Week four is in full swing on EIE. Lots has been going on here, and lots more is coming up soon!
This past Friday we went to a soup kitchen in Jerusalem for another tzedakah project. Not only was this a soup kitchen to feed underprivileged people, this soup kitchen also had a free dentist, clothing donations, and had vocational training. With our tzedakah this past month, our group has talked a lot about Rabbi Moshe Ben Miamonides’ (RaMBaM) 8 levels of Tzadakah. These eight types of charity one could give are ranked from highest to lowest. The lowest level of charity is giving unwillingly, and the highest level is giving so that the person receiving is then able to sustain his or her own life. The soup kitchen we helped with performs the top level of tzedakah according to RaMBaM because of their vocational training. When my group went, we sorted new clothing by size to be donated. Our work can be categorized under the second highest level of tzedakah: giving and not knowing who is receiving and the person receiving does not know who’s giving. It felt really good to see that we made a difference. Having a chance to live in Israel for such a long time has given me the opportunity to see more than just the tourist sites. I’ve become immersed in the culture and sometimes that includes the not-so-pretty side, too.
Friday evening we had services on the kibbutz lead by fellow EIE participants followed by Shabbat dinner and free time. On Saturday my friend Becca and I left the kibbutz with my moms friend. We drove south to Kibbutz Be’erie. On our way down, we drove near Gaza and Egypt. It was very cool to be so close to those areas, yet feel so safe where I was. We walked through fields of red poppies, a flower that only blooms this time of year. We enjoyed a picnic in the flowers and then drove around the Negev more. We stopped at an ostrich farm and went to Be’er Sheva to visit other friends. We finished the day with a coffee stop and returned to the Kibbutz just in time for havdalah.
Sunday and Monday were normal school days. Because Purim is on Sunday, this whole week we’ve had dress up days. Sunday was crazy hair day, Monday we all wore colors that corresponded with our Jewish history class, Tuesday was animal day, Wednesday was mix-match day and today was Tye-Dye day! In addition to our fun costumes, each person on our trip was assigned someone else on the trip to give small gifts to each day; kind of like a “secret-Santa”. It was really fun to both give and receive this week and I can’t wait for Purim this Sunday!
On Wednesday we went to the Israel Museum. We saw a model of Jerusalem from the time of the second temple, and also got to see the Dead Sea Scrolls. We also got to see a brand new exhibit all about King Herrod.
Today we went on an all day tiyul to the Old City. We went underground to an archeological site to see the remains of a Sedducie (wealthiest Jews of the time) home. After that we walked around for lunch and shopping in the Old City. Following our free time, we went to the Southern wall for more Jewish history class. During our class we learned about how the walls of the city were built. The city itself was built atop Mount Moriah and King Herrod (being obsessed with building and architecture) actually chanced topography in order to build the city where it was. The Kotel or Western Wall where Jews come to pray is not actually apart of the original 2nd temple, it was apart of a retaining wall that was closest to the Holy of Holies; the part of the temple that was so holy that only the high priests were allowed to enter and only on Yom Kippur. During our class we demonstrated the technique used to build a wall of stone bricks weighing 6 tons at least. It’s hard to imagine people in those days building such extravagant structures without any of the building technology we have today.
After a long day of travel and learning in the field we returned to the kibbutz. I enjoyed a nice run and spent time with friends. Tonight we have early lights out because tomorrow we are climbing Masada! We are waking up at 2:15am to leave by 2:45. It’s crazy to think that in 5 hours I will be on a bus going to climb a mountain. We are going early in the morning so that we can watch the sun rise from the top. After we do that we are going to the Dead Sea for an late morning/afternoon at the beach. I can’t wait for the upcoming Shabbat, and I know that Masada and the Dead Sea will be a great start!