kel Maley for them and then a general one for all those who fell in Israel in battle or terror attacks.
We were then off to the Old City to do some last minute shopping and walking around. Finally, from there we went to Mahana Yehuda and some to Ben Yehuda.
Then, we were off to prepare for our last Shabbat together...a bittersweet moment indeed.
Friday night, we davened at the Kotel. While that alone was beautiful, a most amazing thing happened after Tefilla...a group of about 100-150 soldiers were in the plaza singing and dancing and our guys joined right in in an amazing show of love for our soldiers and our people! The boys had a fabulous experience in that circle!
Dinner and a walk back to the hostel for our last night together...
On Shabbat day, we all could feel that nervous tension building as the clocked ticked down towards the end of Shabbat. After tefilla in the morning, we gathered together as I made a Siyum to commemorate the first Yahrzeit of Mrs. Amy Kahan. We learned in her memory and some former ICJA students who had been in the same hostel joined us for this as well.
In the late afternoon, we all sat around and spoke about what the trip meant to all and what they would miss, what they liked and how they had changed. It was amazing to hear some of the comments that were made!
And then the moment came...the bus would be heading to the airport for the journey back to Chicago. Even upon arrival at the airport, it was written all over the faces of the students: I do not want to leave! Tears flowed as goodbyes were made. Finally, at about midnight, all us (the madrichim and me) sat down to have a bite to eat and breathe a little bit and to think about the awesome experience we all just had shared over the past 7 weeks.
And now that it is over, a few thank you's are in order:
To Shmarya, Yael and Yocheved...I can not tell you how happy I am that i got to know you through this project and I can not thank you enough for all of your hard work!
To Roni (the director of Tlalim) and to Tami (his assistant) I am so happy to have had all of your assistance, help and guidance throughout the program and even before the kids arrived in Israel.
To ICJA for allowing and even encouraging the kids to come here. You are to be applauded for the forward-thinking in educating our kids in a different fashion!
To ALL of the wonderful teachers both Limudei Kodesh and Limudei Chol...your efforts were so appreciated and the students learned SO much from you!
To you, my dear students, thank you for allowing me to become a part of your lives and for all the trust you placed in me. You are a special group that have this memory to share forever!
To the parents: Thanks for sharing your wonderful children with me and with Israel...we tried our best to make you proud!
To Dani Yemini, Ilan Osrin (Oz), Zev Schwartz and all of our friends at Bnei Akiva, thank you for your help and your involvement in the program!
And finally but of course really first: A thank you to Hashem for all of the assistance in this entire endeavor. We, none of us, would be anywhere without the help of Hashem in everything we do!
IT HAS BEEN AN HONOR TO BE INVOLVED IN THIS PROGRAM. ASSUMING YOU (THE STUDENTS) ENJOYED, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO BE AMBASSADORS FOR FUTURE NETIVOT PROGRAMS.
I WISH ALL OF YOU A PLEASANT SUMMER AND I LOOK FORWARD TO GREETING ALL OF YOU BACK IN ISRAEL IN THE NEAR FUTURE.
Rabbi Zev M Shandalov
TLALIM EDUCATIONAL TOURS