Day 8 – Shabbat in Jerusalem

Today was a day to remember…or never forget. The day started off with another breakfast at the Jerusalem Tower Hotel, and the only thing missing was halva. Conversations over breakfast primarily revolved around recapping the night before. Thursday night in Jerusalem is the equivalent of a Friday night in Philadelphia. It was the last night of the Jerusalem Light Festival. Machane Yehuda market transforms after 9pm into a large outdoor bar and the crowd favorite is Goldstar beer.
After a 20 minute bus ride we arrived at Yad Vashem. The name Yad Vashem is meant to represent the physical and spiritual monument or memory of every Jew who lived or perished during the Holocaust. The literal translation comes from Isaiah 56:5 and means hand and name.

Before our trustworthy guide, Yoav, left us in the hands of a museum tour guide the following thought was presented: it is our responsibility to teach future generations about the Holocaust especially when there are no survivors left. We do not want history to repeat itself.  

We were first introduced to the museum through a discussion of the architectural significance. The museum was built in the shape of a concrete triangle. The apex of the triangle, at the roof, is entirely glass and allows the only natural light there is in the museum. The glass and natural light reminds us that the Holocaust occurred in broad daylight. From within the museum the triangular shape gave the sensation of the walls closing in on us. The architects intentionally wanted visitors to feel a discomfort with the heavy concrete falling inwards. Additionally, visitors must zigzag through the entire history of the Holocaust; therefore, visitors cannot overlook any aspect of the tragedy of the Shoah.  

One of the most touching aspects of the museum and the story of the Holocaust, which the museum did a great job of highlighting, is that once the war was over, one would expect Jews to be celebratory and excited…but they had no place to go and many of their family members perished. As our tour guide put it, “they were liberated but not free.”

Yad Vashem is an extremely important place to see for yourself.

We apologize for the lack of photos from the hours we spent at Yad Vashem -photos are not allowed inside the museum.  

After our tour of the museum we had the privilege of meeting with a Holocaust survivor, Giselle Cycowicz. Her story began in her small town in Eastern Europe with her Zionist father who owned two businesses. Her and her family were interned in Auschwitz-Birkenau during the last year of the war. She told us stories about baking matzah prior to being taken to the camp paralleling the Exodus story, selection, the one dress she was given, advice her father had given her about always volunteering for any work offered, and a few episodes of kindness experienced at the hands of SS officers. She also told us about how her older mother survived against all odds (despite her escape attempt and success) and how she miraculously found her mother and her at home after the war. Eventually her family immigrated to the US and it wasn’t until her children made Aliyah that she was able to fulfill her father’s dream of returning to the Holy Land. Today she happily lives in Israel with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.


After a near-revolt against Yoav, it was decided we didn’t have enough time for Mount Hertzel so we returned to the Old City for lunch, rugelach at Marzipan, the world’s cheapest wine, shopping, and experiencing the Machane Yehuda market before Shabbat.

Overlooking the Western Wall, we lit Shabbat candles in front of a golden Menorah that replicates the original from the First Temple. Yoav took us back in time to explain the historical significance of the Western Wall. From there we went through security to experience the Wall itself. On the women’s side there was singing and dancing in a large circle that encompassed more than 100 women, including Israeli soldiers and tourists. The men’s side looked similar. The closer one got to the Wall, the more quiet and reflective the atmosphere became.

Our next stop was Shabbat dinner at Natan and Michelle Cohen’s home. They have hosted over 25,000 people for Shabbat over the past 5 years. There was not only delicious food, but also story telling and singing. We toasted 40 l’chiams, sang “Simin tov and mazel tov” 20 times, and polished off 20 bottles of wine. The Cohens were radiant and gracious hosts and exemplified what it means to open up one’s home. The dinner ended around midnight and we still have “Yoselei” ringing in our ears.

Speaking of catchy songs, when reflecting on the past 10 days we are reminded of Dayenu.  

If The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Israel 360 had just given us this opportunity and subsidized our flight, that would have been enough.

If we were given a flight and hotel/kibbutz lodging, it would have been enough.  

If we were given a flight, hotel/kibbutz lodging, and food it would have been enough.

If we were given a flight, hotel/kibbutz lodging, food, and amazing guides and speakers it would have been enough.

While we are so grateful for all of these tangible gifts, we are most grateful for the priceless experience of new friends, inviting community back home, and gaining a new perspective on Israel that we are able to share with our significant others.

To make a long story short, it was an amazing experience, was it not?

Rebecca and Jonathan Reiter & Rachelle and Megan Schneider

Day 7 – Old City and New City

Blog: Jerusalem 

“Jerusalem is alive!” declared our culinary guide Karen at the end of our first full day in Jerusalem – and after spending 24 hours in this amazing place, we think she’s pretty spot on. From the centuries of history that sweats through this city’s pores to the vibrant energy radiating from its signature markets and nightlife, Jerusalem has a beating heart that pulses to this day.

While the first few days of the trip focused on Israel’s struggle for independence and survival, the most recent days shifted to the (literally) layer upon layer of history embedded in this land. The theme obviously continued in Jerusalem, the holy city where three religions have planted their deepest roots. To paraphrase our guide, history comes alive in Jerusalem.

Thursday morning’s tour of the Old City in Jerusalem (just slightly older than Philly’s Old City) featured a cross section of multiple eras and empires. We saw:

• The City of David, an archaeological site that has been in various states of excavation since 1867. This ancient Jerusalem sites dates back 4,800 years ago, even way before the time of King David. Our group waded through the ankle-deep water (and sometimes higher) that streamed through King Hezekiah’s tunnel – a narrow, lengthy path carved out in two years to protect the city’s water from the invading Assyrians. Some found it fun, some found it cramped, all agreed that getting water from the faucet is much more convenient.



• The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the original site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. One would thing such a hallowed spot for Christianity would feature a corneal assault of mosaics and frescos, but in fact the church was quite plain in many areas, including its entrance, which hasn’t changed a bit since its construction nearly two millennia ago. Our masterful guide Yoav not only explained the significance of the Church but also placed it within a Jewish framework, such as how Jesus’ death mere hours before Shabbat influenced the events of that well-told narrative.


• The Cardo, the main commerce thoroughfare of the Roman-Byzantine empire, and parts of the Jewish Quarter where we ate lunch and our Scoop Deville King and Queen, Spencer and Julia, naturally had ice cream. The quarter was bubbling with visitors and the sounds of drums and trumpets from the multitude of Bar Mitzvah processions.


If that’s all we did in Jerusalem, it would have already been a full day. But we saw much more.

Our group also visited Orr Shalom, a non-profit organization that places at-risk youth in foster families and group homes. The organization features an innovative model: family group homes where a young family lives with several boys or girls to offer them an exemplary role model of family life. We visited Reut, Orr Shalom’s home and school for two dozen severely traumatized boys (between the ages of 9 and 13) who continue to make strides in education and social interaction. Orr Shalom is committed to these kids: their staff-to-child ratio is 3:1. That is, three staff members for one kid – a number that surprised and impressed us all. In our hour at Reut, we made Challah with the children, watched an engaging drum circle, talked with them and even played an impromptu game of pickup soccer. The message was clear: these children are being helped thanks to the efforts of Orr Shalom and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.


We also took a culinary tour of Mehane Yehuda, Jerusalem’s famed marketplace. As we moved from place to place trying unique things like za’atar bread, Persian spices and halva, our guides emphasized that “Israeli food” is sort of a misnomer. Just like the U.S., it’s a melting pot of culinary influences: kebab from Romania, for example, or pita from Iraq. The food was wonderful, and favorites included the burekas (flaky potato filled puff pastries), Etrog juices and lotions, and of course more ice cream. At night, the market lights up with bars and late-night dining spots – a street scene that not only gathers the youth of Jerusalem, but also visitors from all over the world.


On our trip, Spencer had shawarma from the exact place he first had it nine years ago. Not only will it quell his many restless nights dreaming of that delicious delight, but it has a deeper representation too. Spencer has come full circle back to Israel, much as the Jews have returned to this holy city and promised land. Jerusalem is so rich in history, and yet it continues to build a dynamic and exciting future. So too have all of us on Israel360 – tapping into our Jewish roots and prepared to shape the next generation of Judaism in Philadelphia and the world.

Barrie and C.J. Mittica & Julia and Spencer Philips

 

Day 6 – Masada, Dead Sea and Desert

Started the day with an early breakfast at the kibbutz. Boarded the bus for a 2 hour drive through the desert (with several pee breaks) on the way to Masada. Hiked the Roman Road up to the top plateau where it was a breezy 97° in the shade. Our tour guide Yoav walked us through the ruins and told the epic story of King Herod’s rise and the Jewish rebellion hold outs at Masada. To make a long story short, the Masada citadel is one of the most tragic and inspiring stories in the Jewish tradition.

Took the cable car down to the bus with views of the Snake trail climbing back up to Masada. Short ride south to the Hotel Hod for a great lunch, then time to soak in the Dead Sea along with some mud facials and burning eyes for those of us that didn’t listen to the rules from Caitlin. Quick shower in the converted bomb shelter and a cold beer from the snack bar before a well needed nap on the bus.


We woke to a view of the hills of the West Bank. We arrived at the Genesis Land at Eretz Beershit with a pack of camels ready to take us for a ride back in time 3000 years. After making some new dromedary friends, we were treated to to a Bedouin dinner from Abraham himself! Unfortunately Sarah was away and couldn’t join us.  

After dinner and picking up our camel rider licenses we made our way to the holiest city in the world, Jerusalem. We were treated to a gorgeous sunset view of the city from Mt. Scopus and a beautiful shechehiyanu prayer and toast. After arriving at the hotel, a few intrepid souls ventured out to see the light show happening on and in the walls of the old city. Welcome to Jerusalem!!

Megan Magnapera and Eric Kassoway & Cary Markowitz and Brian Turcich

Day 5- Partnersip Day in Netivot/Sedot-Negev

Partner City Day (on the bus).Into the Desert

Our day began immediately following a fortifying breakfast with a drive along the picturesque peaks of the Golan. As we drove south, the landscape transitioned from flat stretches to the rolling hills of the Galilee (and a 30 *cough* 45 minute “rest” stop), and, finally, desert. It is truly amazing how the Jews have converted a desolate and sandy land into a blooming oasis. During our ride, we passed the Tel Megiddo (“Armageddon”), which consists of 24 layers dating back to 800 b.c.e., and is also mentioned in the New Testament as the location of the “war of all wars”. Interestingly enough, this is where the Ottomans would be destroyed by the United Kingdom during World War I – otherwise known as The Great War.

Travelling past the West Bank, our first destination was Yavneh, where we linked up with Latet (“to give”), Israel’s largest humanitarian aid organization. The organization was established in 1996 to reduce poverty, to provide assistance to needy populations, mobilize Israeli civil society toward mutual responsibility, and advocate change in government priorities. Latet is staffed by approximately 16,000 volunteers with a goal of alleviating poverty and human suffering. They strive to help the approximately 30% of Israelis living below the poverty line and are successful in reaching 60,000 families in 105 communities within Israel.


After a brief information session, the Israel 360 group was put to work. Our task was to sort through items donated by individuals, local markets and food industry conglomerates. Once the food was sorted, it would be delivered to the people in need – both Jewish and non-Jewish – who live in poverty. We partnered with the elite Mamran unit of the IDF (computer science unit i.e., geniuses). The enthusiasm was palpable – Americans and Israelis working together sorting and getting dirty; knee deep in packaged food, olive oil everywhere – simply trying to make the world a better place (tikkun olam).  

From Yavneh we traveled further into the desert to Moshav Shuva for a vegan, Indian-style lunch. Moshav Shuva is an “intentional community.” This was a new term for many in the group and thanks to Miriam and Cobe (“Ya’akov on Shabbat”), we learned that intentional communities are groups of modern pioneer Jews. Rather than settling new land, however, they are returning to moshavim across Israel to revitalize the communities, bringing with them a commitment to education, ecology, social justice, and individualized practices of Judaism. Though our visit to Shuva was brief, it was clear that this intentional community has succeeded in revitalizing the Moshav. Cobe’s parting words to the group, “be the thing/condition you want in life” were food for thought on our short drive to Kibbutz Alumim.


Kibbutz Alumim is a religious kibbutz established in 1966 in the western Negev desert a mere 2.5 km (1.5 miles) from Gaza City. The area was initially settled prior to 1948 as Kibbutz Yitzhok. During the Independence War, the kibbutz was attacked by Egyptian forces, suffering staggering losses, but ultimately repelling the Egyptians. Despite their miraculous victory, the surviving Kibbutznik’s decided to relocate the Kibbutz to central Israel. In the 60’s, the religious kibbutz movement, believing it was important to maintain Jewish footholds in the Negev, established Alumim on the site of the former Kibbutz Yizhok.


While at Alumim, we met with Eric and his wife, members of the Kibbutz for over 40 years and also modern pioneers. They described what brought them to the kibbutz: a belief that community is missing in the modern, western world and a sense of meaning in doing for others—in this case, maintaining a Jewish foothold in the Western Negev. They feel strongly about the history of their land and their desire to ensure that the defenders of Kibbutz Yitzhok did not die for nothing: “sacrifice is the nature of our lives.”The couple shared their experience during the 2014 war in Gaza with the group. While several area kibbutzim chose to temporarily close until the conflict subsided, Alumim remained occupied, and tried to maintain a degree of normalcy for its residents. When asked how they could possibly feel secure enough to stay despite a war raging a mere mile and a half away, Eric shared that in the last decade, virtually every building on the kibbutz has been fortified and secure rooms had been built into all homes. The kibbutz also served as a staging area for the IDF. Rather than growing crops, their fields were occupied by howitzers, mortars, tanks, infantrymen and the infamous Iron Dome.


Iron Dome is Israel’s technological response to Hamas’ near constant firing of rockets into Israel. Hamas recognized that these attacks would not have a material impact militarily, but rather, their goal was to sow fear while crippling the Israeli economy at a fairly low cost. The typical rocket costs less than $1,000 to manufacture. Iron Dome detects that a rocket has been fired, and in a matter of seconds determines the area where the rocket may land. This determination serves two important functions. If the system determines that the rocket is headed to a populated area, a missile is fired to intercept the rocket. If, however, the system determines that the rocket will land in an empty field or the sea, no missile is fired. This provides enormous cost savings as each missile costs approximately $250,000. In addition, as a result of the location calculation, the IDF has been able to greatly reduce the area where residents must be alerted of a possible hit allowing the residents to lead as normal a life as one can lead in this area. While in the past, rocket attacks would have resulted in widespread alerts, now, only a small area is impacted. Not surprisingly, Iron Dome has proven so successful that deals are in progress to export the technology.

We dutifully re-boarded the bus and pushed even further southward to the Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s partnership region, Netivot. The community of Netivot is unique in that it is comprised of Ethiopians, Morroccans, Libyans, and Tunisians. Our visit began at the Kaiserman Community Center where we participated in a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony while being treated to a performance of the “shoulder dance.” Fully caffeinated, we ventured outside for trust exercises with participants of Nirim, an outdoor adventure therapy group for at-risk youth. With Federation’s assistance, Nirim has expanded to communities across Israel, setting up at-risk youth for success in their communities.



We left the lush grounds of the community center and boarded the bus once again for a driving tour of Netivot. Our tour began at a synagogue, modeled after the Djerba Synagogue in Tunisia. The synagogue featured a unique setup with the bimah located in the center of the room and over 30 Torahs in ark-like cabinets. Our second stop was Netivot’s liberty bell, a gift from Philadelphia. Unlike the American bell, the Israeli liberty bell is not cracked. We continued our tour through the new part of town, which showed signs of rapid gentrification, including plenty of new condos, a bike path, and a new train station. Our tour ended with a divine diary dinner and a rousing game of Israel trivia with local youth. A big congratulations to Michael and Sherri Besmer for their stunning victory in Israel trivia.

Our day ended at Moshav Sade, another desert community working to make the desert bloom. Whether it was exhaustion or knowing that we were only a few miles from an Iron Dome battery, we slept soundly in anticipation of our journey to Masada.

It was a long day with experiences that evoked many feelings. We often found ourselves thinking back to the MAKOM discussion, asking ourselves where we fell today within the triangle of covenantal, communitarian, and cosmopolitan beliefs and where, after a day of helping those in need, where we stand. As the trip progresses, we can’t help but ask ourselves what would I do if faced with some of these situations. But that is the plight of the Jews, making the possible out of the seemingly impossible.

 Jennie and Billy Katz & Hillary Ladov and Marc Gutstein

 

Day 4 – Living in the North

Last night we stayed at Sha’ar Hagolan Kibbutz. When we woke up, we all enjoyed a nice breakfast together in the dining hall. After breakfast, we headed off to Mt. Bental for our first stop of the day.
On Mt. Bental, we learned about Israel’s border with Syria and how the current political climate in Syria is affecting the border and how it may impact Israel in the future. Yoav pointed out where different terrorist bases were located as well as the mountain where the Druze people live. We were able to explore the base and some of us were brave enough to go into the military bunkers learning quickly just how dark it is down there. Most of us just whipped out our smartphones to act as our flashlights. Boy how times have changed. The guys also discovered that the newest fashion trend in Israel is short shorts with tzitzit hanging down while carrying a machine gun. After hearing some gun fire in the distance coming from somewhere in Syria we bought some fresh fruit and left for our next adventure.


 We left Mt. Bental to take a short drive down the mountain to go drive dune buggies for the afternoon. After handing over all our driver licenses, we board 2-persson and 4-person buggies and set off for the Syrian border. The 4-person buggies stopped halfway through to switch drivers and the we arrived at an abandoned and bombed out Syrian headquarters. The IDF was practicing in the building with paintballs, so we headed up to the roof to stay out of their way. On the roof we learned about Eli Cohen, The Israeli/Syrian spy. We also got a great group shot on top of the roof.


After switching drivers in some of the buggies, we headed back towards the bus to dust off, clean up, and have a picnic lunch. We had a delicious catered lunch from a local Druze company. After lunch, he spoke to us about what Druze life is like and what some of their beliefs are. We learned that when Druze get married and move away from their family with their new spouse, but I don’t think they can simply dial 1-800-Druidia like in “Spaceballs”. Once they leave their family they may never return or ever see their family again. Can you imagine not seeing one of your family members ever again? We also heard a fascinating story from him about his cousin being reincarnated and he met the 4-year old boy who his cousin was reincarnated as. After a quick bathroom break, we hopped back onto the bus to head out for rafting.


Later that afternoon, our bright orange bus traversed down from the Golan Heights and deposited us at the Jordan River, a 156 mile-long river which flows into the Dead Sea. Just seconds after embarking down the Jordan River on inflatable rafts, we learned that there’s a second definition of “Israel 360”. Akin to when a skateboarder performs a “360” by spinning around 360 degrees in the air, an “Israel 360” is a boating maneuver where the raft spins around and around in circles, because its oar-wielding operators have no idea how to steer the ship. We can safely say that we are all now experts in performing the “Israel 360”. 

After perfecting our new boat trick, we came up with the genius idea that it would be easier to navigate the waterway if we worked together as a team. Before we knew it, we were rowing in unison, steering around rock formations, and dodging the splashes from the oars of school children on adjacent watercrafts…with the occasional “Israel 360” thrown in for good measure. 

Besides being a great place for a bunch of pale Americans on watercrafts to get a little suntan, the Jordan River serves as the political border between Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan.  The experience was not only a boatload of fun, several boatloads actually, but it also gave us new perspectives on how tenuous and precious our freedom is in this world.

The final activity/destination of day 4 was dinner and wine tasting located at a winery in the Golan called Assaf.


Each year the winery produces 50, 000 bottles of wine, which is considered a medium size winery. 

This family run business has been around for 19 years, and 9 years ago, the government allowed the family to buy the property verses leasing it, which was the goal from the start.

When the group arrived, the staff greeted and welcomed each one of us with open arms, which has been proven to be the Israeli way when it comes to hosting.

We were seated all together at a long table fit for a feast, and a feast we did have.


We even shared with the family dog who couldn’t get enough of our petting and occasional scraps that we couldn’t resist sharing with him throughout the meal.


The room we were in had Stainless steel barrels of wine we were about to taste, which made this unique experience that much more special because we were right in the mix of where the major happens.


The meal started with a Sauvignon Blanc. It was light and delicious, and a perfect compliment to the fresh homemade breads.  

With each dish brought out, came another wine to go along with the flavors in the food.

A delectable rose, a Cabernet reserve, Cabernet franc, and the list went on!

The meal consisted of salad with herbs with homemade dressing, beef carpaccio, seasoned steak, hand cut fresh potatoes (both white and sweet) pickled cabbage, parjit which is a special part/cut of the chicken, and the list went on.

Needless to say, not one of us walked away hungry, especially after we had a beautiful creamy dessert with a granola that will be hard to duplicate in the states.

We were all given the opportunity to purchase the wines we tried, and many of us certainly took them up on this offer!

Whether couples decided to ship them home to enjoy after the trip, or to bring back to the kibbutz to be opened and shared with the 360 crew, most did not walk away empty handed.

It was all around an experience that I will forever remember along this special journey of ours.

Molly and Chris Howard & Jen Kaleck and Josh Horvitz 

Day 3 – Models of leadership

You Don’t Mess with the Zohar!
Started the day getting on the bus at 8:15 am. We drove to the Independence Hall of Israel and Yoav gave a talk about the development of the Jewish state of Israel between the United Kingdom, Kingdom of Jordan, Jewish Palestinians and Arab Palestinians. We went in to Independence Hall and learned a bit more of the process by David Ben Gurion from Zohar (not Zohan). Independence Hall was the first building in Tel-Aviv and the house of Mayor Meir Diezengoff who road a mare. The United Nations vote had the majority in favor of the establishment of a Jewish state of Israel (Siam got drunk and overslept). Since Jerusalem was under siege at the time, the declaration was signed in Tel-Aviv at Mayor Meir’s house on Friday, May 14, 1948 before Shabbat. It only took 32 minutes to establish the state before the declaration got 37 signatures. Two woman signed as well, one being Golda Meir. At the end of the signing, Hatikvah was sung. Although they heard it and sang it many times before, this time it was in the first Jewish state. We stood today and listened and joined in and we were transported back 68 years ago.

                                                                                                                                  




Then we listened to Miri Eisen, a former colonel, talk about Israel’s security with their Arab neighbors and their relationship with Israel. As of today, Egypt is the only Arab country with which Israel has signed a peace treaty.

Vadim from MAKOM (Israel is Real Life and the Jewish Agency for Israel) taught us about “Peoplehood”. We discussed Jewish values and identities. We discussed where we all fall within the triangle of convenantal, communitarian, and cosmopolitan beliefs. Although we all had different interpretations of Jewish values, we are all connected to Judaism.


We experienced Israeli rush hour firsthand on the way up North, but had a fun road trip.

3 hours of traffic. 2 rest stops, 1 cup of ice cream and a piece of gum on Yoav’s bum = PRICELESS.

We finally arrived at Nahalal, the first Moshav in Israel. Ofer met us at Nahalal’s cemetery and spoke about the graves of Elon Ramon, a fighter jet pilot and the first Jewish Astronaut, his son and Moishe Dayan, a general with the IDF and ambassador that negotiated the peace treaty with Egypt. After, we crossed the street to Nahalal proper where Atcilit, Ofer’s wife and her team, had prepared a fantastic feast for us. It was definitely our best meal yet! 


Eli, the bus driver, helped Yoav get the gum off his bum. We have no idea how and we’re not supposed to ask. 

We have arrived at our kibbutz guest house. Lyla Tov!

Jen and Josh Goldman & Melissa and Conrad Hough

#onamission | #jfedisrael360

Day 2 – Shabbat in Tel Aviv

We started our second day on the morning of Shabbat with an epic, traditional breakfast offered by the hotel, filled with pancakes, lasagna, salad, bread, humus, tuna and a myriad of cheeses — you know, standard breakfast food. Once we sufficiently stuffed ourselves, everyone had free time until the first speaker at 11 am. It was much needed, since the day before we basically hit the ground running after arriving at 7 am.

The two of us ventured down Dizengoff, a usually busting main drag which was peacefully quiet early in the morning on Shabbat. We met an Israeli friend and his nephews at Dizengoff Square on their way to see Angry Birds in Hebrew. We saw the city slowly wake up with cafe-goers on our walk back to see the first speaker, Haviv Gur, a political journalist for the Times of Israel.


His thorough talk covered more than 100 years of history centered on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Gur’s engaging style made an incredibly complex situation a little more understandable. He focused on what it’s like for Israelis to constantly live with this situation. His particular narrative effectively argued all of the groups involved are real people with complex concerns. It was an invigorating presentation, despite the spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea directly outside our room (he admitted it was tough competition).

It was a broad overview that started a lot of conversations for the rest of the day as groups headed for the beach or back into Tel Aviv for lunch with friends and more exploring. 


After an afternoon of couples relaxing at the beach and playing Jewish geography from back home, laying out at the hotel pool or biking down the Tel Aviv boardwalk, the 360 crew traveled to the Tel Aviv neighborhood of Florentin, a small town which has been undergoing much gentrification over the years. There, we were greeted by two guides who split us into two groups and provided us with an informative historical tour of the neighborhood and the graffiti art which permeates the streets and buildings. The guides explained the social and political narratives behind each piece of graffiti as it relates to the different perspectives of the artists, demonstrating how each contributes, in some way, to the identity of the neighborhood and the merging of various past, present and future cultures in Israel.  We also learned how the physical placement of graffiti on a building (including placement in so-called “heaven spots”) or location on a narrow or wide and well-traveled street convey different types of messages.




Following a quick break at the hotel for couples to freshen up for the evening, the group met in the hotel lobby to celebrate Havdalah, marking the end of Shabbat through song and prayer. After Havdalah, the group took a leisurely stroll through the streets of Tel Aviv to the Yazu Greek restaurant, where it was treated to a delicious traditional Greek dinner full of wine and laughs. We also celebrated the birthday of our wonderful tour guide, Yoav! 


Knowing that our journey through Israel was only just beginning, the group retired to the hotel to recharge for the excitement yet to come.

Aimee Cohen and Michael Zanan & Erica Goldberg and Alex Irwin