Wednesday, January 4, 2012

R' Asher's Post Chanukah Update

Two major events have just passed us in the Mechina, and it's time for another update.

The Yam-Leyam (coast to coast) trip, and of course Channuka.

The Yam-Leyam trip is a very special one as it is the first long trip in the Mechina involving camping out for a few days and walking many miles.
About a week before Channukah our hike began a few kilometers inland from the Mediterranean coast, and went all the way to a kibbutz located on the Kinneret shores. Roughly, about sixty kilometers of fields, mountains, valleys, and streams, over three warm days, and freezing nights.

After numerous preparations we were bused from the Moshav on the early morning of December 13th at 4:00 am. Nice and early.
We were dropped off at the beginning of our route at the Chziv river which is about 6 kilometers inland from the Mediterranean, and from that point on it was all by foot.
We got there just in time for Vatikin Shacharit, had a great Tefilah and then had a simple and quick breakfast, with some fresh pots of coffee.
Several of the responsibilities for the trip were taken care of by the students. They were responsible for the meals, what kind of food, when, how much, cooking and barbecuing it, and so on. They were the navigators for the trails (and thank G-D nobody got lost for that long), and decided how long we'd stop at different sites and what would be done with our time there.

On the first day we hiked through beautiful cool to warm weather, along the banks and through the Chziv River. We got to climb and explore the ruins of an old crusader castle, had lunch and dipped our feet in the river, made a few bonfires along the way, discovered one of the most poisonous snakes in Israel, the Nachash Tzefa, hanging out on one of the trails, and promptly, as halacha permits, escorted him to the next world.
One of the guys also put together a makeshift fishing rod which after many failed attempts he was successful in catching a small fish. It was cleaned, salted, and thrown over the fire, and after we spoke about the importance, from a Torah perspective, of eating fish and also in the right spiritual frame of mind, it was enjoyed by all those that partook. Hard to come by fresher fish than that!

About twenty kilometers later we reached the camping grounds where we set up tents, a bonfire, and prepared some good beef stew in iron cast pots, for dinner.
We had a group activity around the bonfire followed by Arvit, and after dinner we all hit the sack.

Early next morning we woke up the sun, davened Shacharit, folded up the tents and gear, had a good breakfast of scrambled eggs, cheeses, vegetables, and bread, washed down with some freshly brewed coffee, and hit the road.
We stopped during the day a few times. Those that could stand the cold and the freezing waters dipped in an ancient natural spring Mikvah, while the rest of us enjoyed the views of  a beautiful green valley. Later on we had lunch and davened Mincha at the foot of Mt. Meron, and then we climbed Mount Nerya (Mt. Meron can’t be climbed because there’s an army base at its peak).
On the top, 1050 meters high above, we had a beautiful view of the upper Gallil and Lebanon.
We climbed down the other side, got a barbecue dinner cooking, and then went to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s gravesite to daven.
After dinner we went to sleep, exhausted but happy and content.

This time, we woke up way before the sun, and in the hour before sunrise studied for about an hour in the Bet-Midrash located in Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s gravesite and then davened Vatikin. We had some cake and coffee, then we all had some breakfast, packed the gear and got on the move once again for another twenty kilometer hike mostly in the Amud river nature reserve.

We walked at a brisk pace, brisker abd faster than any of the other Years have in the Mechina. During the hike, we had lunch, got a fire going, davened Mincha, and kept on walking till we reached Kibbutz Chokuk, near the Kinneret. There we had a breathtaking view of the Kinneret, and to make a long, and happy story very short, were picked by bus and driven home for a hot shower and a good warm meal.

Many of the students were amazed by the many sites of Israel’s nature we got to see and explore, and all in all it was a bonding, fun, and educational experience.
Shortly, we’ll post more pictures of the trip on Facebook and the website, and I’m sure you can get more fun details from your son about the trip.

Channuka was great!

On the eve of the first day we had our special Gamla “Flag Run.”
A little background might be fitting.

About 18 kilometers away from us, is a pace called Gamla. During the revolt against the Romans, Gamla was a stronghold for many Jewish fighters. In his book, The Jewish War, Yosef Ben Matityahu a.k.a Josephus Flavius, tells in great detail the dramatic story of how the Jews of Gamla fought the Romans tooth and nail. A few thousand Jews held off the massive roman army until eventually the Romans broke through their wall and drove many of the Jews off the precipice.

Getting back to our story, our tradition in LYA is that on Channuka eve we have a very meaningful run to Gamla.
The students ran in pairs holding the Israeli flag up high for a few kilometers each from Avnei Eitan till Gamla. The last few kilometers were done while carrying a stretcher with an "injured" student on top. Everybody joined together, staff as well, for this last shove and it was a very powerful experience.
Once we reached Gamla we had a little ceremony where we declared our commitment to Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, which ends with some good dancing to Am Yisrael Chai and Channuka songs.
The reason we do this during Channuka is obvious, Jewish pride, fighting for Torah values, and standing up when needed, to protect that which is dear and important to us.
A few visiting parents joined the ceremony as well, and them as well as the students said how it was a very significant and powerful experience for them.

We then headed back home for a good lunch followed by some fresh butterscotch Sufganiyot (Israeli channuka donuts).

That night we had our Mesibat Channuka in the Yeshiva, which was full of Divrei torah, stories, noshing, music, and singing like mad to Channuka songs.
The students had vacation for the rest of Channukah, and came back for a wonderful Shabbat.

That's about it for now.
I hope to send you soon some pictures from the trip and from Channukah.

Kol tuv!
R' Asher

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