Hello everyone and sorry about the relatively long time between posts. The time between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur was a bit crazy, but I am settled back in at the university and excited to write about a great final study tour trip and my time in Jerusalem yesterday and today.
We had our last study tour trip (the last on campus seminar is tomorrow). We traveled to a development town where my professor lives in Karmiel. He talked with us about the communal ethos in his town and how it stemmed from kibbutz mentality, but today the residents retain their own income and raise their children in their own personal homes. As we walked around, we saw a group of pre-school or kindergarden students wandering outside with their teachers to learn about trees and nature. One teacher was cracking open a walnut as we passed by, and all of the kids were gathered close to see the insides; it was an adorable scene. After, we continued to wander about and consider what living in such a place would be like. I think that as a 20-something year old, it is not appealing because it is rather quiet, but it seems like a lovely place to raise a family. Everyone has a say in the government of the town and everyone pays taxes according to his/her means, but they always pay something (even just a symbolic amount) so they are full-fledged members of the community, even in times of economic hardship. In all, I was very impressed by the area and the individuality expressed in dress, apparent religious observance, and architecture in the small socialist (ish) community.
Next, we hopped on the bus and went to hike in the Golan. This was my favorite hike so far because it ended at a chilly and beautiful waterfall. I changed into my bathing suit and scooched into the ice cold pool around the falls. It took me a few minutes to catch my breath because the chilly water made my chest constrict. Still, I had a big smile on my face the whole time, especially when I felt the mist of the falls blow around the area. I swam up to the waterfall itself and went under the stream of water to an alcove where I climbed up with friends and looked out through the rushing water. It was gorgeous; definitely one of my favorite sites so far. I felt so small compared to the scene around me, and I really like that humbling feeling. The hike back up was pretty steep, but I was so content from the swim that I was in a good mood for the rest of the day.
After Monday, I transitioned into Yom Kippur, and headed to Jerusalem to stay at HUC-JIR (the Reform rabbinical school). I stayed with a really sweet first year student, and we talked about her experience so far at the school. Because I am a prospective student, it was really helpful to hear from her and her peers about their year in Jerusalem so far. We went to services in the evening and then walked through the city streets because there are no cars that drive on Yom Kippur. We saw a bunch of secular kids biking and they looked like they were having a great time. Naturally, we ran into people we knew in the city, and it turns out one of the HUC students used to song-lead at Crane Lake Camp when I was younger. Small world! That night, we returned to my host's apartment and her middle-aged Israeli landlord/suite-mate had friends over and we all spoke Hebrew together. I was shocked at how much I understood and participated.
Today, we went back to HUC for services all day. I left with some friends to see the Kotel, which was surprisingly empty in the afternoon, but it was cool to be there on a high holiday nonetheless. After a long day of fasting we devoured challah, bagels, fruit, and brownies and headed back to Haifa because I have class tomorrow at 9am. And because it is close to 1am here, I should really head to bed to be awake tomorrow morning. Laila tov, and I hope everyone had an easy fast/a meaningful day!