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Beginning our Israel Journey: Masada, Dead Sea, and Tsfat

Posted on 05/04/2014 @ 08:26 PM

We have been through a lot the last few days and coming out of the darkness of the Holocaust in Poland to the Hope and Pride of Israel has been a real journey for all of us. It has been amazing how much we were able to accomplish in such a short time!

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Our arrival in Israel was met with cheers and excitement, particularly from those who were in Israel for the first time. Heading straight for Masada, the first-timers were anxious, but were supported and applauded for making it up and down the mountain. Learning the history and participating in a morning service made it even more inspiring for us and we were so proud of everyone, many who faced the challenge and succeeded in such a great way.

Masada is a rugged, natural fortress of majestic beauty in the Judaean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. It is a symbol of the ancient kingdom of Israel, its violent destruction and the last stand of the Jewish patriots in the face of the Roman army (73 A.D.). It was built as a palace complex by King Herod the Great, King of Judaea. The camps, fortifications and attack ramp that encircle the monument constitute the most complete Roman siege works, surviving to the present day.

"On top of Masada is where I felt my connection between myself and Israel grow," Eve Sorkin said. "We did a morning service and I have never felt more pride as a Jewish teen."

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Only moments after the Masada climb, we drove to the Dead Sea for relaxation, fun and sun! The teens enjoyed rubbing the mud on their bodies and floating in the water. Masada and the Dead Sea was a great introduction to the beauty of Israel.

"The Dead Sea was a totally unique experience, covering yourself in the mud and floating effortlessly in the water," Bruce Dennis reflected. "It will be something I will make sure that my kids do. Hopefully, they won't get water in their eyes."

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Our second day, we toured the religious city of Tsfat with its curving roads intertwined with synagogues, artisans and wonderful food kiosks. Visiting the synagogues and hearing the stories about each inspired us. How lucky we were to visit Avram, a local artist and philosopher. We were mesmerized by him and his art and how it connects to Kabbalah.

Tsfat (Safed) is a city in the northern district of Israel, located at an elevation of 900 meters. It is the highest city on the Galilee and in Israel. Since the 16th century, Tsfat is considered one of Judaism's four holy cities, along with Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias. Since that time, the city has remained a center of Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism).

"I was waiting for my connection with Israel, and I found it in Tsfat," Cassie Koplow said.

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There is nothing like Shabbat in Israel. We walked to the beach for a sunset service on Friday night, led by Michael Vivier, Ryan Dishell and Sam Perlen, and later everyone joined in singing to celebrate being in Israel. Our morning service was on the lawn of our guest house and we had two interactive sessions to discuss various topics on Israel and on Identity. The afternoon was spent with sunbathing, sports, more time at the beach and enjoying time relaxing. Our Havdallah service concluded with more singing and then we drove to the town of Akko for a disco boat ride with music and dance.

"I felt at home, as I sang my favorite prayers sitting on the beach in Israel, celebrating Shabbat with my new best friends," Jillian Lindenberg said.

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