First, my apologies for not sending our progress on a more regiular basis. There are two reasons for this. First, neither of our apartments included wifi and it is not easy to locate free spots to plug in! More important than that, our Rabbi's/Tour Directors have kept us going from 7:00 AM - ?. We have been going to sleep about 1:00 AM on average. That being said, we can all agree that this mission trip will never soon be forgotten! We have all be effected spiritually and physically, as well have had time to bond with each other away from our daily lives.
We left the airport last Thursday about 6:00 PM for Tzvat. After a 4 hour ride to our apartment and dinner,we were all ready for a good night's sleep! When we woke up, it was amazing the view we had from one of our rooms. It was a beautiful view of the mountains and it was very close to the Arizal's grave and mikvah. After breakfast we had a walking tour of the old city. We gained quite a bit of insight about the community and mysticism that is in Tzvat. After going to the mikvah and visiting the the Arizal's grave as well as others, it was time to get ready for Shabbat.
Shabbat started with the Kabbalat Service which was very uplifting, physical experience. We were all tired after services were over. The group went together to Avrohom Zelig Meyers house for a wonderful dinner and conversation. Saturday morning after shul we split into three groups for lunch. We finished at 2:00 in time for some of us to go on spiritual relaxation hour. At 4:00 we had another tour of the city by "Big Mo". Don't forget to ask Rabbi J about him. We are still joking about it now! We all agree the Rabbi J knows the immediate world. Wherever we go, he ALWAYS knows somebody. We finished shabbat at ASCENT with Big Mo. It was a musical expierience with love music with our own musician, Adam Weglein, on the bongo. There was very touching, dancing with the community and the many soldiers that were there. We then got ready to head for Jerusalem. I will not talk about the trip except to say, stay tuned for the pictures coming. We received an OLD 15 passanger Chevy van to fit all of our leggage and ourselves into. With Hashem's blessings, we made it to the Old City about 1:30 Sunday morning. After ariving, we went to the Kotel and got to sleep about 3:00 AM.
Sunday morning after morning prayers and breakfast, we were off to Bircas HaTorah for our first day of class. We did start a bit late; 9:30 instead of 9:00. After the organizational part, we were assigned Chevrusim to work with for the week. We work with them for about 90 minutes and then have the concluding shiur and conclude about 1:00. We have about 1/2 hour for lunch before starting our afternoon tiyulim and seminars.
Sunday, we had a guided tour of the Old City and the City of David. With the new technology, it is amazing what we saw. When in the City of David we were able to see how the city was 3,000 years ago including the city water system. After concluding that we went to the Village Green Restaurant were we had a speaker on the State of Israel, followed by dinner on the patio.
Monday, we went to Mea Shearim and had lunch at Uri's Pizzaria. Uri is the presidident of ZKA, an organization for first responding after terrorist attacks. Following that we had a meeting with the world famous Kabbalist Rav Yacov Hillel. We had the opportunity to ask him quite a few questions and were gracious that he took the time to speak to us. We then had a tour of Mea Shearim and the Mir Yeshiva, then went to some shops to buy religious articles as well see how Tafilin is made. After that we had a late dinner and called it a night.
Tuesday, we left just after class and had lunch iin the van on our way to Masada, Dead Sea, and En Gedi. It has been many years for me since I was in Israel, and I was ammazed at the changes there. We enjoyed our guided tour of Masada, went swimming in the Dead Sea, then went to En Gedi for a BBQ cooked by our tour guides as well as others that joined us on the trip! We had great dinner including fresh baked Pita, chicken, hamburgers, and hot dogs. We can forget our dancing accompanied by guitar and drums. We cleaned up and got home about midnight.
Yesterday, we had a tour of Chevron by the Chevron Director of Ministry which included the first housing dropped in the city forJewish pioneers to settle, the first Jewish Graveyard, the synagogue, and finally, Avraham Avenu's grave, as well as Yacov and Sara. We had Mincha services there and were able to have some individual quiet time for ourselves. I will say that this was a very emotional experience for me as well as others in the group. We came back to Jerusalem for dinner and went to Rabbi Moscoviitz's rabbi, Rabbi Yitzchok Berkowitz. Although I was unable to attend because of a personal commitment, the group was able to spend quite a bit of time with the Rabbi. Normally, he normally books 3 and 5 minute appointments. We had 45 minutes with him. I believe that say's kudos about our Rabbi!
Today, being a fast day, we thought that the schedule would be light, we thought. After learning in the morning, we went for a personal guided tour at Yad Vashem with a Holocaust survivor. The tour was 3 hours and we all gained a lot of personal insighs of experiences that our guide gave us.We got back in time for Mincha, had dinner at the apartment and called it a night except for me to give you the updates.
Tomorrow we ar planning to go to the Kotel at 4:45 for sunrise davening since we have been so busy earlijer in the week We realize that if we don't do it tomorrow, we will be out of time since Shabbat is coming and then we are back to Houston!
On that note, I am about to wrap up my update. It is now 11:15 and I need to get some sleep,
On behalf of Rabbi Moscovitz, Rabbi Jacknin, and the rest of the group, we wish you a good shabbos and look for seeing you on our return.