Tikvah Israel Trip — Day One!

Our Tikvah Director, Howard Blas, and our Director of Vocational Services, Tali Cohen, are currently leading a group of our Tikvah program participants on a trip around Israel!  Howard reports in on day one:

Day 1-December 23, 2013

What a long, wonderful day!  It is hard to believe that our day started at JFK airport in New York, saying goodbye to our parents at the El Al terminal.  I am delighted to say that everything thus far has been smooth and calm.   The El Al security agents were both thorough and gentle; the TSA officers were similarly kind—and the El Al gate agents let us board early.  Our group was seated in the same five rows, the flight was smooth and calm, and the food was good.  Many slept for at least a few hours.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by a large group of smiling Ramah Israel staff members, including our guide, Devora, our trip coordinator, Zimra, Moshe Gold, the director of Ramah Israel Institute, Tehila, an Israeli madricha doing National Service, our driver and Shlomo, our armed medic.   After loading up the bus—and enjoying a cold drink and 60 degree sunny weather, we headed out to Neot Kedum for a picnic lunch and tree planting.  We “took orders” for sandwiches, and all were happy—peanut butter, Nutella, humus, cottage cheese, cheese slices, amazing tomatoes, peppers and cukes, and fruit.

We enjoyed planting alon/oak saplings, we read a prayer for trees, and we went around the circle saying to whom our trees were dedicated.  It was moving hearing our participants, and it is so clear that they really understand their connection to the Land of Israel.

Our next step was Givat Zev, a neighborhood just outside of Jerusalem, where our beloved Tikvah staff member, Avram, lives. It was pretty amazing to still see big piles of snow on the side of the road—left over from last week’s snow storm. Fortunately, the sky is blue and the weather is fairly warm for the season. Some of us put on shorts for tree planting; most shed their winter coats!

We were in for lots of nice surprises at Avram’s house.  First, we got to see Avram, his lovely parents, and his many siblings—in their own home.  They made us a super tasty, huge feast of hotdogs, hamburgers, grilled chicken, veggie burgers and Israel salads.  Several of our Ramah friends surprised us by joining us for dinner: Adi Pinchas, our life-guard and live-in; Aviva Perlman, our former Jewish Studies teacher; and Sahar Ben Or, a long time sports teacher, live-in and staff-member for Ramah Israel programs.  Our participants were SO happy to see friends.  Of course they were equally happy to sing Happy Birthday to Melissa—in Hebrew and in English.  Melissa was so surprised when she was presented with a cake with sparklers—and balloons.  We thanked our hosts, went around the circle introducing ourselves and sharing stories about camp—and Avram!   And we got on the bus for the final leg of our journey—the ascent to Jerusalem.

We unloaded the bus, gave out rooming assignments and made our way to our rooms. Since we are here for six nights, we all unpacked to the drawers and closets.  We showered and all are chilling in their rooms now.  The staff will soon have a brief meeting then off to sleep—to charge our batteries for a wonderful day tomorrow.  LOTS more to report soon…