Monday, July 13, 2015

Haifa, meeting with a Schindler Survivor, Ein Hod & Brothers for Life

Today was a very meaningful day for everyone.  We started out by checking out the amazing view at the top of the Baha'i Gardenrs in Haifa.  The grounds are absolutely immaculate and are maintained daily.  With over half a million visitors a year, the Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa and ‘Akko are among the most popular sites in the Middle East. Their unique design, combining geometrical shapes and exquisite detailing with loving conservation of natural and historic landscape features, leaves an indelible impression on visitors. Many return again and again to experience the changing seasons and relive the serene tranquility and uplifting spirit of these special places.

We continued walking above the gardners to a nearby park where we have the incredible privilege to hear from Zev Kedem, who is a Holocaust survivor and was on Schindler's List.  This is the 5th time he has spoken with IST and it's extremely meaningful to everyone each time.  The students listened to every word that he had to say and his greatest advice was "Love thy neighbor as thyself". It's incredible to hear all that he went through as a young boy and to still have a positive attitude with being kind to others, showing a genuine interest in other people, etc.

We took the bus and went to an artist colony nearby called Ein Hod.  Founded in 1953 by the Dada artist Marcel Janco and a group of artists, Ein Hod is the only artists’ village in Israel, and one of few of it’s kind in the whole world.  Nestled in the heart of the Hof Carmel region, among olive groves and fruit orchards, the village glides down mount Carmel green hills to the sea shore. This pictorial setting is enhanced by the special and intensive cultural and diversified artistic scenario.150 artists and their families inhabit Ein Hod. They live, work and create in the village in every cultural medium and field of endeavor. Through the years, the special atmosphere in the village has influenced the second and third generations into choosing to live here and become artists in their own rights.

After having dinner in the town of Zichron Yaakov, we came back to the hotel for a special presentation.  We met with members of the group called Hope for Heroism or Brothers for Life.  This is an amazing organization in Israel that is similar to Wounded Warriors Project in the United States. We heard from a few Israeli soldiers who told us their stories about being in the IDF, their injuries whether physical or emotional and how this organization has impacted them.  HFH is based on the model of “injured soldiers helping injured soldiers”. The model is simple: every new member of HFH is assigned a mentor, a soldier who was also injured and dealt with similar experiences and challenges. The mentoring process often begins at the hospital bed and continues until our injured brothers are able to not only return to their lives, but help others do so as well.  Mentoring takes place both in the Beit Achim and all over Israel in the cities where our soldiers are trying to re-integrate. There is nothing more powerful than being mentored by another injured soldier who suffered injuries, defeated death and lost his friends, but has found his way back to a productive life. Check out their website at

Blog post by Kaley Kris

I went into host weekend with low expectations because I had never been in a situation hen I was staying with a family I didn't know.  It made me even more nervous because I knew that they would only speak limited English.  I was pleasantly surprised when I got there to find how easy it was to fit in.  The family treated us like we were a part of it and tried to make us feel at home.  We had the wonderful experience of painting a kindergarten which was fun & rewarding.  I was shocked at how easy it was to fit in with the Israeli teens and I ended up loving all of the time we spent together.  It was also amazing to experience Shabbat at someone's home in Israel.  We spent Friday night with all of their extended family and had an amazing time with the new experience.  Overall, my family weekend ended up being my favorite experience so far.

Baha'i Gardens in Haifa

Meeting Zev Kedem: A Schindler's List Survivor

Blog post by Grant Chayet

My name is Grant, and I am one of the teens partaking in this roller coaster of a trip. If you are reading this, you are either a worried/eager parent who wants to see what their child has been embarking upon half way across the world, or an IST'er that found wifi. Either way, the point of this post is to let you know what is going on over here, through the eyes of a teen having the privilege of experiencing such an amazing trip. It has been a wild 4 weeks so far. I have been able to meet so many wonderful people both on and off the trip, which has been one of my favorite parts of the trip. Poland was an experience all in its self. I am sure that each one of us took away something different from the countless grave sites and concentration camps, I personally  got to fully understand the depth of which the Holocaust had in World War II. The amount of lives that were not just taken, but shattered by the loss of loved ones was horrendous. I'm glad that I got to see for myself how brutal this disaster was, so I can one day pass it on to the next generation, and that they will never forget what happened in those scarring six years. Wow. That was super dark. On a brighter note, I found that hummus is so much better here than in America. Like, SO MUCH BETTER. To end, I'm going to give some honest answers to some questions that people might have. Yes, the food in Poland is as bad as everyone says. All you have to say is "Kosher Delight" and we will all moan in disgust. No, I have not felt in anyway scared or in danger of any violence. The staff are working hard to keep us safe, and they are doing a fantastic job. Yes, I am drinking lots of water, we are reminded to do so every day, and the kids that don't are the ones you hear about being stuck in the hospital. On a completely separate note, in Israel, light switches are on the outsides of rooms. I'm not sure if it's just me that is slightly annoyed by that, but I mean come on, how is that not weird? Anyway, this blog is coming to a close, have a wonderful day/night, and we will see you in less than a week!  

Visit to Eid Hod Artist Colony

View of Haifa

Blog post by Emily Feldman

These last nearly 4 weeks in Israel have been pretty mind-boggling, we've gotten to do things I've never done before in my entire life let alone even knew existed. Electives week was especially impacting to me because I did Tikkun Olam (Community service) and that has a special place in my heart because I enjoy giving back to other people and it put a smile on my face when I saw smiles on other people's faces. This has been an amazing journey for me and I feel like I've grown, from trying new things to being sociable with people I just met. It feels like I've been in Israel forever because it takes 21 days to make or break a habit, and its been more than 21 days.  I've made a habit of being in Israel every minute of every day. I didn't know that people can get so close in this amount of time.  It's like they were friends from the beginning. But I think all these cool experiences, some being nerve racking, have brought people closer together.  In the end of it all I will miss Israel and its people that we've met and our IST ensemble, but I feel grateful for all these once in a lifetime opportunities. I just wanted to say one last thing Noah and Smadar are our medics and guards but other than just protecting us they also counsel us. 

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