Group 8: Eastern Europe/Israel Pilgrimage

Thursday, July 14th

The group spent their morning learning about the First Temple period. Their first stop was the City of David, where they went through Hezekayah’s Tunnel, a water aqueduct that brought water to the city during the time of King Hezekayah. The USYers had a wonderful time splashing in the water! After lunch, they drove to the Ben Shemen forest for the annual USY Event! Each year at this event, all USY groups come together for an afternoon of competition, cheers, and fun! They do ropes course activities, learn about Israel through games, and bond as a group, each with their own color t-shirt! After a delicious BBQ dinner each group performed a cheer or dance. In the evening they enjoyed a disco party were all the groups danced together. Tonight they came back to Jerusalem to sleep at the Fuchsberg Center before departing for free weekend tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 13th

The group spent the first part of their day learning about the Second Temple period in Jerusalem. They began at the Israel Museum where they saw a large and intricate model of Jerusalem from the period before 70 C.E. They drove to the Old City, walked through the Roman Cardo in the Jewish Quarter, and toured the Herodian Mansion – the remains of a house which once belonged to the high priest in the first century. After lunch they went to the Kotel, the Western Wall, where many of the USYers put in notes of prayers and thoughts. The group continued to Robinson’s Arch where the marketplace next to the Temple stood and where people would be able to buy food and animals during their stay on Pilgrimage Festivals. They concluded the tour of the south wall excavation walking up the original steps leading to the gates of the Second Temple. In they evening they prepared for the big USY event tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 12th

This morning the group headed to the Archaeological Dig Seminar where they dug to try and find artifacts from the Second Temple period. They then crawled through Bar Kochba’s secret caves, which were used to plan the Bar Kochba Revolt in 135 CE, against the Roman Empire. After lunch the group spent time at the swimming pool! In the afternoon they drove back to Jerusalem, had some free time and after dinner they attended a session with Rabbi Paul Freedman and started preparing for the USY event, which will take place this coming Thursday.

Monday, July 11th

The group landed safely in Israel early this morning! They went first to Yemin Moshe which overlooks the Old City of Jerusalem. After a special welcoming ceremony, the group drove to the Fuchsberg Center for Conservative Judaism, their home for the next few days. They then had a few hours to sleep before lunch, laundry, and orientation. In the afternoon the group split up and went on different walking tours of the neighborhood so that they could acclimate a bit. After dinner, the group headed to the pedestrian mall known as Ben Yehudah Street, for shopping, snacking, and hanging out

Sunday, July 10th

After a lovely Shabbat, the group woke up for their last day in Poland. They started with the Heroism Trail which highlights such sites as Mila 18 and the Rapaport Monument, both tributes to events such as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in which even the victims rose up to defend their honor as human beings. The trail ends at the Umshlagplatz, the spot at which the Jews of Warsaw were gathered before being deported to the Treblinka death camp. The group had an early dinner and headed to the airport. The group is excited to be flying to Israel tonight!

Friday, July 8th

This morning they started their day with Shacharit at Tikochin, where a beautiful synagogue is still standing. They learned about the town and about Jewish life there before the war. Then they drove to the Lupuchova Forest, which is a site of mass graves not far from Tikochin. Then the group drove to Treblinka. Though practically nothing remains from the original camp, there is a very powerful monument at the site of the camp; 17,000 stones jutting out of the ground like tombstones, some with the name of a town or city from which Jews were brought. This number is significant because it represents the number of people murdered at Treblinka each day when the camp functioned at its peak. The group had time to walk around and reflect, and then conducted a memorial ceremony. Then they drove back to the hotel and prepared for Shabbat. They will participate in Shabbat tfilot at the main synagogue in Warsaw- Nozyk. Shabbat shalom!

Thursday, July 7th

The group visited Yeshivat Chochmei Lublin, which was recently renovated. They davened shaharit and learned in havruta groups, where they studied rabbinic texts, much like students of the yeshiva did at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was in this yeshiva where Rabbi Shapira invented the system of learning a page of Talmud a day, Daf Yomi, a system still used today. After lunch they headed to Majdanek Concentration Camp, just outside the city of Lublin. One of the most interesting and shocking parts of the camp is that much of it is still intact, thereby giving the group a full image of what it looked like when it was operational. The group was extremely moved by the barrack full of shoes, and walked through quietly trying to imagine the people who filled them. The group spent some time reflecting and led a memorial service. The group then headed to Warsaw for dinner, subgroups and a quiet evening.

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