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Girls Israel Volunteer Experience
NCSY GIVE: Good Shabbos from Mevaseret!

Dear NCSY GIVE parents,

We’re over one week into the summer and it’s been AWESOME!

After a spiritual shabbos in the holy city of Tzfat, we started to make our way down to the center of the country. On our way, we stopped for a visit at Dekarina chocolate factory, hiked the Madress and dove into our first true Chessed experience of the summer: a visit to an Ethiopian absorption center. The children we worked with were precious and thrilled to have us there!

Upon arrival at Mevaseret, the girls found their dorm rooms, unpacked and finally finally felt settled. Monday and Tuesday were jam packed with chessed opportunities ranging from Shalva and Aleh, working with children with special needs, to Milabev and Yad L’kashish, working with the elderly. It was incredible watching our girls step out of their comfort zones in these new environments. On Monday night, we had a special program with the dance troop of Hallel Ariel a”h, which was moving, meaningful and special for our girls to interact with other teenage girls their age. Together we sang “Am Yisrael Chai!” and created a beautiful banner with the tagline, “Dance for Life”. Tuesday morning we woke up bright and early to greet a planeload of Olim, making aliyah through Nefesh b’Nefesh. We were so emotional and felt so lucky to be able to be a part of their magical, private moment of returning home. We ended Tuesday with our first visit to Kotel, filled with tears, smiles and all one would expect at a homecoming. We told the girls that they are the next link in the chain and their being able to stand at the Kotel is the actualization of what many who lived before us could only dream of. (To read more about these incredible 24 hours, please see the email attached below that I sent our earlier this week entitled: “Dance for Life: a reflection of 24 hours of Achdus”.)

Wednesday was a day of learning as we headed to Hadassah Ein Kerem, one of the main hospitals in Jerusalem, to train under 2 of their top medical clowns. Receiving a red nose and all, we learned to be comfortable in our own skin and how to bring joy to others in need. We then got to practice our skills in the hospital, under the direction of our medical clown instructors. We were also visited by International Director of NCSY, Rabbi Micha Greenland, and his wife, Mrs. Rivkie Greenland, who shared some words of inspiration with our girls and charged them to be empowered to make a difference when they return home. Wednesday night we headed to Tel Aviv for dinner on the beach followed by Na Lagaat, a fantastic play put on by the blind, deaf and mute. What an important reminder that a disability does not disable you from changing the world and achieving your dreams, even if that actualization may look different than you had imagined. We were totally inspired and woke up on Thursday ready for another eye-opening day filled with a visit to Har Hertzl military cemetery and One Family fund, where we participated in a challah baking led by a woman whose family was effected by terrorism. Thursday night, of course, was Yom NCSY, where all of the NCSY summer programs came together for a night of program pride, achdus, delicious food and a wild concert! The highlight of the evening was the Hachanas Sefer Torah, the dedication of a new Torah scroll, given by David and Marilyn Cutler in memory of David’s parents. It was incredibly meaningful.

Today we visited the City of David, walked through the Hizkiyahu water tunnels and then made our way to Machane Yehuda, also known as the Shuk to make some yummy pre-Shabbos purchases.

We’re looking forward to a laid-back and relaxing shabbos on our Mevaseret campus, filled with bonding, new friendships, and lots of catching up on sleep!

Wishing you and yours a beautiful shabbos and an easy and meaningful fast on Sunday! Looking forward to another amazing week ahead!

Erin and the NCSY GIVE Family

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Dance for Life: A Reflection on 24 hours of Achdus

We live in an age where we often take what we have for granted. Life is easy. We have all of the amenities we need, and when the news becomes too much for us to handle, we can just turn it off.

Until tragedy strikes.

Less than 4 weeks ago, thirteen year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel was brutally murdered while sleeping in her bed in her home in Kiryat Arba. The thought is almost inconceivable. How could someone take the life of such a precious, pure soul, in cold blood, in
her own home, as she helplessly slept to get a good night’s rest for the day ahead?

While people all over the world were outraged and heartbroken by the tragedy, Hallel’s family and friends were left behind to pick up the pieces. One of these people was her dance instructor, Sari Rosenbaum. Before beginning to work with Hallel’s dance troop, Sari had worked with NCSY GIVE as a tour guide during the summer of 2014. After losing Hallel a”h, Sari knew that her dance troop needed something to help them process and get their mind off of the atrocity that had hit them. She reached out to GIVE and the planning began. Though having just arrived in Israel 4 days earlier, our NCSY GIVErs were overcome with emotion at the opportunity to do something – anything – to help comfort the friends of Hallel. We arranged to meet at an indoor bounce house in Petach Tikva, where the dance troop had been hoping to visit prior to the tragedy, and where we would offer NCSY GIVE a glimpse into Hallel’s world.

From the moment we arrived, there was an instant chemistry between our groups. Despite the language barrier and age gap, the girls engaged in conversations, laughter and many, many selfies. We jumped together on the trampolines, with the dance troop showing us their flips and acrobatics, and then returned to our meeting point to create a powerful piece of artwork together: a banner in memory of Hallel that read, “Dance for Life”. We posed for a group photo, proudly displaying our collaborative artwork and sang “Am Yisrael Chai!”, for there were no words more appropriate than a declaration that the Jewish people are here to stay. (See video here.) There were hugs and exchanges of numbers as we left that night, and the banner was rolled up and taken to Hallel’s parents as a sign of how, even in her absence, she is still bringing Jews together.

Our GIVErs could not get over how strong these girls were, and the Kiryat Arba dance troop were just so appreciative for an opportunity to celebrate their friend’s life, rather than just mourn her loss.

The following morning we woke up at 5 am and boarded our busses to Ben Gurion airport. Dressed in blue & white, carrying hand-made posters that read “V’shavu vanim l’gvulam”, we prepared to join with hundreds of Jews in welcoming the newest arrival of Olim to Israel on their Nefesh B’nefesh flight. The dancing and singing was all-encompassing, the sense of belonging was palpable, and in that moment, everyone in the terminal felt like an anxious family awaiting the arrival of a loved one, eager to embrace their relative and shout out “welcome home!”. What a tremendous experience to be a part of, especially on the heels of our program the night before. Despite the terror, the hardships and the uncertainties, these olim knew that there was no place in the world they would rather be than in our homeland, Israel. Their choice to make aliyah speaks loudly and clearly: we are not afraid and will never stop fighting for our land and people to be one.

To drive the message home, we ended our day of volunteering with our first visit to the Kotel. Prior to entering the Kotel, we stopped to reflect as a group on the gravity of this Holy site. How many of our great grandparents yearned to be able to walk where we are walking? How many millions of people lost their lives defending their right to be a Jew? How many pure souls have been taken from us so that we can stand here today?

We live in scary times. The world is a complicated place and is only getting worse. The pain, the hate, the disregard for human life is unbearable. And yet, despite it all, we stand at the Kotel and pray. We pray for peace. We pray for the young Ethiopian soldier
to our left and the older chassidic woman on our right. We pray for a time when thirteen year old children do not need to attend their friends’ funerals. We pray for a time when all of the Jewish people have the confidence to uproot their comfortable lives and return home. We pray for the safety of Israel so that with all of the anti-semitism in the world, the Jewish people always have a place to come home to. We pray for our past. We pray for our future.

It is 3 am.

I cannot sleep because my mind is still racing from the high we have been on for the last 24 hours. From destruction to rebuilding, we have started on an incredibly emotional journey for which there is no turning back. We are the next link in the chain and have
a tremendous responsibility to pass the torch.

Our charge now is clear: we must not only make sure we dance, we must make sure we dance for life.


Erin Stiebel
NCSY GIVE, Director

stiebele@ncsy.org

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