We just came home from our 2nd class tiyul (trip) to the cities of Caesaria, Tzippori, Tiberias, Safed, and Haifa. It was a great trip, and wonderful to get out of Jerusalem and enjoy some fresh air and beautiful scenery. Compared to the J'lem, these cities were warm, inviting, and a refreshing change from our daily academic grinds. From Jerusalem, our first stop was to the port town of Caesaria. This town was built by Herod and given as a gift to Caesar, the source of it's name. It's a BEAUTIFUL city, with a gorgeous beach and tons of Roman ruins. Also, it is here where Rabbi Akiva is said to have been killed because he refused to stop studying and teaching the Torah. When we first arrived, the cantorial students were asked to sing in their amazing ancient amphitheater. We knew this going into the trip, so we prepared a beautiful 3-part V'shamru. On the bus, Gingy (one of our tour leaders) wanted us to also sing something fun, so somehow Elana came up with an idea. The 5 of us, plus 7 rabbinic and education students sang and performed a rousing version of Queen's Bohemeian Rhapsody, which included air guitar, air piano and air drums, and an amazing interpretive dance. This was all done at the last minute, and it was as hysterical as it was ridiculous. It was definitely something we will all remember for years to come.
The beaches of Caesaria...beautiful!
The cantorial students singing V'shamru in the amphitheater in Casaria. From left to right: Julia, Elana, Michelle, Vicki and I.
After breaking into groups for some text study (on the shore of the beautiful Sea of Galilee, with Gingy, one of my favorite people at HUC) we left Casarea for Tzippori. Tzippori was a city that housed Jews and others in the Hellenistic period. It is where the Sanhedrin, the council that determined the religious decisions for the Jewish people, was founded. The remains found there include many beautiful mosaics, which are pretty incredible, considering they are 2,000 years old. It was nice to re-visit Tzippori (I came when I was on BRI in 2004) and see the mosaics again.
Though it does have religious significance, Tiberias is a dumpy little down in Israel, so we only stayed the night there. However, we were treated to a fun group dinner at Deck's, a lovely restaurant on the water. The food was really nothing special, but we were all pleasantly surprised when a boat came around, announcing we were there and welcoming us. They also played Frank Sinatra's New York New York since the majority of us were Americans. It was a totally random, "only in Israel" kind of moment, but a lot of fun. We had to be up very early the next morning, so we came back and headed to bed early after dinner.
Kabbalah, a mystic form of Judaism. We spent the morning touring the little synagogues in the town center, and then we visited one of the many artists who live and work in Safed. His name was Avraham, and is was born and raised in Michigan before making Aliyah to Safed 13 years ago. I didn't care much for his artwork, but it was neat to hear about his personal experience with Kabbalah and how he uses his artwork to connect himself and others to it. We spent the majority of the afternoon walking around the little artist shops and the famous candle store, where I bought some candles as gifts for friends and family.
The Ark in the Abohav Synagogue in Safed. Inside there is a Torah Scroll from Spain dating back to 1492, that is only allowed to be used 3 times a year.After our day in Safed, I really wanted to take a nap, but instead we all went hiking! Now, you guys know how much I love schlepping through the woods for no real reason, and this hike was really no exception. We were able to see Mt Hermon, the tallest mountain in Israel which currently capped with snow, but that was about it. Thank goodness it was short, and we had a nice long bus ride to Haifa, which allowed me to chill a bit.
After breakfast this morning, we made our way to the Leo Baeck Education Center in the middle of Haifa. This place is AMAZING...they have primary and high schools, Beit Midrash (Torah study) groups, adult education, and higher-learning opportunities for Reform Jews in Israel. We had a wonderful tour and information session, a question/answer session with some of the high school students (who are all incredibly intelligent and well-spoken), a special Havdallah ceremony, and a wonderful Kabbalat Shabbat celebration with the primary students. The Shabbat ceremony was definitely the highlight of my trip; the kids were SO cute when they were leading the candle, wine and bread blessings and singing and dancing for us. I'd love to go back there at some point and work with them, maybe teach them songs or lead them in a drum circle or something. I hope I have the time....
The Kitah Aleph (1st grade) students of Leo Baeck preparing for their performance. How cute are they?
Anyways, now we're back and ready for a relaxing Shabbat. We have no real plans, except to babysit our friends Dave and Gal's 3-year-old daughter Dahlia tomorrow afternoon. It'll be nice to have some time to chill out and recharge for the busy week ahead. Hope all is well, miss and love you all. As of tomorrow, I'll be able to say "See you next month!"