July 23, 2014

Today the group learned about “New Jerusalem,” tracing the line that was Israel’s border with Jordan before 1967. Their first stop was the Tayelet, which provided a beautiful overview of the Old City before continuing to Gilo. In Gilo, the USYers had an opportunity to see the security fence and to hear about  the importance of it.  Then they went to Ammunition Hill and walked through trenches which used to be a part of a Jordanian bunker that was the center of battle in 1967.  Afterwards, they visited Mount Herzl, which serves not only as the Israel Defense Forces’ official military cemetery, but also as the burial site for prominent Zionists, Israeli politicians, and public figures who have greatly influenced the development of the state. They stopped at the graves of Herzl, Yoni Netanyahu, Michael Levin and other soldiers and they heard personal stories from the Israeli staff themselves. This was a very emotional experience for the USYers, especially in light of the current situation in Israel. They returned to their base, where they had some free time before participating in fun and exciting of Drama Games and a visit from Rabbi Levy! 

July 23, 2014

The group started off their day with a volunteering project at Moshav Hatzev, where they helped by working in agriculture and picking weeds . They spent some time at the Arava Welcome Center where they saw a short movie on the Arava and visited the museum. Group 3 continued with their volunteering for a little while longer, before heading to Roded where they enjoyed an amazing night at the Bedouin tents, and were treated to Bedouin hospitality.  They learned about the Bedouin culture and community, ate a delicious kosher meal, and enjoyed sleeping in the Bedouin tents. They also participated in a ecological program where they learned about how the Bedouins survive in the extreme climate, how they preserve their water and thrive as a community in the desert. This is definitely one of the highlights of the trip!

July 23, 2014

Group 1 spent their day learning about mitzvot and Tikun Olam work with Mitzvah Hero Danny Siegel. They spent the first half of their morning volunteering at a Russian Retirement Center in the Ramot neighborhood. The USYers helped out by painting apartments in the center of the neighborhood. After eating lunch at a beautiful lookout point in Ramot, they returned to Agron where they spent some time with Danny Siegal talking about the many different Tikkun Olam programs and in what way they can be involved back home. They also heard from an inspirational mitzvah hero, Dov Ber, who spoke of his travel experiences and who founded non-profit organizations specializing in underprivileged childcare.  After a very productive and fulfilling day of helping out, they got pumped up for an exciting evening of “Battle of the Sexes”.

July 22, 2014

We departed the Grand Canyon this morning to head down to Albuquerque, New Mexico. We started off our day with Shacharit and we discussed a few more of the specific prayers in the Amidah. Once we got to Albuquerque, we went right to Old Town. This is a really fun village that looks old fashion with shops, ice cream, and fun sightseeing. After getting our taste of Old Town, we went to a local synagogue to do Mincha and have a delicious chicken dinner. We ended the day at Hinkle Family Fun Center with mini golf, games, and all sorts of entertainment. 

July 22, 2014

Today was one of the days that we’d been waiting for all summer! We woke before the sun so that we could watch it rise over the Grand Canyon and then pray the Shacharit service. It was really meaningful to have some time to pray on our own out in nature. Once we completed our own Shacharit, we had breakfast and then had the option of hiking three different length heights in the Grand Canyon. Upon returning from the hikes, we went back to our cabins to rest before a full afternoon of activities including va’ad (committee) meetings and tye dying. In the evening we had dinner and then did a bus bonding program of team building games and activities. It was a fun, energetic, and tiring day, so we were all ready for bed when it was time.

July 21, 2014

Today we woke up early and headed straight to the bus. We then had a five hour drive to Portland, Oregon. We spent the bus drive sleeping, due to having to wake up very early and because of our usual morning nap time called quite hours. After sleeping on the bus for a few hours we stopped at a truck stop where we davened Shacharit. It was really cool to make such an unholy place be filled with prayer and Torah. After, we arrived in Portland at a place called the Alpacas of Oregon. Here we were able to feed and play with the eccentric alpacas and got to pet the newly born alpaca (it was “only” 17 pounds and 3 feet tall).  After visiting the gift shop and purchasing alpaca fur products of many sorts we headed back to the bus. We then went to do laundry. The laundromat that we went to was extremely high-tech. This place had top of the line washing and drying machines, which were extremely efficient.  There was also a full cafe and arcade there so you could have a snack and play some games while you wait. Instead of playing games we all partnered up and worked on our tefillah goals. Some groups worked on learning the Shacharit service while others worked on learning Torah service. Everyone learned something new. After finishing up at the hipster laundromat we headed back to the hotel for dinner. It was one of the best dinners we’ve had the entire trip! We had pasta with meat sauce, garlic bread, salad and cookies for dessert. Upon finishing dinner we did birkat hamazon and went to the bus to go to the evening activity. We then arrived at Powell’s book store, the largest and most varied book store in all of America. The store had over a million different books, ranging from young adult fiction to religion to physiology to astrophysicism (yes, apparently it’s a thing).  After touring the humongous book store we went back to the hotel, and went to our rooms to catch up on sleep after a long day.

-Isaac Bensignor

July 21, 2014

Today we left Savannah and headed to Charleston, South Carolina. We spent a few hours at the South Carolina Aquarium, and we were even able to touch the stingrays there! Then we went to Synagogue Emanu-El, our host synagogue in Charleston. We davened Mincha and then split up for a gender swap bonding program. The girls went with our male staff to make up a dance to the song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan. Meanwhile, the female staff created a spa for the boys, which consisted of cucumber water, face masks, and nail care. Then we ate an Italian-style dinner and had some free time at the shul. Tomorrow we head to North Carolina!

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