BBYO Passport: A BBYO Travel Experience

BBYO Passport: A BBYO Travel Experience

ILSI - Shabbat Shalom from Israel

Posted on 07/04/2014 @ 04:28 PM

Although we came together as a united group for the first time on Wednesday, we've already formed a close knit community on this journey together. Two nights ago over 130 teens were united and introduced to their peers, followed by an introduction and orientation led by our enthusiastic staff members.

Yesterday morning, we ventured into Jerusalem's old city, where teens got a panoramic view of our homeland. Then, teens got the opportunity to explore the Jewish quarter and taste delicious Israeli food such as falafel and shawarma. This was followed by a tour of Hurva Synagogue where teens viewed ruins from ancient temples dating back to the Byzantine Empire. The outing in Jerusalem was concluded with a trip to the Kotel, where teens learned about the history and significance behind the Western Wall. Teens were then able to visit the wall, where many of them experienced profound spiritual moments. The day concluded with discussions in our Michpachot, family groups created for teens to reflect on their days and explore their ideals. Overall, today was a fantastic start to an incredible journey.

We started our day today with leadership programs, herding sheep and tree planting ceremony, while simultaneously teaching teens the importance of planting trees in Israel. Before returning to our hotel, we had a very special moment. Gilad, Eyal and Naftali, three boys who were taken from us too soon. As we approach our first Shabbat in Jerusalem all 150 ILSI participants and staff members from ILSI just went to the graves of these three boys to pay our respect on behalf of all BBYO'ers and Jewish teens around the world. We can do nothing but offer our prayers and comfort to their families and friends and pledge to continue the memories of Gilad, Eyal and Naftali. We can and we will stand with Israel not just today but everyday, as one united people.

We are now going into our first Shabbat together as a new family and ready for many days ahead. Here is what teens have to say about ILSI so far:

"Although I have been to Israel once before, this experience is particularly special already because I have a very deep connection to all of the teens on the trip, and I feel that connection with the other individuals I'm with makes my connection to the land that much stronger." -Jacob Herstein, Northern Texas Oklahoma Region

"My favorite experience thus far on ILSI has been visiting the Western Wall. Although I have been to Israel twice before, this time I truly felt an internal connection because I have a better understanding of my Jewish identity." -Nathan Rosen, Cotton States Region

"On this experience, I hope to find my own personal connection to Israel because as a Jewish teen in my community, I grew up learning about Israel's history and hearing about other people's connections to Israel, an I cannot wait to find my own." -Faith Suckerman, Mid America Region

"As Jewish people, we have been united throughout the past few weeks in the hopes of bringing back our boys, Gilad, Eyal, and Naftali to safety in their homeland. Upon receiving news that their bodies were found, we were again united as a people; this time with heavy hearts instead of hopeful spirits. Being on ILSI amidst all of this have taught me that being a part of the Jewish people is something special. The hard times only bring us closer together, and remind us that we are never alone. Today, we paid our respects and visited the cemetery where the three boys were buried. I was moved as the entire ILSI community recited the mourner's kaddish and stood together in solidarity for the three boys who lost their lives before any human being should. The visit was hard for all of us, but being together gave us the strength to pay our respects to Gilad, Eyal, and Naftali and keep them in our hearts for the rest of this journey." - Amanda Freedman, Lake Ontario Region

"On this experience, I hope to find my own personal connection to Israel because as a Jewish teen in my community, I grew up learning about Israel's history and hearing about other people's connections to Israel, an I cannot wait to find my own." -Faith Suckerman, Mid America Region

"Shabbat shalom from Israel! Today was quite an eventful day. We woke up at what seemed to be the crack of dawn, and then headed to a leadership program in the hills of Jerusalem. We spent time bonding through team building activities. The highlight was definitely when we, as a team, had to herd goats and sheep just like Jacob did in the biblical times. After, we planted trees like our ancestors had long ago. Now, we are on our way to the cemetery to pay our respects to the three teens. Then we have down time to prep for Shabbat! ILSI is an amazing experience filled with so many new friendships, and I can't wait for what tomorrow brings us! Hope you have a relaxing Shabbat."

Shabbat Shalom!

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