Well, we woke up and did things a bit differently this morning. FIRST we woke-up, THEN we took a bite to eat, THEN we waited for the bus, THEN we LOADED up the bus… and FINALLY we disembarked to head to…. THE KOTEL!!! It was Rosh Chodesh this Sunday!!! And the Kotel Plaza was PACKED!! We scouted out a table for us to pray at on the men’s side, and made sure it was close to the women’s side so that we could all pray together. After finishing Shacharit with Rabbi Weiss and Rabbi Akiva giving the priestly blessing, we geared ourselves up for Hallel! Hallel was sung a little Hebrew-Academy style!! With Rabbi leading and Chaim and Rabbi Akiva with a little bit of backup, but the main part of the singing was our 8th Graders, and boy did we attract a crowd!! Our songs were so good and our davening so special that people started to join us who were looking for a minyan to pray in!! It was pretty cool!! There were many Bar Mitzvahs happening that day and many photographers, but if you look on line you’ll be able to catch a video of our
Hallel section at the Kotel, posted in the gallery section of the website! (Enjoy!)
After finishing davening (it took a while, what with Hallel, and reading the Torah (great job Yonatan!), and then Mussaf – which Eliel led) we headed out to the bus and drove off to the Palmach Museum which was in Tel Aviv… we were leaving Yerushalayim, our holy, golden, beautiful city, for the last time this trip. We said our goodbyes, took notice of the BIG “Tzeitchem L’Shalom” (”Go in Peace”) sign on the way out, and we were off. We arrived at our destination and disembarked. We hung out for a bit but finally were admitted into the museum. It was very interactive, just like in the Herzl Museum, but a bit longer. But that certainly didn’t bother anyone… the museum was AWESOME!! Learning about the fighting of the pioneers of the Palmach Brigade before 1948 was amazing!! These guys were true heroes and it was amazing to go on a journey with them as they pursued their course and helped us win the war, and our Independence!
After we came out, we ate some yummy boxed lunches outside the museum, and then boarded the bus to go to a mystery site that Yoni was taking us to. Arriving at some small kibbutz near Rechovot, we saw some army tents pitched outside, but still, Yoni wouldn’t say anything. After using the facilities, we took seats on some benches as Yoni spoke to us from the heart all about Israel and her many wars and how we, as the Jewish People have always found, with our utmost dedication to our Torah and way of life, and our perseverance and resilience (and a bit of our ingenuity as well!), a way to press on and endure, but most of all, our faith in Hashem.When the discussion was over, he took us in to see a movie when we learned that the kibbutz we were visiting was actually the center of the illegal production of over 2 and a half MILLION bullets for our fighters during the war of Independence!!!! We were actually at the site of a Haganah underground Bullet-Production factory!! It was AMAZING!! We watched the movie as we were told of the building of this factory. Yoni then led us on a tour of the grounds and explained how they kept the factory hidden underground and what they did to ensure the secrecy of those who worked there. It was some pretty amazing stuff! He took us down into the actual factory where we could see the makeshift machines and we heard the story of how this place was kept secret and what they did to keep it secret and, well, what can I say? It was REALLY COOL!!
When we were finally finished, we boarded the bus and headed towards our last stop before the airport, the Azrielli Mall. There we ate dinner (BURGER’S BAR!! YES!!) and had some free time to do some last minute shopping (supporting our Israeli brothers and sisters!) and even play a bit in the game room (Too bad you couldn’t hit that jackpot Elisha… oh well, you got a cool game out of it anyways, right? Thanks to… hmmmm?) Finally, as the time got a bit later, we realized we had to leave. We boarded the bus and spent the last half hour together reminiscing on the trip and singing songs, and playing games, and having a blast! (The Puma!! The BEAR!! Hunkawhat?? Oh, The KILLER WHALE and Dodah yemimah?? Someone’s a little sheitel crazy… BAH!) Finally, Yoni told us a powerful and special story as we listened quietly in the dark, almost at the airport. We arrived and got our things off the bus, following Rabbi through check in (and waiting a LONG time… that dumb x-ray machine!) and through passport control… (well, those of us who
made it through check-in without any problems that is!! Don’t worry, we all got on the plane… FINALLY!) and had some time to grab some last minute Kosher McDonalds and some drinks before heading onto the plane.
We were EXHAUSTED!! And most of us slept almost the entire way! We arrived about twenty minutes ahead of schedule, but a glitch in the conveyor belt in the luggage claim department made up for it!! We left customs (MATTI!!!) and boarded the bus for our way home, exhausted, and barely aware that we had actually come back. Arriving at the school you threw us a party. It was amazing to see everyone, as you all know, and though we have tried to tell you a bit about what it was like to experience this trip, it’s a funny thing… but you’ll never be able to know, unless you’ve been there and experienced it for yourself.
Thank you Sigel Academy, thank you Parents. Thank you friends, loved ones, staff, teachers, EVERYBODY!! (Students too!) And thank you most of all Rabbi Weiss, for taking us on a trip that in our lifetime, we will never forget!! Where else could we have experienced such an incredible and meaningful religious and educational experience?? Bess and Paul Sigel Hebrew Academy of Greater Hartford – you’re the best Hebrew Day School in the world, and you know it. This is Rabbi Akiva Weiss, signing off for this year’s 2008 Bess and Paul Sigel Hebrew Academy of Greater Hartford 8th Grade Trip to Israel. With all our love,