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Girls Israel Volunteer Experience
Good Shabbos #4 from NCSY GIVE!

Dear NCSY GIVE Parents,

WHAT. A. WEEK!

After a fabulous shabbos in the beautiful Kibbutz Lavi, we began what would be both a super fun and incredibly meaningful week.

Sunday morning began with the chessed of visiting nursing homes and hospitals. The group split into 4 groups and spread the NCSY GIVE love to as many patients and elderly as possible. After some serious singing, dancing and wonderful conversations with our new friends, we came back together as a group for lunch, Ice Skating!!, and a trip to the mall. It was a great day!

Monday started with a visit to an army base to hand deliver some delicious Ben & Jerry’s ice cream that the OU sponsored and entrusted in our hands to brighten up the days of as many soldiers as we could reach. The girls had the chance to hear from a solider who spoke of his experience being in the army and now being in Miluim (reserves). We even heard from a religious soldier who spoke to us about the challenges and blessings of being observant in the army. Though we could have spent all day there, we had to head out to get our next stop… Neve Kinneret, a home for adults with mental disabilities. Our visit at Neve Kinneret started with a bang as several of the residents performed for us! Singing, dancing, costume changes… we were totally blown away but their talents and energy. After the show, we gathered all of the home-bound residents in wheel chairs and wheeled them to the grassy knoll for a Yom Sport- sport day! There we helped run and assist with activities to give these special people a day of fun and smiles. I’m not sure who enjoyed more- us or them, but it was an incredible afternoon of giving and growing. We loved watching our GIVErs in action and were so impressed by their willingness to step outside of their comfort zones and make the residents feel great.

Monday night was really incredible. Probably one of the most special moments of the summer. After a great night activity and division of Tehillim so that our GIVE family finishes Tehillim for our soldiers, we gathered the girls for a security update and announcements. At the end of the announcements, before dismissing the girls, we broke the news to them that iyH on Wednesday, we would FINALLY be going to Jerusalem! The reaction was unbelievable. Screams, tears, thanks to Hashem, singing, dancing, chanting of “Shavua HaZeh B’yerushalayim!” – this week in Jerusalem! It felt like 1967 all over again, with the most genuine and sincere happiness to finally be reunited with the soul of our nation, Jerusalem. As if given a resurgence of life, the GIVErs began planning their free weekend, calling everyone they know, and continued hugging and crying tears of joy.

Tuesday was a day filled with a lot of time outside, breathing in the holy air of Israel. We started off our day at HaShomer HaChadash, a farm in the Golan that is holding strong to protect and defend it’s land. In efforts to assist, we spent our morning clearing the land around the farms olive trees, so that the farmers can harvest the olives to make oil and sell for profit. They were beyond impressed with our strength and resilience, whacking away at weeds and troublesome roots, and said that we were a huge help. From there we enjoyed a delicious lunch and then headed to Leket, to help harvest peppers for the poor. We filled multiple crates with peppers and are excited to have contributed to feeding the needy in Israel. That night we had a pre-Jerusalem night activity, where we created our own Kotel made of notes that express our excitement to return to Jerusalem, learned about Jerusalem as portrayed in Tehillim and had Jerusalem trivia. It definitely got us in the right mindset for our big day on Wednesday!

Wednesday morning started off differently than the GIVErs had planned. Rather than just hopping on the bus and heading to the Kotel, we made a very important stop along the way. We learned that the family of Oron Shaul a”h, an officer in the Givati Brigade who was killed in Gaza, was sitting shiva just ten minutes from our hotel. Though we did not know Oron personally, we felt as if we did and determined to show his family that they are not alone as they mourn their son. We unloaded two full busses of GIVErs and staff and sat in the tents outside of the Shaul home to be Menachem Avel. The Shaul’s were overcome with emotion and so deeply touched by the visit. Both of Oron’s parents and his uncle addressed the group and expressed how much the visit meant to them at this incredibly trying time. They spoke about Oron and his accomplishments, gave us insight into who he was as a person and a soldier and encouraged us to carry on his name as a legacy. Their words gave us strength and reminded us of why we are here this summer, standing alongside the rest of the Jewish people. With this strength we continued on our way to Jerusalem. Upon arrival, we stopped for lunch at the Tayelet and then blindfolded those GIVErs who had never been to Israel before. I spoke to the girls in the Old City about the importance of tradition and being the next link in the chain before we entered to the Kotel. The GIVErs led those who were blindfolded into the Kotel plaza where we lined them up facing the Kotel. One by one we asked them to remove their blindfolds, and the response was unbelievably emotional. From the tears, smiles and shrieks, it was clear that they felt that they had returned home. We all danced together with an Israeli flag held high in the middle, and then went down to the Kotel to daven and talk to Hashem. We then made our way to the City of David for a tour and walk through the Hizkiyahu water tunnels and then went back on the bus to finally get settled in our dorm in Mevaseret. After a yummy dinner made by Moe, our awesome chef, we gave out room assignments, had an optional Mishmar with Rabbi Felberman and got settled in our newest home. It just felt right.

Thursday was filled with chessed at Habayit Shel Susan, an amazing institution for teenagers from broken homes that teaches them the skills of jewelry making and glass design, and a visit to Peninat Shloshet HaAvot, a nursing home in Jerusalem. We then went digging for artifacts in an Archeological Dig (and even found an ancient coin!) and then visited Maaleh, an Israeli Film School where we watched and discussed to short films related to Israel. Next stop- the OU Center for the free weekend drop off!

After saying goodbye to our GIVErs and making sure that everyone was on their way safely, we stopped, took a breathe and realized all that we had to be thankful for this week.

May Hashem continue to protect Am Yisrael and help those who have lost loved ones find comfort in these trying times. Sending wishes from Jerusalem for a peaceful and safe week ahead and wishing you and yours a Shabbat SHALOM!

Erin and the NCSY GIVE Family

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