Blog  Connecting History With Amazing Trips Around Israel

Connecting History With Amazing Trips Around Israel

Baruch KrausBaruch 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.

Even with the multiple incidents over the past week, despite what you hear on the news, our students feel safe and informed about what is transpiring. I will repeat what I have written before — we watch very closely what is happening and double and triple check before we go anywhere. For example, we do not go anywhere close where any of the incidents have been happening; more so we are not in any city this week. Yesterday, we took a tiyul in the foothills of Judea and on Tuesday we go north to visit two sites that do not take us close to Arab villages or cities.

Since I wrote last, our journey of history of the Jewish People takes us to the destruction of the Temple and the loss of the rebellion against Rome and the hundreds of thousand deaths with many of our brethren being sold into slavery. How do we continue without the leadership of the Cohanim (Priests) and the salvation that the sacrifices brought us? How do we continue with a new monotheistic religion evolving and growing that claims suppression of the old Judaism?

To understand these processes that we went through as a people, we learned about the rise of the Sanhedrin (Supreme Court) and the Rabbis, leading us to a ritual that was for the people and by the people to carry out and make us holy and give us salvation. We learned that adhering to law and bringing Judaism and prayer into our daily lives is the next stage. I was lucky and had the pleasure of teaching Ariella’s class this subject.

IMG_20151008_100908On Thursday, we spent the morning studying Christianity: its beliefs, tenets and its impact on the Roman and Jewish world. As part of our tiyul that day, we traveled to Ein Kerem, (Spring of the Vineyard), which is an ancient village that is now a neighborhood in southwest Jerusalem. According to Christian tradition, John the Baptist was born there, leading to the establishment of many churches and monasteries. We visited the Church of St. John the Baptist, a Catholic church built in the second half of the 19th century on the remnants of earlier Byzantine and Crusader churches. Inside are the remains of an ancient mosaic floor and a cave where, according to Christian tradition, John was born. From there we walked to the Church of the Visitation which is attributed to his parental summer house, where Mary visited them and Mary’s Spring which is still at the heart of the village as it has been for thousands of years. It is here that, according to Christian tradition, Elizabeth and Mary met when they were both pregnant.

Friday morning, in preparation for a Tzedakah project, we studied a text from the Talmud, Ta’anit 20a-20b about Rabbi Eliezer who comes across an ugly looking person and makes a very not-PC comment, and the answer of the person: “do not complain to me but to my maker”. After, we visited a senior citizen facility in Jerusalem, entertaining the residents and putting on a Kabbalat Shabbat for them. The kids were very moved by this visit.

IMG-20151012-WA0005Yesterday, we learned about the Bar-Kochba rebellion, which ensued roughly 60 years following the destruction of the Second Temple. We used the site of Hirbat Midrass (about 15 miles south of Tzuba) to visit one of the hundreds of cave systems that hid the rebels. We used primary texts from Christian, Roman, and Jewish sources to understand what might have happened in that rebellion as we discussed the edicts that emperor Hadrean enacted upon the Jews of Judea. We then traveled a bit further south to the Roman city of Eleutheropolis, better known as Bet Guvrin. We used the Coliseum to discuss the martyrology of the ten most prominent rabbis of the time, using the story of Rabbi Akiva as the focus. This is the same text we read as part of the Yom Kippur service.

“Was this rebellion necessary?” “What prompted this tragic event?” and, of course, “How did we manage to thrive afterwards?” are among the questions that we tried to answer. We teach our students that we have had more than our share of tragedies, but we have by tenfold more years of creativity and civilization building.

Wishing a Shavuah Tov to all.