Junior Journey: Experiencing the Heart of Tel Aviv's Culture

Rabbi Dean Kertesz, Co-Dean of Students
Tel Aviv is Israel's center of art and culture and on the Junior Journey, students are experiencing not only the richness of poetry, music, and nightlife, but also the excitement of Purim.
Since I last wrote we have spent the last three days in Tel Aviv. The weather has continued to be nice, pleasantly warm with a few drops of rain last Friday.

On Friday, we began our day with tefillah. Our first activity of the day was a visit to Independence Hall, which was originally the home of Meyer Dizengoff, one of the founders of Tel Aviv and its mayor. After his death, it became the Tel Aviv art museum and it was here on May 14, 1948 that Israel declared its independence. In Jew in the Modern World we are now studying the history of Israel, so it is powerful to be able to sit in the place where history was made.

After Independence Hall we walked to Beit Bialik, the home of Haim Nahman Bialik after he moved to Tel Aviv in 1935. Bialik is considered to be the Jewish national poet and his impact on the development of modern Hebrew and Israeli culture was profound. This revival of Hebrew and the creation of a thriving Israeli cultural life in Hebrew is one of the greatest successes of Zionism.
After touring the Bialik house we walked to the Shuk Ha Carmel, Tel Aviv's outdoor grocery and kitsch market and Nahalat Binyamin an outdoor craft market. Students had lunch and time to do some shopping before Shabbat. Then it was back to our hotel to prepare for Shabbat.
We began Shabbat with a kabbalat Shabbat service created and led by students in the Junior class, followed by a delicious dinner and some well-deserved down time. Everyone had a chance to sleep in Shabbat morning and catch up on their rest.

Our speaker Shabbat morning was Issam Sa'ad, who grew up in a refugee camp in Gaza and today lives in Ramallah and facilitates dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian teens. His story is pretty amazing, you should ask the juniors for details. In short, he believes that the only way Israelis and Palestinians can find a solution to the conflict is to encounter each other as human beings. 
After some time at the beach and a quiet afternoon we gathered for havdalah, marking the end of Shabbat and began our Purim celebration, with two different megillah reading options, a Reform megillah reading at our hotel and an Orthodox one nearby. We then went out to dinner at a Yemenite restaurant to cap off Erev Purim.
Today, we began our day with a bike ride along the Tel Aviv waterfront. We then drove to Holon, a suburb of Tel Aviv for the annual "Ad Lo Yadah" parade. Ad lo Yadah is Hebrew for "until you don't know." We also gave students opportunities to fulfill the four mitzvoth of Purim: hearing the megillah (which we did Erev Purim), matanot l'evionim (gifts for the poor) we took donations from any student who wanted to give to support an organization that supports victims of terror, mishloach manot (each student bought a small gift of less than 15 shekels to give to one other student and finally Seudat Purim, a Purim feast. We fulfilled that by having a delicious lunch at a restaurant where the waiters sing. The juniors sang and danced with them. It was great fun. Tel Aviv is Israel's center of art and culture and we ended our day meeting with some Israeli artists and dancers in their studios to see their work and talk with them.
As I write this, some students are off visiting family and friends, while those without visitors went to Jaffa with their faculty chaperones for dinner and a chance to explore this historic town. We are going to end our day with a post-Purim dance.
Tomorrow we are off to the desert!
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