Junior Journey: Finding the Heart of Israel

Rabbi Dean Kertesz
The winter continues to linger on in Israel with rain in the morning, but it seems to have ebbed this afternoon and hopefully will be gone for the next few days.
We began our day in Tel Aviv with a visit to Save A Child's Heart, an organization founded in 1995 by an American cardiac surgeon, Dr. Ami Cohen, who had moved to Israel. Their goal is to provide children with cardiac care, regardless of who they are or their financial circumstances. To date they have saved the lives of more than 5,000 children from 59 countries in Africa, South America, Europe, Asia, and throughout the Middle East and trained more than 120 medical team members from these countries. We spent a delightful hour playing with children who were recovering from their surgeries. The experience was profoundly moving.
We then said goodbye to Tel Aviv and headed south into the Negev. We stopped in Yeruham, a development town founded in the Negev in the 1950's. We ate a delicious Morrocan lunch in the home of Shuly. She is one of the Culinary Queens of Yeruham who cook dinners for groups and tell the story of their aliyah from Morroco and how they built Yeruham. It is a little known story of struggle and sacrifice.
We continued our drive into the desert and stopped at the Makhtesh Ha Gadol (the Great Crater) for a beautiful hike on the Small Fin and a lovely view. We stopped during the hike and discussed why the Torah was given in the desert, ie, what is it about the desert that seems to promote spirituality.
The JCHS cohort spent the night in Arad, before travelling in the morning to Masada.

There we learned about Herod the Great, his impressive building spree throughout Israel, building an enlarged Temple, the palace at Masada, the man-made mountain palace of Herodion. We  learned the profound story of the Zealots who fled Jerusalem to this desert stronghold near the dead sea. We hiked up the Roman Ramp on the west side of the mountain, walked the top of Masada learning the story, and then hiked down the Snake Path on the eastern side. 
We then drove to the Dead Sea and had a well deserved lazy afternoon. We had lunch together and then students bathed in the Dead Sea, packed themselves in Dead Sea mud or soaked in sulfur baths. Everyone enjoyed the relaxing afternoon.
We left the Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth, and ascended the mountains to Jerusalem. We stoped on Har Hatzofim (Mt. Scopus) and recited Shechecheyanu together on arriving in Jerusalem.
After a busy day, we are spending the evening a the Ramat Rachel Kibbutz Guest House, where the food is quite good and there is an indoor pool.

Jewish Community High School of the Bay
1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: 415.345.9777
The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) is a unique college preparatory high school committed to integrating deep learning, universal wisdom, and Jewish values. We empower each student to embrace their Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.