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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Shabbat in Jerusalem

Wow - what an amazing 36 hours!!!  We arrived in Jerusalem after an awesome camel ride.  We stopped at Mt. Scopus to get an overview of the city of Jerusalem.  While at the overlook, we celebrated the 25th Wedding Anniversary of Maxine and George Hess...and what an amazing toast that was!  We made our way to our hotel and had a couple of hours of rest and relaxation before we went to Jaffa Gate for an intro tour to the Old City.

We walked into the Old City and were then guided onto the rooftops of the Old City - what a view!!!  From there, we walked to the Egalitarian section of the Western Wall.  I led a short service in which we sang a few songs, said a special Mi Shebeirach for all those in our lives who needed healing.  Afterward, we made our way to the traditional section of the Western Wall (the Kotel).  Everyone was allowed to spend about 30 minutes or so observing and participating in the many Kabbalat Shabbat services and activities at the Kotel.  Kobi, our guide, danced with all 3 of our boys in the men section!

From the Kotel, we walked back to our hotel for dinner and bedtime.  This morning, we woke up for breakfast and then went to Kehillat Har El, one of the Reform synagogues in Jerusalem.  I was invited up for an Aliyah and then Rabbi Ada and Cantor Evan blessed our congregation with a wonderful blessing.  Tim Roberts was also invited to do Hagbah!  After walking back to the hotel for lunch, we then walked to the Israel Museum to see a gigantic model of the 2nd Temple Old City and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In the afternoon, we had several hours of rest time (thank you God for Shabbat!) and then we ended Shabbat with a moving Havdalah ceremony overlooking the Old City.  Afterward, we ventured for dinner and shopping at Jerusalem's prime outdoor shopping mall - Ben Yehudah street.  I had a tasty schwarma sandwich at New Deli followed by delicious ice cream.  I was able to spend some time with my friend Jan at his store - Ora Israel - before I returned to the hotel for some well needed sleep.  Tomorrow will be a full day - and I will blog about it tomorrow night.

L'hitraot for now!
Rabbi Boxt

Friday, June 13, 2014

An Amazing Inspiration for Us All

Shalom y'all!

I needed to write one short blog about an experience that Kobi our tour guide arranged for us.  After our exhilarating jeep ride, we were driven a short way to meet up with some Israeli soldiers and their tank unit.  They were preparing for a large "practice run" in which they "recaptured" the Golan Heights.

To be able to look into the eyes of these young soldiers who are so incredibly excited and dedicated to keeping the citizens of Israel safe, it was actually pretty inspirational to listen to them explain how they understand what they are doing and why they are there.  Although these young men (18-21) are making a huge sacrifice for their country, they feel their contribution is only a small piece in the history of Israel...these heroes just seem their service part of their identity.

Today, we make our way out of the Golan and although we are traveling south, we are ascending to Jerusalem....I will write another blog after Shabbat.

Rabbi Boxt

Thursday, June 12, 2014

TKE in Israel Days 3 and 4

Shalom l'kulam! (Hello everyone!)

Today is Thursday, June 12...and I am writing at 12 pm Israel Time (5 am EST).  On Wednesday, we did a lot of traveling.  We left Tel Aviv early in the morning and traveled to one of the most important cities for Christianity - Ceasaria, Herod's Kingdom by the Sea.  Herod built this city/port as a thank you to Augustus Ceasar in order to show his allegiance!

While in Ceasaria, we visited the theater (where many plays and perfomances were seen 2000 years ago and where concerts are still seen today), the Hippodrome (or Coliseum where horse races, gladiator fights and other competitions were held), and spent some time playing around and reenacting the Gladiators!  (You can see those videos on Facebook - there are about 8 of them).  After Ceasaria, we traveled North to Haifa for a gorgeous view over the Bay looking directly down on the B'hai Gardens (a truly beautiful place).

From Haifa, we traveled to Tzfat - the ancient Holy City of the Kabbalah.  There we met with Avram,  a very talented Mystical artist, were allowed to purchase some of his artwork...and then we ventured on to a couple of beautiful synagogues in Tzfat.  At the end, after some time to peruse the art galleries, we went to the famous Tzfat Candle Factory.  While some were shopping, some of the men/boys went with Kobi to the Mikveh (the very famous ritual bath from years and years ago!).

From Tzfat, we traveled to our hotel/residence for the next two days - Kibbutz Gonen.  This is a faboulous Kibbutz in the North of Israel very close to the Golan Heights.  Today, we have had many options to have some fun - going to the Teva Naot factory (GREAT shoes), going rafting or resting back at the Kibbutz, traveling to Katzrin and Har Ben-Tal (a famous mountain army base overlooking Syria), an Olive Oil factory and Chocolate factory, a wine tasting at the Golan Winery for the adults (an apply juice tasting for the kids), concluding with the choice of either a water hike with Kobi or a Jeep Ride through the area with me!  Make sure to check out the pictures from all of our adventures - you can get the link from my FB page!

Stay tuned for the next blog which will be after Shabbat in Jerusalem!!!

That's all for now!

Rabbi Boxt

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

TKE in Israel Days 1a and 1b

Shalom y'all!

Today is Tuesday, June 10.  Although this blog is being written at 11:36 PM Israel time, it is 4:36 PM in Atlanta!  This is a short blog today because I just received my SIM card for my phone so I haven't been able to take any pictures yet!  So, tomorrow there will be another short"ish" blog with a link to pictures.

Here is what we have done so far: We arrived, went to our hotel (Alexander Suites - BEAUTIFUL!!!), left our bags and went straight to our first Israeli meal - a buffet at the Tal Hotel which is right around the corner from our hotel.  After a somewhat normal night of sleep - many of us were still getting rid of jet lag - we woke up this morning to a gorgeous Tel Aviv morning.  The sun was shining brightly, a nice breeze was blowing and our hotel breakfast was outstanding!

After breakfast, we traveled to a large apple orchard that is managed by the LEKET program.  These fields were donated by a very generous man with one condition - that the LEKET Israel organization find volunteer groups to collect the food to be donated to the poor.  So, we spent about 90 minutes out in the strong Israeli sun and picked about 1700 pounds of apples - enough to serve approximately 200 families!  What a wonderful moment to do a mitzvah for those who are in need in Israel. This was truly a wonderful start to our program.

Next we traveled to the Carmel Market - a wonderful art and food fair that is open on Tuesdays and Fridays.  We had some free time to shop, people watch and eat!  After a couple of hours in the market, we traveled to the Palmach Museum - a wonderful interactive museum that takes us back to 1941 to explore the journey of a young group of Israelis who learn to fight and defend the Jewish homeland prior to the State of Israel being born.  The Palmach fighters became the Elite fighters in the IDF once the State of Israel was born.

After the Palmach museum, we traveled to the oldest seaport in the world, Jaffa (going all the way back to Jonah!).  Kobi, our outstanding tour guide took us around to show us some great shops and art as well as teaching the story of Jaffa, going all the way back to Biblical times.  After an exhausting day in which the TKE family members learned and experienced quite a lot, the day ended with a beautiful sunset over the Mediterranean Sea, followed by dinner and then sleep....

L'hitraot (so long) until tomorrow!!!
Rabbi Boxt

Monday, June 2, 2014

Camp Jenny - Making 2 Worlds 1

Shalom y'all!

Words are often more significant than we realize.  Sometimes words can be hurtful or helpful; and more often than not, words can be so much more.  Perhaps everyone might remember the following, "You're rubber and I'm glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you."  My mother told me at a very early age that words can be destructive...but they can also be great builders!

In 1993, as a Junior in High School and in my 3rd year of SEFTY (Southeast Federation of Temple Youth...now NFTY-SAR), I was fortunate to work as a counselor at the Jenny Rosenthal Memorial Mitzvah Corps program.  We brought a large group of children from what was then Techwood in downtown Atlanta, from Fowler Street Elementary School to URJ Camp Coleman to experience a weekend of fun...away from their somewhat tumultuous daily lives.  I had no idea at the time...but that year and the following year when I returned again had such an amazing impact on who I am.  I learned so much from those young kids.  I often credit Camp Coleman for making me who I am today.  It is no secret that SEFTY and Camp Jenny were a huge part of that.  These kids had never experienced Camp Coleman before and all of its wonders.  And, I learned more from them than they could have possibly learned from me!

Fast forward 21 years - I am now a rabbi at Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta, Georgia.  I am given the opportunity to work once again at Camp Jenny - but this time as an adult staff member.  When I arrived at Camp Jenny, I was so amazed that although so many things had changed and become better, many of the people were the same.  The ideals behind Camp Jenny are the same...and the goal of Camp Jenny - FTK (For the Kids) - has never changed.  This time, however, I was able to observe NFTYites and their interactions with the kids from F.L. Stanton Elementary school.  AND, I was able to bring Batya and Carlie up to camp.  Carlie slept in one of the bunks and really had an amazing and eye opening experience.  It was truly inspirational for me to watch my daughter interact with kids who came from a different situation in life...and see how much alike they really were.

I have remarked over the past 2 years how very lucky and blessed I am to be able to come to work everyday and really enjoy what I do.  I have reveled in the amazing opportunities given to me by Temple Kol Emeth.  It is definitely true that one of these opportunities is the chance to return to Camp Jenny every year with my family.  Being able to share my love for social justice with Carlie and Batya was and continues to be awesome.  Carlie has already remarked that she wants to go back to Camp Jenny every year for the rest of her life.  This touches my heart - as every one of those students did.

It is important to get out there and do what you can to make our world a better place.  There are thousands of opportunities.  Whether you work with AJWS or the One Campaign...or work with organizations closer to home.  Whatever it is - just go out there and make the world a better place for everyone that lives in it. Those two words - Camp Jenny - have always been and will continue to be building blocks...bringing worlds together and helping all of us realize how similar we really are!

Rabbi Erin Boxt