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Girls Israel Volunteer Experience
Good Shabbos #5 from Yerushalayim!

Dear NCSY GIVE Parents,

It’s hard to believe, but the final shabbos of NCSY GIVE 2014 is actually here. Whoa, time really does fly! It seems like just a short time ago we were gathering at the airport, meeting for the first time, ready to embark on a journey together that would change our lives. And boy did it ever! This summer has definitely been different than anyone expected, but perhaps it is these differences that have made this summer into the incredible experience that it’s been.
Our week began with a mini reunion as we all regrouped from a much needed free weekend. We headed to the Time Elevator and from there to Beit Shemesh to volunteer in the moadoniot there, playing and learning with Ethiopian children. We then came back to Mevaseret and had the pleasure of hearing from Rabbi Menacham Nissel, a world-renowned speaker (with an awesome accent!), on the topic of Moshiach. That evening, we held a very powerful program about gratitude, learning to appreciate those who made this summer possible for us, those who protect us, and all of the blessings that Hashem has imbued us with. We concluded the program with snack and candy making for the soldiers, which we would be personally delivering on Monday!
Monday started with a visit to Retorno, a rehab center in Beit Shemesh, and from there we headed to a very special place called Pinah Chamah, which literally translates to “a warm corner”. Pinah Chamah serves as a pitstop for soldiers on their way to and from the base, and offers FREE food, drink, coffee, baked goods and a place to relax and meet friends. We came to hand-deliver our homemade treats for the soldiers and to learn more about the place. I’m not sure who was happier- the soldiers or our GIVErs! We were also visited by Rabbi Micah Greenland, the International Director of NCSY, who shared divrei chizzuk and commended the girls on a tremendous job giving back this summer irrelevant of everything standing in their way. From there we went to daven mincha at Kever Rachel, which was obviously a very special and holy experience for all of us, especially Erev Tisha Ba’av. How much moreso we appreciate these holy cites after being so far from them for so long.
Monday night into Tuesday marked Tisha Ba’av, the day we mourn the destruction of both of the Batei Mikdash, the first and second Temples. We gathered together, sitting on the floor of our cafeteria to have the Seudat HaMafseket, the final meal, eaten in solitude before the fast, and then made our way upstairs to sit on the floor once more for the reading of Megillas Eicha and for kinnos. We then ran a program called The Last Jew, which paints the picture of a futuristic Jew who, do to assimilation, is the last living Jew. We then heard from a speaker named Nicole Grubner, who told her story of how through discovering NCSY she grew to be religious and brought her family closer to Judaism too. Hearing from her gave us a lot of nachas, as she is a former GIVE advisor. From there we had a silent project where we asked the girls to express themselves through arts and crafts. The results were very powerful. We ended the night with a kumsitz interspersed with bios of the soldiers that we lost in the last few weeks, including the bio of Oron Shaul, the soldier to whose family we paid a shiva call just last week. The singing went into the night. The next morning we held explanatory kinnos after davening, with the advisors each introducing a different kinnah through anecdotes or personal stories. This really brought meaning and depth to the kinnos for us. After much needed rest time, which also included an optional shuir and movie, we made our way to the Kotel to daven mincha at the last standing remnant of our holy Temple. We then broke our fast at the delicious- and fancy!- Beit Ticho and with full tummies, went home to Mevaseret.
Wednesday was full of chessed and meaning. We started off the day with one group at Habayit Shel Susan, a workshop for teenagers from troubled homes, another group visiting Yad Ezra, where we packaged food for the needy and a small contingent of girls going to Zichron Menachem to help create a Bat Mitzvah for a little girl suffering from cancer whose Bat Mitzvah was cancelled. From there we all had the privilege to visit Yad VaShem, Israel’s Holocaust museum. The girls felt so overcome with emotion towards this period of Jewish history and so very proud to be able to have the state of Israel to protect our people today. We then returned to Mevaseret for an Ask the Rabbi session with Rabbi David Katz from MMY, and then surprised the girls with a…. SHLOCK ROCK CONCERT!! All decked out in costume and psyched for a much needed chagigah, we had a blast singing the Shlock Rock classics with Lenny Solomon, founder of Shlock Rock, and dancing our hearts out at the chagigah. Lenny even taught us his newest song which hasn’t even been released yet! Only on NCSY GIVE, ladies and gentlemen 🙂
Thursday was a very exciting day, as it marked Elective Day! When Elective Week was unfortunately cancelled due to our change in itinerary, we decided to reschedule the concept by dedicating one day towards elective- and what a day it was! The hiking elective enjoyed a wonderful water hike in Ein Gedi, followed by a visit to the Dead Sea. The chessed elective packaged food for shabbos for families of terror victims, visited a nursing home and hosted a carnival for children with cancer at Zichron Menachem. The learning elective spent the day in the Beis, learning with incredible educators from some of the popular seminaries in Israel. Everyone had an awesome day and were even more excited when they learned that they would have free time at the mall for dinner followed by an insane and wild night activity of Fear Factor. We then had optional Mishmar with Rabbi Felberman, our last one for the summer, and headed back to our rooms to pack up for our big move to Yerushalayim, where we will be remaining for the rest of the trip.
Today one bus visited Aleh, an organization for children and adults with severe mental disability, where we sang and danced with the residents, and the other bus visited a nursing home, to bring in the Shabbos spirit. We then all made our way to Machane Yehuda, aka “The Shuk”, to purchase some goodies for shabbos and be a part of the general populations excitement of pre-shabbos preparation. We’re now settled at our final home for this summer, Beit Gesher in Jerusalem. We are a short 10 minute walk from the Kotel, close to the heart of our people. It doesn’t get much better than this. (Unless of course we were staying next door at the David Citadel Hotel… a girl can dream, can’t she?!) In about an hour we’ll be walking to the Kotel, where we will join with Jews from all over the world to welcome in the shabbos through song and spirit, together as the NCSY GIVE 2014 family. It is sure to be a special shabbos for all of us- and our guests, which include David and Marilyn Cutler and our Assistant Director Miriam Borenstein’s parents.
We are thankful for the quiet week we’ve had and are hopeful that the calm will be restored in Israel once more. We continue to daven for the safety of our brothers and sisters defending us and look forward to our last few days standing in-person, alongside our nation, during these difficult times.
With hopes for a peaceful, safe and meaningful week ahead, and wishing you and yours a shabbat SHALOM!
Erin and the NCSY GIVE Family

 

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