Reflections from Anne Frank’s friend, a visit to Yad Vashem, and the fight for egalitarianism at the Western Wall


Gary Pang, Varda Nauen and Rabbi Spilker protesting for for an egalitarian section of the Western Wall outside Prime Minister Netanyahu’s house.

Friday, June 30, 2017

By Ilona Rouda

A day in Jerusalem:  A delicious buffet breakfast followed by a delicious swim in a rooftop pool.  Words describing stories of Anne 

Frank were shared by her childhood friend, Chana Pik. Much was hard to hear but she also shared humor and insights.  As we drove to Yad Vashem, hollyhocks were visible in street plantings.  I have always thought of these flowers as part of childhood in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Yet they were flourishing here in Israel.  Connections!

 As we waited to enter Yad Vashem (where no photography is allowed),  we were surrounded by others from around the world. We were here 29 years ago and I remembered a room of small lights and darkness and silence with names of children who died in the Holocaust. 

As we did a prologue under a tree honoring the Righteous of the Nations, Bob realized this particular tree was honoring Andre and Magda Trocme of France, parents of Nellie Hewitt, a friend from St. Paul and a French teacher colleague at Blake School.  

There is a new museum with extensive photo and video essays.  I found myself averting my eyes.  It was so painful.  The chambers we moved through were overwhelmed by people all studying their history. The walk-through ends with a panorama of modern Israel.  Separate is the Children’s Museum. It still is a place that will remain with me. 

A restful afternoon prepared us for a very interesting service at a Reform Synagogue (Kehillat Kol Haneshema). There were many present.  Different melodies mixed with words.  It was a soothing and joyous service.  As the president of Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, was present, there was anticipation for his words.  He felt that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has brought a variety of Jewish groups together in protest against Netanyahu’s decision to suspend the plan for to provide a better space at the Western Wall for non-Orthodox men and women to worship together.  Tonight, Saturday, at 9:30 pm, is the protest at his home. 

A continuation of flowers found here: geranium, vinca,snap dragons, zinnias, tomato.   

Lessons learned

Monday, June 26, 2017

By Sheyna, Tony, Yoni and Danny Galyan

The bell rang early, six-fifteen in the morning, and we stumbled around blearily, getting ready for the day. Swimsuits, towels, water shoes all had to be added to our usual array of supplies. Breakfast was in the dining hall, a welcome luxury after too many gobbled bowls of cereal before catching the bus.

First period was biology, though we’re doing some interdisciplinary studies, so it was combined with archeology, Bible, the land of Israel, and Israeli history. We took a field trip to Tel Dan Nature Reserve and the biblical city of Dan. Gan Eden was on the map,  but we did not visit, as paradise was part of the doctoral program. There were numerous trees, shrubs, and a river that is the largest tributary of the Jordan River.

Despite a rocky start, we walked through the gate to the ancient city of Dan and an archaeological dig, which was deep in more ways than one. A stone marked the place where archaeologists found a decorative floor piece with Hebrew writing that described the ancient city of Dan. It was the first extra-biblical piece of evidence found showing that Jews were in this land in ancient times, thus proving that rock lives forever.

We spent some time in the remains of an old court, where citizens would bring legal issues before the king and the elders of the city to be decided. This city also features in the Book of Ruth, when Boaz brought 10 men to the city.

After legal studies, we visited Abraham’s Gate, which Abraham passed through while pursuing those who kidnapped his cousin Lot. It just goes to show, Israel has a lot of gates.

From there, we proceeded to History,  Geography,  and Current Events at a former Syrian position in the Golan Heights, overlooking Israel. We could see how important it was to Israel’s security that Israel control this land.

Lunch — everyone’s favorite subject — was next, and we ate at a café on the top of Mount Bental, which also served אייס קפה — ice coffee. Just outside the café was an impressive overlook into Syria. To our amazement, we heard mortar fire and heavy machine gun fire, and saw smoke from brush fires that started as a result of the shelling. It is important to note that this was the only sign of violence anywhere in or near Israel during our trip.

Electives were next, where some went to wine tasting and others went to chocolate tasting. All education should involve wine and chocolate tasting.

The last subject of the day was Physical Education, in which we rafted (or kayaked) down the Jordan River. As it happened, it was also the end of Ramadan (Eid al-Fitr), so the river was full of people celebrating, having picnics on the banks of the river, and creating whitewater conditions for all. It was a welcome splash of fun, and I say that dripping with sincerity.

The river rafting proved to be an opportunity to overcome challenges for some of us, myself included, as getting in and out of an inflatable raft is not always the easiest feat. And in an effort to get to know my youngest son and endear themselves to him, Zvi and Rabbi Spilker rowed up next to the raft he was in, hauled him into their kayak, rowed away, and later dumped him in the three-foot-deep river, demonstrating the Talmud’s mandate to teach a child to swim (Kiddushin 29a). Said son later reported that this was his most memorable (and fun) moment.

Before we were excused for the day, we were randomly assigned to oral exams over the course of the evening from our dinner hosts, where we had the chance to prove our mastery of the subjects covered during the day, as well as conduct research interviews regarding current events at the Kotel.

I am pleased to report that all passed with flying colors.

All day, I am reminded of two Hebrew songs:
Eretz Eretz Eretz by Ilanit (

and especially

Hashamayim k’chulim, anan hu lavan
Vehaboker bahir, ubelayla ashan
Ve’achlom le’atzmi, eizeh achla olam

The sky is blue and clouds of white,
The morning is clear, at night smokey,
And I dream to myself, what a wonderful world*From Eizeh Achla Olam (What a Wonderful World) by Gidi Gov



The Galyan Family
Thursday, June 29, 2017
By Gail Gendler
The group was up early to go to Masada before the crowds and heat of the day kicked in. We stopped along the way to ride a camel, yes a camel, which was actually more like a photo opportunity but it was very fun. Then on to Masada, which many of us were very much looking forward to experiencing.
Whether the more traditional Masada story is accurate or not, you cannot help but be impressed that these Jewish zealots survived in those conditions as long as they did. It was 98 degrees at 9 am as we walked amongst the reconstructed rooms, looked at the areas where the Roman camps were still visible and imagined what life was like for the people living there.
The highlight for many was when our small community gathered at the southern edge of the site and yelled in unison into the hills that we Jews have survived and the Romans are gone, and our Hebrew chant echoed back for all to hear.
After lunch, we stopped in an area of the desert overlooking the Dead Sea and hiked for a short distance, where we had a truly transformational experience. We spread ourselves out so we each had our own space. Then we spent five minutes in total silence, gazing into the beautiful horizon of the Dead Sea or the magnificent and rugged Judaean hills and valleys, alone in our thoughts while the heated breeze from above listened into our thoughts and prayers.

The Dead Sea was our next stop, which proved to be very fun as we floated around the beach area, some of us applying the mud masks that are supposed to be good for our skin. Washing the mud off was almost as healing as floating in the water. Many of us went to an excellent dairy/vegetarian restaurant for dinner and enjoyed seeing the shops of Jerusalem in the evening. Another fabulous day and evening shared amongst friends!

I made it to Israel!


Photo and blog post by Sue Lund

I made it to Israel! I’m still in disbelief- but here I am with 20 other amazing souls. We have really bonded on this trip whether it was joining the ICC- the Iced Coffee Club– soon to be renamed the ICCC club after some of us brave souls hop on a camel on the way to the Dead Sea tomorrow… or perhaps we really bonded when we all started dancing together on the streets- I mean- on the Sea of Galilee! Seriously! We did! Danced the night away… or maybe it was the Shak-Shuka which I still do not know how to spell – let alone pronounce. Nancy Crotti wants to try to make this at home– it’s just THAT good! Such good food in Israel!

So many reflections- so little time.

So let me leave you with one personal story from the trip.

Kinnert Cemetery/Cemetery of the Pioneers

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

It is our first stop of the day. Unplanned. Even before our beloved Iced Coffee. And this day we are primed for the best. Our tour guide Tziv says Cafe Aroma is the real deal. Best Iced Coffee in Israel.

All of a sudden- it seemed like mere moments after we had checked out of the Sea of Gailalee- on our way to Jerusalem!!– we are at Tziv’s favorite place in all of Israel- the Kinnert Cemetery otherwise known as the Cemetery of the Pioneers.

Debbie, my seat mate, roommate and BFF says to me- a cemetery. You love cemeteries!

Indeed- one of my dreams is to travel to world and take pictures of cemeteries. They tell us so much about the people in each region and their culture.

I had heard earlier on the bus about Maimonides and his grave. I asked our awesome Rabbi Spilker – is THIS where he was buried? Rabbi Spilker replies: no, but I promise you there will be a WOW moment.


Tzvi gives us an overview of the cemetery and then brings us to one special grave.

The first thing I see is one word on the upper right hand corner of the grave: Raquel in Hebrew. I immediately snap a photo. I am drawn to the one word. A name. Not like any other graves with that one name.

Tzvi tells us the story of this great woman — who died tragically young- but was an amazing poet and many of her writings were set to music- which he played for us.

Then Rabbi Spilker speaks. I happen, by chance, to be standing right beside him as he told us this story. Es is beshert. Meant to be.

This was my WOW moment, although I did not know it at the time.

Adam begins with a visual image of his own family– Rachel sitting at this bench right beside the gravesite when they had spent time together as a family many moons ago. Rachel and their 3 children- with our beloved Cantor Rachel Stock Spilker sitting there singing Raquel’s (Raquel the women in the grave) songs to her own children, Eiden, Mirit and Liam.

You see- there was also this box right next to the bench– all beside the gravesite– with books of Raquel’s poetry set to music.

What an incredible image of our Rachel singing Raquel’s poetry.

But if that wasn’t enough– which is what this trip is all about– SO MANY Wow! AHA moments packed into each day– Adam tells us that this box filled with Raquel’s books was the inspiration for our display at Mount Zion Temple of Ruth Firestone Brin, of blessed memory, display of her books- just like Raquel.

Tears poured from my eyes at this moment. You see- Ruth Brin- was my frontier lady and most important to me, my good friend.

I first met Ruth on 2004 when I asked her for an out of print copy of her book “Rag of Love.” I’ll never forget her reply: come to my apartment and I’ll give you a copy.

We become fast friends and enjoyed a monthly study group together with Susan Vass and Jonathan Eisenthal — along with many walks and talks.

Ruth was a prolific writer and used to say I was her biggest fan. I would come to many of her book readings. Ruth Brin’s prayers are an integral part of our liturgy today. Ruth, like Raquel was a Pioneer Woman.

Ruth was also a Zionist and would tell me and show me often her pictures of her trips to Israel with the love of her life, Howard Brin, of blessed memory. She loved Israel.

I know Ruth was smiling as you mentioned her name, Rabbi Spilker, and have provided a small sanctuary for us to read her writings, back at home (Our Mount Zion) as there is for Raquel- 2 pioneer women.

Ruth would be so pleased I made it to Israel! And so am I!! I am eternally grateful for this time. For this opportunity. For these amazing experiences. Here I Am! In Israel!

Thank you Rabbi Spilker for this once in a life time opportunity. And thank you for my trip mates for being SO AWEsome!!!! WhatsApp!!!!!

Have a great day!

So much to take in on our way up to Jerusalem

By Brian Serle

Tuesday, June 27
IMG_3659Today we reluctantly departed gorgeous Nof Ginosar on the shores of Lake Kineret, the Sea of Galilee. The food was incredible and plentiful at Hotel Nof Ginosar. I had a chance to soak in the Kineret, warm and surrounded by Biblical mountains. Last night was a highlight of our trip – dinner at home with local Israelis. (But how can I identify just one “highlight”, when the whole trip has so many!). We were guests of the young couple who live on the kibbutz, with their two-year-old beautiful little daughter. Also joining us for dinner were their relatives, who live on the coast. We had a wonderful wide-ranging conversation about many issues, including American and Israeli politics, the Israeli Arab conflict, as well as the ridiculously high cost of apartments in Israel, well beyond the ability of young couples to afford.

Another peak experience of this awesome trip was yesterday’s kayak voyage on the Jordan River. Hundreds of Israeli Arabs were floating or soaking in the river, celebrating Eid al Fitr, the end of the monthlong Muslim holiday of Ramadan. They loved splashing us pale Minnesotans as we came paddling down the river.
And now..

We go to Jerusalem today!
Anachnu olim lirushalayim
Olim means to go up.
We are literally going up to Jerusalem because it’s up in the hills, and we are going up from the low point of Tiberias and the Kineret. It also means going up to our spiritual home, like the aliyah to the bimah, when we go up to the Torah in our sanctuary.
But first,some things to see before our Aliyah to Jerusalem.
We hugged the western coast of The Kineret, traveling south through Tiberias to the Tiberias cemetery, the cemetery of the pioneers.
Nestled along the southern shore of Kineret is the special cemetery. Songwriter Naomi Shemer is buried here, writer of Jerusalem of Gold, Yerushalayim shel Zahav.
Rachel Blaustein — Rachel the Poetess — is also buried here. Her most famous poem is perhaps Ve-ulai. Haunting and beautiful, best known for its climax, “Hoi, Kineret Sheli,” “Oh my Kineret.”

Our guide Zvi shared his feelings for this special cemetery and especially Rachel’s grave. Her poetry is actually kept in a box by her grave.

Rabbi Spilker shared with us the impact of visiting Rachel’s grave with his family a few years ago. It was the inspiration for the Mt. Zion’s Ruth Brin Memorial, named our own poetess.

Saying our goodbyes to Kineret for the last time, we headed east to Haifa.

The drive to Haifa included a long highway tunnel through the mountains. The bridges and infrastructure here are amazing.

We stopped for a view from Mount Carmel and a photo opportunity overlooking the Baha’I Gardens and the city and modern port of Haifa. Breathtaking!

Next stop: Yemin Orde youth village, started in 1953 for at-risk children throughout Israel.  Present group is 432 kids from the former Soviet Union, Brazil, Ethiopia, etc. It takes 100 kids per year from a state of pain and survival to a state of leadership, with 50 percent of its 5,000 graduates entering pre-army leadership training.

The staff includes 11 social workers and two psychologists to help the kids become part of society.

For many kids, the Beit Knesset (synagogue) is their first exposure to Jewish prayer and practice. They also provide Scholarships for college. Yemin Orde is 71% supported by government. The balance is from charity, especially from U.S. This is real Tikkun Olam.

We had a chance to meet some of the students and to hear their stories. Amazing work!

Batya, a staff member  told us her story about coming to Israel from Ethiopia and about getting involved in Yemin Orde. Amazing!

There are 400,000 high risk children in Israel.

Lunch: thick burgers and French fries, salads and anchance to interview a student from Sao Paolo, Brazil, who is a senior and interested in public relations.

Susan Weigel, the director,  spoke to us about the work of the community and its needs.

Zvi gave us a great overview of Israel history, using visual aids. The amphitheater was amazing. We sang Eili Eili at the sea, in the footsteps of Hannah Senesh and had a dramatic performance by Rick and Margie.
Hottest day of the trip so far! Whew! The ice cream at Caesarea was fabulous.

We finally climbed (by bus) the hills to Jerusalem. The excitement on the bus was palpable, as Tzvi led us in a medley of songs related to Jerusalem. We felt a sense of accomplishment as we arrived at the overlook at the Montefiore windmill, from where we could see Mount Zion and the Old City.

A great day of touring Israel!


Ancient and New

MZ Israel Blog 2017 Sunday June 25, 2017

By Rick Linsk

File_000In an excerpt from Israel—A Spiritual Travel Guide (Jewish Lights Pub., 2d ed.) that we read in preparation for this trip, Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman speaks of a distinction between the tourist who visits Israel and the pilgrim who does the same. A tourist, he says, aims to “get away from it all.” But Jews visiting Israel are not seeking to get away—we are pilgrims returning home. With each passing day of our trip, the significance of Rabbi Hoffman’s observation sinks in. That felt increasingly true today.

We started Sunday by hearing an assessment from Professor Paul Liptz—a former professor of our Rabbi Adam Stock Spilker—of the successes and difficulties of Israeli society. Israel ranks high among nations surveyed for their residents’ happiness, and it maintains an impressively high standard of living for most people given the volatility of the “neighborhood.” But poverty-stricken segments of society pose challenges.

Following the talk, it was time to say goodbye to Tel Aviv. While we enjoyed the three-day glimpse of the coastal city’s vibrant beach scene, night life, and go-go economy, it was refreshing to get out into the country. Our first stop was Neot Kedumim, a 620-acre nonprofit nature preserve halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that aims to restore and preserve plants and trees as they were in the times of the Bible. Our host taught and reminded us of key biblical passages and—in a special treat—set us up to each plant an oak seedling. The ancient cistern and olive press were also exciting to see and hear about. Neot Kedumim makes the Bible come alive.

Further northbound in our bus on the Trans-Israel Highway, we observed and learned about Israel’s security barrier along the seam zone between Israel and the Palestinian territories. We had a quick lunch at an Israeli mall and then traveled further for a deeply moving afternoon in Tsfat, one of Israel’s historic sacred cities and a center of Jewish mysticism for several centuries. We sang “L’Cha Dodi” in the city where it was written, and squeezed in some shopping. We had good times on the bus Sunday too, including learning fun facts about several people in our group, and some of them were even true.

We ended the day at our hotel near Lake Kineret—the “Sea of Galilee”—capped with dinner, some reflections on our time so far, and even a few moves on the dance floor. Photos of the latter may emerge: Watch this space!



And the answer is…

imageBy Varda Nauen

Greetings from 21 members of the Congregational Trip to Israel:

We just are wrapping up Day 3 – another incredible, action-packed adventure. A democratic decision was made to share the blogging fun among all of us. So hi (Shalom!) – this is Varda Nauen – today’s official blogger and reporting live from the Grand Beach Hotel in Tel Aviv, a very short walk to the Mediterranean Sea. I decided to conduct a short poll with almost everyone in our group, about our experiences thus far in Israel, and want to share some results and fun facts and colorful commentary with you:

What about Israel surprised you or was unexpected? This question had many comments about Tel Aviv; including: how completely safe it feels here and no guns are seen anywhere; motorcycles driving on the sidewalk; easy to find sophisticated craft cocktails; how different Tel Aviv is from 10 years ago – in a good way; its vivaciousness, so relaxed and cosmopolitan. Other unexpected surprises included not realizing that Israel has been fighting non–stop; how moving it was to meet a member of the Palmach; not expecting Jaffa to be so hip and trendy; the opposition to support the Reform Movement; lack of mosquitos; and, the terrible airplane flight.

How many times have you been to Israel? It’s the first visit for the overwhelming majority of us – 60%. Others have been here 2, 3, even 5 times, but Rabbi Spilker definitely wins with 10+ visits.
What has been your favorite food so far? Many of us REALLY like the iced coffee, which was the most popular choice. Other deliciousness enjoyed includes treats like baba ganousch, Moroccan chicken, lemon chicken, hummus, roasted eggplant, falafel, Israeli salad, Halvah, fresh fruit and vegetables, chocolate babka, and sambusak.
What has been the highlight of your trip thus far? (Note: Last night we attended Shabbat services at a local Reform congregation, and then we were all invited to Shabbat dinner with families at various homes.) It was a very special, fun, and meaningful experience for every one of us, and almost everyone mentioned this as their top highlight so far of the trip. Others mentioned visiting Jaffa, with its mix of ancient and modern styles and architecture; visiting the Palmach Museum (the elite resistance companies of the Haganah); seeing the beautiful views of the Mediterranean, and one person (who shall remain nameless) most especially enjoyed the handsome male joggers.
Next, do you know the names of everyone in our group? Surprisingly, quite a few of us are still figuring that out, but the majority (71%) know the names of the other 20 in the group.
What about Israel surprised you or was unexpected? This question had many comments about Tel Aviv; including: how completely safe it feels here and no guns are seen anywhere; motorcycles driving on the sidewalk; easy to find sophisticated craft cocktails; how different Tel Aviv is from 10 years ago – in a good way; its vivaciousness, so relaxed and cosmopolitan. Other unexpected surprises included not realizing that Israel has been fighting non–stop; how moving it would be to meet a member of the Palmach; not expecting Jaffa to be so hip and trendy; the opposition to support the Reform Movement; lack of mosquitos; and, the terrible airplane flight.
Finally, inquiring minds wanted to know what we learned about Israeli life from our host families at Shabbat Dinner last night. We had a lot to say on this topic, including: There are ordinary heroes here fighting for progressive Judaism without much glory. It is challenging to be a Reform Jew in Israel. Israel is very family-oriented, people who hosted us are not different from us – it was easy to bond. Residents feel extremely safe. Parenting is similar. It is densely populated and crowded. It is expensive. It was interesting how open the families were in meeting with us. Learned the perspective of moms with their kids coming out of the army (IDF), and how important it was for them in terms of camaraderie, life experience and travel.. Impressed by how well-informed the young people were about politics in both Israel and the US.
Every day we are gathering many new experiences. we enjoyed pausing and reflecting a moment, so early in our trip.

We have arrived!

We have arrived! Welcome to the 2017 Mt.Zion Israel trip blog! We landed at Newark airport just in time to board the huge 777 plane for our overnight flight to Tel Aviv. After a few minutes to freshen up at our hotel, just blocks from the Mediterranean, the bus whisked us off to a Yemenite restaurant, where we were plied with course after course of fabulous  Middle Eastern food.  After a good night’s sleep and a wonderful Israeli breakfast at the hotel, we went to see the the museum of the Palmach, Israel’s pre-state elite fighting force.  Zvi, a member of the Palmach, showed us the photo albums of his fellow members. The museum was inspiring and a good grounding for the rest of our  visit.

This afternoon, we visited Israel’s Independence Hall, where Israel was declared an independent state, followed by a walk to the Innovation Center of Taglit (Birthright), where we saw examples of several  Israeli startup companies. This evening, we’re headed to Shabbat services at a Reform congregation, followed by dinner at the homes of congregants. Shabbat shalom!


2014 Day 11 – A Tapestry of Israel

photo2photo4photo3photo5Day 11 began with an early morning visit with Rabbi Ron Kronish, founder and Director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI) and Kadi (Judge) Zahalka, Judge of the Sharia Court of Jerusalem. Established in 1990, ICCI is a coalition of over 60 interfaith organizations with the goal of spreading a message of reconciliation and peaceful coexistence among the Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions. It seeks to accomplish this goal through educational programs and visits to communities and schools throughout the region in an effort to have all of the religions, cultures and identities understand each other in the interest of building peace. During the visit, we learned that Rabbi Spilker was Rabbi Kronish’s first intern during Spilker’s year in Israel 1992/1993. Kadi Zahalka, a very well educated and learned individual, is one of ten Judges on the Sharia Court of Jerusalem where he hears civil matters under Sharia law and seeks to bridge civil law with rules of Sharia based on his in-depth knowledge of both. (see photo) To hear Rabbi Kronish and Kadi Zahalka speak with such a deep understanding and respect for each other’s religion and culture, one feels a sense of hope for a peaceful coexistence – but only if this type of engagement can be widely disseminated throughout the entire population of the region. We finished up about 10 am and then traveled throughout the city of Jerusalem to get a sense of the commercial and residential areas and to see and talk about the current geopolitical situation. We stopped at several points to see and talk about the security barriers in different places consisting of either walls or fences and which divide different Israeli and Palestinian areas.  (see photo)  We also saw many houses with bullet-proof windows. A very depressing way to live but clearly necessary until peace comes to the area and residents no longer need to fear for their safety.

On to Gush Etzion where the kids went on a zip-line adventure with Ido at Eretz Ha’Ayalim, site of the longest zip-line in Israel, while the adults met with Col. Benzi Gruber, Deputy Commander of an Armored Corps brigade. The discussion with Col. Gruber focused on the dilemmas and ethical decisions that must be made in the field, many times in a matter of seconds, when IDF troops are confronted with terrorists in an area with non-combatants. Col. Gruber explained the training received by Israeli troops on avoiding collateral damage in the form of injury or death to non-combatants even when the troops are faced with immediate danger. A very difficult story to explain all of the efforts made by Israeli troops to avoid collateral damage when, despite these efforts, collateral damage is unavoidable.

We met up with the kids who had returned from zip-lining and who had run into an IDF soldier named Avi who grew up in St. Louis Park!! (see photo) He has lived in Israel since he was ten.

During the drive to the German Colony neighborhood of Jerusalem, where we planned to have lunch, we were entertained with a Karaoke song sung by Lilith and Levi.  A very nice interlude.

After a leisurely lunch, we had a wonderful visit at Kol HaOt Art Gallery where we first read the story of Abraham and Issac through artistic scrolls and then the group, divided by family, prepared artistic scrolls memorializing, through symbols and colors, our visit in Israel. These personal scrolls were shared with the group and we each talked about what it was we were taking home with us from this trip. (see photo) A very moving experience for everyone in the group. Our day concluded with a wonderful farewell dinner at the Little Jerusalem garden restaurant located on the premises of the Anna Ticho house in Jerusalem city center. The building serves as a public center for Art as well as a restaurant and was bequeathed by Anna Ticho to the city of Jerusalem to serve as a center for Art under the auspices of the Israel Museum. Back to the Mt. Zion hotel at about 10:30 for relaxation and any last minute packing.  Those returning directly to St. Paul boarded the bus at 1 am for transport to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv for our 4:50 am flight home.

– Dan Shapiro

2014 Day 10 Masada and Dead Sea


Herod THE GREAT sparing no expense for his winter palace

Herod THE GREAT sparing no expense for his winter palace

Listening with full attention to Svi

Listening with full attention to Svi


Dead Sea scrolls discovered here

Dead Sea scrolls discovered here


imageDay 11. MASADA & THE DEAD SEA

We started our day very early to avoid the worst heat on the top of Masada. We left Jerusalem at 7 am and drove east through the West Bank passing several settlements that in the most recent agreement are considered part of Israel. A great surprise awaited the kids when we reached the sign indicating that we were at sea level. We took the off ramp built specifically for Suchi the camel, which is where the sign for being at sea level was,because we would be going below sea level. The Bedouin owner and his son have a great business going. Zvi explained that the West Bank Bedouin are not Israeli citizens, but those that live in Israel proper are citizens. As trackers, they are valuable members of the IDF.

We turned south and drove along the Dead Sea. We passed the site believed to be the ancient city of Jericho, however, the walls of Jericho have not been discovered, so the exact location is anybody’s guess. Unfortunately, it is not safe for Israelis to go to Jericho or Bethlehem, but many Christian tourists can visit these cities.

It was very hazy over the Dead Sea. The surface is 1300 feet below sea level, and it’s deepest level is 2400 feet below sea level. It is the remnants of an inland sea, and has been receding at a rate of 1 meter per year, since the dam was built diverting the water from the Kinneret. This sea lies on a tectonic rift, the Syrian African rift which runs from Turkey to Mozambic. The eastern tectonic plate is moving at a rate of 1 cm per year. These plates have moved 100 km since recorded history.
The multimillion dollar industry, the Dead Sea Works, extracts salts and metals from the southern end of the Dead Sea including salt, pot ash, Magnesium for VW cars, and many other elements with medicinal properties. Modern medicine uses Dead Sea treatments for patients with psoriasis and arthritis. AHAVA is a company formed by four kibbutz that market skin care products made with Dead Sea minerals.

We drove past the caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered by a Bedouin shepherd, on November 29 th 1947. ultimately scrolls were found in 11 caves.
One of the First scrolls discovered contained the entire book of Isaiah, but mostly only fragments were found. A total of 40,000 fragments were found.
The 3 most important reflections on the significance of the Dead Sea scrolls are

1. Bible hot off the press, it is the Oldest bible. 2200 yr old full text, every book except Esther.
2. Essene society detailed. We are all descendants of the Pharisees.
Essenes are the 3rd branch of ancient Judaism. They went into the desert, rejected main stream Judaism, practiced celibacy, believed in predestination, used a solar calendar.
3. Christianity develops out of this time, John the Baptist was an Essenes.

Masada @ 110 degrees,
It was built by Herod the Great as a winter palace getaway, although it is unclear if he ever visited it. Had enough water stored in cisterns to last 4 years. Occupied by Jewish fringe radicals in 66 AD before the destruction of the temple by the Romans. They grew food, including date trees. Amazingly, scientists were able to grow a date tree from a 2000 yr old pit found at Masada. This tree is now 5 yrs old.

Masada Myths. They were heroes? They were terrorists, they were zealots?
ATJ=”According to Josephus,” who wrote down the only account of the events at Masada, 10 yrs afterwards and never came himself.

Dead Sea…..warm mineral bath and mud …free floating…no worries…relaxed and happy

Respectfully submitted by Susan Benfield and Nancy Rosen