Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Closing seminar and gala

With less than two weeks to go, we are spending our final moments enjoying the beauty of Israel and time together with friends.

Over the weekend, we had our closing seminar in the north in a city called Achziv. We started on Friday with hike in Mount Carmel followed by a visit to Rosh Hanikra. Rosh Hanikra was a last minute addition to our itinerary, and I was so happy we got to see it! It is located at Israel's northwestern tip, at the only point where the sea meets the cliffs. You take the steepest cable car in the WORLD (that is not a lie) and get to experience beautiful sea grottoes. The view from the cable car is breathtaking!

Afterwards, we arrived at our hotel in Achziv, which was located right across the street from the beach! We had Kabbalat Shabbat together and then dinner. On Saturday we had a very relaxed first part of our day, with the option to go to the beach and then lunch. Afterwards we did some group activities before meeting again for dinner. This was one of my favorite seminars, and it was really special to spend the time in a beautiful setting with all my friends that I have made so far on this program.

On Sunday we had our closing gala in Jerusalem at a beautiful museum venue. It started with a cocktail party, followed by closing remarks and an improv show. Afterwards we had a buffet style dinner, with different stations (the food was delicious!). The night ended with a dance party :)

Below are some pictures from both the seminar and the gala. This week and next  I will be packing up my apartment, spending time with my students and taking care of all the last minute details before my departure :(

Me and my roommates 

Brianna, Me and Jordenne 

Cable Cars at Rosh Hanikra 

Sea Grottoes 

View from the Cable Car 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

English Day

Wow, I cannot believe it is already June and my final month as an MITF fellow. SO much has happened between my last blog post! However, since it is the end of the school year and I am trying to fit in all I can before I go- my posts have been lacking!

At the end of each school year, the fellows in the MITF program come together to hold a day of fun and games where students are expected to put their English to the test. It is alot of work but tons of fun! This year, the theme was children's literature. We were divided into groups of 5 fellows in our city and together we hosted 5 English days at each of our schools. We were responsbile for creating activities related to our chosen books that could be used from students ranging from grades 2-6th. It was really interesting working at the different schools and meeting the other teachers and students. 

Overall, our group did a great job working with over 300 Israeli students per school! We created different stations focused on the books: The Giving Tree, Rainbow Fish, Jack and the Bean Stalk, Alice in Wonderland, The Lorax and Chica-Chica-Boom!

Now that we are officially done with our English Days, we get to experience what the end of the school year feels like at an Israeli school. Basically, the students are ready for summer and have zero attention spans. The teachers are also ready for a nice summer break, so we are working to keep the students engaged until the end of the month!

This weekend, we have our final seminar and a closing banquet. Next week is my last full week in Israel and then I leave on June 28th :( 

I will be enjoying every last moment until I go. Check out our English Day photos below! 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Yam l’yam- Hiking Sea to Sea

During a heat wave in May- my roommate Annie and I decided to hike the yam l’yam trail. This is one of the most popular hiking trails in Israel-it crosses the country from west to east, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee. The trail is typically done in 4 days, however we only had 3 days free to attempt it! We did not finish the entire hike, however we came pretty close and had a really great time in the process. We started walking at around 8:30am each day and ended at 5pm on day 1, 7pm on day 2 and 2pm on day 3.

Since neither of us owns a tent, and our decision to do the hike was a bit last minute we had to think quickly. Luckily, a family in our neighborhood had a six-person tent available for use. Our original group was 3 people, so we thought it wouldn’t be too crazy to carry a larger sized tent for three days. However, after our third person left-we realized that the heavier tent was maybe not the best choice. It turned out to be fine, and we were quite cozy in our “mansion.” For food, we packed trail mix, dried fruit, apples, dried oats (which we successfully learned how to rehydrate), peanut butter, pita, crackers, wraps and hummus and veggies. The hummus and most of the veggies had to be eaten by day 1, leaving us with mainly peanut butter, wraps and nuts for the remainder of the time. Since we were constantly moving our bodies, it was really important to keep ourselves hydrated and well fed. We had enough food to get us through, however by the end of day 3 we were down to the wire. Since it was extremely hot and our only options to refill waters where at the end of each day, we had to pack close to 6 liters each. Our packs where really heavy, but got lighter as the day went on as we ate more food and drank. Packing for three days of hiking with very little experience is a challenge, and we learned a lot of important tips for the future!

Day 1: Akhziv beach through Khziv river to Abirim

We began in the city of Nahariya on Israel’s Mediterranean Coast. We took an early train that morning and began walking around 8:30am that first day. It was extremely hot that day; luckily we came across a beautiful spring (Ein tamir) where we took a nice break and could cool off a bit. Afterwards, we had a bit of a climb towards the road, which led to Abirim. Luckily we made it, met some nice people along the way who helped re-navigate us and refill our waters! We arrived at our campsite by 5:00pm, pitched our tent, ate dinner and went right to sleep.

Day 2: from Abirim, through Elkush bridge to Hirbet Hamama

This was the hardest day of the trip, due to the terrain, the heat and our bodies already being pretty tired. The trail markings where very confusing at the beginning of the day and we had a brief encounter with a boar, however we made it out ok! We had the option to stop at a gas station in the middle of the day, which was great because it allowed us to get some Air conditioning and refill our waters. The most difficult part came at the end of the day, when we had to climb toward Hirbert Hamama. The area was near a spring, so there were tons of flies and we literally had to climb up rocks to reach the top. We pushed through  and found our campsite at Hibert Hamama. We reconnected with some of the families we met along the trail, ate dinner and rested our weary bones!

Day 3- from Hibert Hamama, through Meron Peak  

We started our day with a climb to Mount Meron Peak- the second highest peak in Israel. It was a pretty pleasant climb, and the view from the top was amazing. Since we knew we were not going to make it all the way to the Kinneret, we decided to pick a reasonable stopping point after we got to the top of Mount Meron. From the summit, we began to descend and passed several Hotas (caves). We stopped for lunch at the Ein Zeved spring and made our way to a camping/parking site called Henyone HaPitul. This was where we finished our hike.

While this hike was mentally and physically challenging, Annie and I had SO much fun. We would have loved to have made it to the Kinneret, but being novice hikers and not having a fourth day made that goal a bit unreasonable for us. We were very happy to have accomplished what we did! Being outside for three days and being surrounded by the gorgeous Israeli landscape was truly magical.
Start of Day 3- Me and Annie heading out from our campsite
View from the top of Mount Heron

Somewhere in the North of Israel 

Our HUGE tent

Annie finally getting the photo op of her dreams 

Day 1- cooling off at Ein Tamir (Spring Tamir)

Day1: Me Annie and Rebecca at Akhziv beach 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Yom Ha' atzmaut : Eliat and Egypt

Over the holiday of  Yom Ha' atzmaut  (Israel's Independence Day) my friends and I went south to the city of Eliat and then did a one day tour of Egypt! This year's Yom Ha' atzmaut was particularly special in Israel because it was celebrating Israel's 70th birthday! It is a tradition to have a BBQ, attend street parties and watch fireworks.

Our trip to Eliat and Egypt was amazing! From Tel Aviv, we took a bus down to Eliat (About 6 hours) and arrived on Wednesday evening around 11pm. We spent all of Thursday at Coral Beach in Eliat--snorkling amongst the gorgeous Coral Reef! The weather was amazing and the beaches in Eliat are so peaceful and calm. The Red Sea is extra salty and the temperature of the water in comparison to the 95 degree heat was perfect! That evening at 9pm, me, Jess and Annie got picked up from our Hostel in Eliat and started our journey to Egypt. 

In total we had 8 people on our tour. It took about 9 hours to get to Egypt, meaning we had to sleep on the bus. We arrived in Egypt on Friday morning at 8am and started our tour right away. We began at the Egyptian museum, which is filled with amazing artifacts. Afterwards, we went to the Papyrus museum, where we learned how the ancient paper is made and got to touch and feel the actual plant. We then had lunch, which consisted of a buffet of authentic Egyptian food! After we had been fed we went to the Pyramids and then the Sphinx! This was probably my favorite part of the trip, and I still cannot believe that I really got to see them! There are a lot of tourists at these sites and you have to ignore the people who are constantly trying to sell you things. Otherwise, I found my visit to the Pyramid and the Sphinx to feel really safe and overall breathtaking. Our final stop was the market, which we got to explore (alongside a police officer) for about 30 minutes. My roommates and I grabbed a bowl of Koshari (Egyptian Rice, Lentils and Macaroni with Spicy Tomato Chili Sauce) before getting back on our bus for the final time. This was delicious and the perfect meal to eat before our 12 HOUR journey back to Eliat. We left Egypt at 7pm and arrive in Eliat Saturday morning at about 7:30am. 

Saturday was our final day in Eliat, which we used to re-vive ourself and relax. We rejoined our other two friends who stayed in Eliat while we were in Egypt for a day of beach relaxation. We left at 7pm that night and arrived back in Netanya somewhere around 1:30am. 

While I thought this trip would leave me feeling completely exhausted, I actually feel pretty great considering the amount of time I spent in transit and sleeping on buses. The more I travel and have these incredible experiences, the more I want to see! 

Check out my pictures from the trip below! 

Jess, Jordenne, Rebecca, Annie and me at Coral Beach, Eliat. 

Jess, Annie, and me at the PYRAMIDS OF GIZA 


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

PASSOVER BREAK: Turkey and Greece

Passover Break was amazing! Since we had about 2 weeks off from school, I had the opportunity to travel to both Istanbul and Greece. Both of my trips were wonderful, I cannot say enough good things about both of these countries.



I decided to start my trip in Istanbul, Turkey for several reasons. For starters, my best friend Becky from college was planning on making a trip there to visit her childhood friend, Mina, who is currently living there and teaching English. Mina lives on the European side of Istanbul in a city called Arnavutkoy. Her apartment is in a great area, and she kindly let both me and Becky stay with her! It was the perfect combination of both touristy activities and living like a local. During the day, Becky and I would go and sight see while Mina was at work. In the evenings, we would join Mina and her friends for traditional Turkish meals and nightlife. Here are just a few of the highlights from my trip:
  • Visiting the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia 
  • Seeing the Underground Cistern 
  • Shopping in the covered Bazaar 
  • Taking a Ferry across the Bosphorus Sea 
  • Seeing the old tower called "Galata" 
  • Going to a Turkish Bath House (AMAZING--you will leave relaxed and very clean) 
  • Morning walks with Becky along the water
  • Eating the delicious Turkish food 
  • Meeting the most wonderful people-- everyone I met was so warm and welcoming 
  • Trying Raki -- a local liquor (Tastes like licorice) 
  • Meeting some of Mina's amazing friends and co-workers 
  • Antique shopping 
  • Waking up to the call to prayer 
  • Turkish Tea and Coffee 
This is a very brief summary of my amazing time in Turkey, however no words could fully grasp just how amazing I found this place to be! I will be going back again--probably next year! There is still so much I want to experience in Istanbul and in other parts of Turkey, I am just so grateful that I was able to meet Mina, see my best friend Becky and experience a new culture. Check out some more of my photos below!


After my trip to Istanbul, I hopped on a plane and headed straight to Athens, Greece before taking a smaller plane to the island of Paros. My amazing mom agreed to meet me in Greece for this part of my trip, and together we had the best time exploring this adorable island. We stayed in a small village on the Island and had our very own traditional Greek villa to call home for the week. Here are some highlights from our week in Paros, Greece: 
  • Eating traditional Greek dishes at the local fishing villages (Greek salad, grape leaves, fresh fish, olives, fava, feta cheese....) 
  • Visiting the nearby towns of Parikia, Piso Lavadi and Leftkes 
  • Hiking in the ecological parks 
  • Visiting some of the islands oldest monasteries and cathedrals 
  • Wine tasting 
  • Relaxing on the gorgeous beaches 
  • Taking a Traditional Greek Cooking Class 
  • Meeting some amazing locals in Paros 
  • Visiting ceramic workshops and meeting local artists 
  • Greek Dancing! 
  • The architecture and landscape 
Again, this post cannot fully capture just how spectacular my trip to Greece was. There were many moments when I thought to myself that I could easily move there! What I loved most about Paros was how quiet and un-touristy it felt. Our experience felt truly authentic, the village we stayed in was owned by a local Greek woman named Maria. Maria treated us like family, and we ate most of our meals in the presence of her and some of her family members. I left feeling like I had made a small Greek family on the Island of Paros and I am looking forward to visiting again-and also exploring some of the other Islands.

My mom and I spent our last night in Athens before flying to our separate countries! Below are some photos of our trip!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Leadership Summit March 18th-22nd

Now that I am back from my Passover Break travels (separate post on that later!) I can finally sit down and reflect on my last few weeks.

The week before Passover Break I participated in the MASA Global Leadership Summit hosted at a hotel in Jerusalem. I applied for this summit a few months ago and was really excited to have been selected to join. Here is the information we were given describing the summit before applying.

  • 5-day intensive Leadership training conference
  • Composed of 150 Masa participants from across all Masa programs 
  • Learning "Adaptive Leadership" 
  • Attend a Gala, find job opportunities, and build a global network
  • Fully subsidized (hotel stay and all meals) 
Once we arrived in Jerusalem we were assigned random roommates, divided into Home Groups and given a schedule for the next five days. While there were many moments of confusion while learning how to navigate the "Adaptive Leadership" model- the experience in itself was amazing.

Meeting Masa participants from other programs was one of my favorite parts about the summit-I met people from Russia, Britain, Spain, Chile, Canada and from different parts of the US. Since I am an MITF fellow, I really do not know much about the other programs offered by Masa. Some participants are interning at start ups in Tel Aviv, volunteering with different organizations or living in tents and learning about sustainability. The food was also really delicious and the hotel we stayed at was so nice! Our days were pretty jam packed with activities- typically starting at 8am and ending at 10pm. Each day followed a similar structure of meeting with our home groups, breaking off into different activities, hearing from guest speakers and analyzing the days events. Some of my personal highlights from the summit where the guest speakers we heard from, learning from the other participants, and the final Gala (more good food, drinks and dancing).

While I am still a bit unclear as to what Adaptive Leadership actually is,  I would highly recommend applying for this summit to anyone who is interested in being placed outside of their comfort zone, meeting new people and are curious about issues facing Jewish society. Be prepared to end each day exhausted and go with the flow--meaning the teaching method is not what any of us where used to from our past experiences.

Below is a video and some photos from the Summit!

Home Group 3 

MITF Netanya at the closing Gala 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Desert Seminar

I am just returning from an amazing three day seminar in the Negev (aka the desert). We had the opportunity to see an area of Israel that is often referred to as the middle of nowhere. Here is a breakdown of the three days we spent learning about the desert. 

DAY 1: 

We left Netanya and headed for the city of Beer Sheva. Our first stop was at the at "The Gateway to the Negev Visitor Center." This was a really cool museum that focuses on the future of the Negev and all of the opportunities that exist. The displays were very interactive and it was a great start to our tour of the Negev. 

After leaving the visitor center, we went to the Ramat Negev Research and Development Center (R & D). Ramat Negev R & D carries out experiments every year to test varieties of olives, pomegranates, jojoba, rootstocks for wine grapes, tomatoes, peppers, fresh herbs and ornamental flowers. We got to take a tour of the facility and see the different green houses on the property. This was so cool, and we even got to taste some of the produce that was growing! 

Afterwards we made our way to the Bedouin Tents that we would be spending the night in. That evening we were served a traditional Bedouin style meal, got a chance to star gaze and had a camp fire.

DAY 2: 

On this day, we went on an amazing hike at Machtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater), located at the peak of Mount Negev. The Ramon Crater in Israel’s Negev Desert is the world’s largest erosion crater or makhtesh. A landform unique to Israel’s Negev and Egypt’s Sinai deserts’, a makhtesh is a large erosion cirque, created 220 million years ago when oceans covered the area.

Afterwards, we made our way to the city of Arad where we were spending the night at a hotel. 

DAY 3: 

On our final day, we went to a Bedouin Community and met with a woman there named Salima. This was so interesting because unlike the Bedouin camp we stayed in on the first night, this community was not catered towards hosting tourists. Salima spoke to us about how women our treated in the Bedouin community and how she is taking action to change that and create a more equal lifestyle for herself and future Bedouin women. 

Our last activity was a visit to the Hebrews Community in Dimona. This community is comprised of "Black Hebrew Israelites" or simply the Black Hebrews. They are a small spiritual group whose members believe they are descended from the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Their immigrant ancestors were African Americans, many from Chicago, Illinois, who migrated to Israel in the late 1960s. 

This was a very interesting visit, and it was amazing to see how this community lives. The group maintains a vegan diet, they practice abstinence from alcohol, other than the naturally fermented wine which they make themselves, as well as abstinence from both illegal and pharmaceutical drugs, so as to stay within the "cycles of life".The group practices "polygamy", meaning that a man can marry several wives (up to six)

We ended our day here, with delicious vegan ice cream! Overall, I would have to say that this was my favorite seminar and I am still very curious about the Negev.

Below are some pictures from our seminar. 

The Ramon Crater Hike