Baruch Kraus is the Principal of the NFTY-EIE High School in Israel. In these weekly postings, he gives a description and rundown of what the group is doing day to day, which he hopes sheds some light on what the EIE experience is like.
After a long ten days on tiyulim and Gadna, our students were tired, yet vibrant and energized, as they returned to Tzuba.
The day before going to Gadna was spent riding camels, having a Bedouin-style meal, and sleeping in large tents. Gadna was a very positive experience and even those who said that they would never want to repeat such an experience said it was worthwhile.
Gadna, short for Gdudei No’ar, was created before the Israeli Declaration of independence. Trainees originally served as combatants for all intents and purposes, actively participating in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Gadna has not been mobilized for military tasks since the War of Independence in 1948. Our students were issued uniforms upon arrival, which consisted of a fatigue or B uniform, pants, a shirt, a military belt, canteen, canteen holder, and a hat that must be worn at all times. We did not receive military shoes. The goal of Gadna is to introduce Israeli youth to the common Israeli experience of army life and familiarize them with Israel’s special security situation. Today, Gadna also participates in the socialization of recent immigrants and the rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents to qualify them for military service.
Our students crawled, and learned field craft, individual soldier maneuvers, and exercises. They had lessons about the place of the IDF in Israel society, the ethical and moral obligations of soldiers, military history, and M-16 training. This knowledge culminated in shooting at the range on late Wednesday afternoon. All of this was done under the supervision and leadership of their commanders and under army discipline, or more correctly, modified army discipline.
Following completion of the Gadna program, the group traveled to Eilat. There was free time to rest and shower, and following dinner at the hostel, the group had free time at the mall and adjacent waterfront boardwalk, where they caught up on lost shopping time and enjoyed Eilat’s status as a VAT-free city (translation: no taxes)! After an early night, the kids woke up before dawn on Friday morning to climb Mt. Tzfachot, with its magnificent views of the Gulf of Eilat and the surrounding countries. It was a fairly strenuous climb, but all agreed that it was well worth it for the view from the top. Following the descent, we had a lecture about the coral reef and then went for guided snorkeling at the Coral Beach Nature Reserve and for some time to relax on the beach.
Mid-afternoon, we returned to the hostel to rest and prepare for Shabbat. Despite being allowed to sleep until 11am, the vast majority of the students made it to breakfast before going to Shabbat morning services. After lunch, we departed for Kibbutz Lotan, a Reform Kibbutz in the Jordan Valley, about 45 minutes from Eilat. Lotan is a pioneer in the field of eco-living, and the students were amazed by the various projects being carried out there by the members and volunteers. Then it was time to head back to Tzuba, to move into new rooms, and to get ready for classes, which resumed yesterday.
This week we continue to study the developments and challenges leading to Rabbinic Judaism. Tuesday is our Bar Kochva Tiyul dealing with the further destruction of the Jewish Community of Judah in the Second Century CE, leading up to the realignment of Jewish leadership under crisis and how we made lemonade out of lemons. Wednesday we have a tiyul to Ein Karem, the village of John the Baptist according to Christian tradition. We will learn about Christianity and the challenges to Judaism. Then we have a long Purim, which starts on Wednesday evening and goes on in Israel until Shabbat. This is due to the fact that the holiday is held on the same day worldwide except for cities that had a wall around them during the time of Joshua Ben Nun (Leader of Israel after Moses). This includes Jerusalem and Acre in the north, but in Israel all schools are closed for both days and the kids celebrate.
We will have a Meggilah reading and party at Tzuba Wednesday evening. Thursday we will be in Tel Aviv for parades and celebrating in costumes. Friday morning we will join Women of the Wall for a Meggilah reading at the Western Wall — more on this next week.
Wishing all a Shavuah Tov and Chag Purim Sameach,