Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dear Parents, Rabbis, and Friends,

Dear Parents, Rabbis, and Friends,

I’m sure that by now you have heard in great detail all about our few days we spent in the Negev, surviving on nuts, water, and each other’s company, but in case you haven’t, here are a few more details about it.

The students did a great job in preparing for Survival. They studied maps of the terrain (of the “small” Ramon crater) so they ‘d be able to navigate the trails with ease, prepared their bags with the bare essentials - clothes, sleeping bag, water, and Teffilin, and most importantly looked forward to it with great anticipation.

We started survival week in our backyard on Sunday evening a week ago, after having a stretcher hike in mud up to our knees to the nearby Moshav of Eliad. We then left for the Negev, arriving just in time to set up camp for the night, which happened to be about a thousand degrees below zero; it was quite cold, thus adding another interesting element to the term ‘survival week.’
The students had guard duty and had to keep the stretcher up in the air throughout the night, which they amazingly did.

The next morning after Shacharit Vatikin, all students were divided in to their groups and given their daily food portion, which basically consisted of some dried fruit, nuts, flour, oil, and a vegetable or two. After the initial shock concerning their food rations set in and after making sure no students brought any extra nosh with them we set out on our way, hiking through the dessert and climbing extremely challenging mountains, it was no stroll in the park.

The student pushed themselves even when it was very rough, beyond what they thought were their limits and realized that be’ezrat hashem (almost) nothing is impossible if you really set your heart and mind to it. Their was a natural Mikva opportunity during the hike for those interested and throughout the trip Rav Erez explained the various flora which grows in the Negev and in the small crater, its characteristics and healing and nutritional value, as well as its connection to the Tanach and our history.
On the second night after the students had a chance to seclude themselves in nature for a while, they used their basic ingredients, and imagination, to make some dinner. Some were very successful and managed to make some very tasty pitot and soup with just the few simple ingredients.
On the third day we hiked through a sand storm, which left us all covered head to toe in sand. It was quite an experience.
That night one sleeping bag was given to every four students and they had to decide what was the best way to use it, taking each other in to consideration.
One of the groups got "lost" for a few minutes, but thanks to their navigational skills, Teffilat HaDerech, and fast thinking they got back on the trail and all was good.

Throughout the three days of survival students got to really know themselves, their weaknesses, their strengths, and those of their friends. We saw many situations in which students ignored their own discomfort in order to help someone else who had it harder, cases in which students kept their word even when they thought they were alone and no staff was around.
I must point out that this is the first year where all who started the survival week, ended it as well. In previous years, due to the extreme physical conditions there were always one or two students who would drop out and could not continue, but this year everybody started and everybody finished! From the very beginning till the very end! Kol HaKavod!!!
One more thing I’d like to point out is that how every so often during the difficult hiking, the students of their own volition would ask the rabbis for a dvar-torah to keep them going strong and in high spirits.
At the end of survival week we surprised the students by taking them to a fancy restaurant where they were able to order anything on the menu such as steak, liver, chicken, shishlik and more, all with unlimited French fries, salads, freshly baked Lafot (a very large flat kind of pita) and drinks. For dessert we had ice cream and coffee.
Needless to say, after a few days of just surviving on some dried fruit and some canned corn they were extremely hungry, excited, and grateful. No food went to waste.
Make sure to check us out on facebook for more details and pictures of survival Week.

That’s about it for now, we’re back in the Beit Midrash now, warming the winter with some good Torah studying, especially focusing on preparing our minds and hearts for Purim and Pesach.

Kol Tuv!
R’ Asher
Rav Asher Smith
Rav & Overseas Relations Director
Leadership Yeshiva Academy
Golan Heights 12925 Israel
Mobile: +972-52-6000-618
Office:   +972-4-6763088
Fax:     +972-4-6600142
E-mail: asher@lya.org.il

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