It’s Not My Typical Wednesday

December 27, 2018 in Guest Post

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. This week’s blog is written by Elisha Frumkin, Beth El’s education director, while chaperoning the inaugural Sorkin Youth Trip to Israel.

Yesterday was not my typical Wednesday.

Making pita on an open fire does not usually happen in Montgomery County but today I found myself avoiding the smoke of a fire and enjoying a  lunch of pita, hummus, a variety of salads, and spaghetti, sitting at the base of a giant sand dune. We, or I should say the 18 teen participants on the Sorkin Israel Youth Trip, Matthew Jacobson, a BERS alum and Rabbi Harris, sand surfed down the dune at occasional breakneck speeds.  The entire day was outdoors. We began at Machtesh Ramon, the massive crater in the middle of the Negev desert. Then this afternoon at a dune we reached after turning off the highway at a completely unmarked location, driving through the desert over bumpy landscape, and arriving at a food truck, a Jeep, and a sign inscribed with “Welcome to the Middle of Nowhere.”

We are on day seven of this inaugural Israel trip for our Confirmation Class, and it has been incredible so far. From Kibbutz Ein Gev in the north to the Negev, Dead Sea and Masada in the south, our group is exploring Israel, her people, and her stories. We have explored stories of bravery and courage to stand for one’s beliefs, despite hurdles and challenges. We have explored aspects of leadership and how it emerges from strong values and clear vision. And we discovered that sometimes failure, however devastating it seems, can lead to something beautiful and new.

One example came on our very first stop in the country – Kaima Farm. Founded by young couples from the center of the country, their original goal was to create a sustainable, organic farm in the Galilee. Despite hard work and much initiative, they failed. It was much too difficult to compete with bigger operations and turn a profit. They were not defeated though.  They pivoted and are succeeding. Now Kaima employs teens who have dropped out of school and have a tenuous future with limited options for serving in the IDF. These teens have found a home at Kaima. As Efrat, one of the founders, said, everything grows there, kids, confidence, self-image and vegetables.

The Sorkin Trip teens after sand surfing in the Negev desert.

Our trip has been told through the people we meet and the stories that comprise the history of this land. We have explored the tapestry of Israel, eating in the homes of Ethiopian women in the southern town of Gedera, hearing the stories of how they came to live in the very place they dreamed of for thousands of years. We sat in the tent of a Bedouin man named Salmon whose story of social entrepreneurship changed his community in remarkable ways and inspired us, too. We were charmed by Margalit Zinati, whose family has remained in the northern town of Peki’in since the time of the destruction of the second temple, ensuring a Jewish presence. Even though she remains the only Jew in her town, she still holds true to the call to be a “flame keeper” for our people.

Along the way, we have seen many important sites and met inspiring people. We have also had an amazingly fun time, bonding with old and new friends. A graffiti tour in Tel Aviv showed us the power of art to reflect social issues and initiate change. The teens hung out with the youth of Kibbutz Ein Gev, learning ways in which their similarities bridged their cultural and language divide. And we are just a little more than halfway through our time together. I invite you to follow along, as I post regularly about our visits and activities on Facebook – you can find me at Elisha Frumkin Beth El or follow #SorkinTrip2018.

It was not my typical Wednesday and yet it was another perfect day here in Israel!