No country in the world is as rich in such a tiny space. Within an hour or two’s drive from Nishmat we can reach desert, sea coast, deep ravines, natural forests, natural springs and the Dead Sea. And every hill, every body of water, every ancient road comes with a Biblical story. We will take regular day trips this year
Israel is an extraordinarily diverse country. Jews have immigrated here from nearly as many countries bringing with them traditions and culture from around the world. A look at the number of different kinds of Batei Knesset in Jerusalem, or the different kinds of food in and around Mahane Yehuda will give you just a taste of the rich diversity this country sustains. As part of our year, we will spend Shabbatot together among different kinds of communities in Israel, meeting members of communities in their homes, hearing them speak about their experiences, and then discussing what we have learned together -with an eye to what we can learn in our lives.
Sometimes one day just isn’t enough. Several times a year, Nishmat takes its students on an overnight trip in order to deepen the experience of the Land of Israel.
The Jewish year is rich, and at Nishmat we celebrate not only the traditionally religious but also Israel’s civil holidays with a deep sense of gratitude.
No country in the world is blessed with the sheer quantity and quality of archeology as Israel is. And no period is more hotly contested in archeology than the period of Kings David and Shlomo. Explore the recently excavated site of Hurbat Kayafa, the Biblical town of “Shaarayim,” mentioned in the story of David’s battle with Goliath and learn why this excavation has begun to change the minds of archeologists around the world about the historicity of the Tanakh’s account of David’s kingdom.
Tel Lachish is an exquisitely preserved 8th century BCE Israelite city complete with walls, gates, a palace and… the very ramp that Sancherib, the King of Assyria himself built to conquer the city in 701 BCE.
Today, Nebi Samuel, or kever Shmuel Hanavi, is the site of a bet midrash, a crusader cathedral and a mosque. The highest point on the horizon west of Jerusalem, for over three thousand years it has been the site of conflicts over control of the main roads to Jerusalem. This is where Joshua launched his battle to save the Gibonites from the Cananite siege, where Shmuel defeated the Philistines and reclaimed the lands of Israel, where Judah the Maccabee gave his famous speech before the battle that would win the Temple back for the Jewish people.
YOM KIPPUR AT YESHIVAT OTNIEL
This Yom Kippur will be different from what you are used to. There is tremendous strength in davening with one’s family, within the familiar walls of a synagogue one has known for years. But there is a different power to davening with a yeshiva -a home of a different sort. A home for Torah, a home for Avodat Hashem on the day most intensely devoted to Avodat Hashem. At Otniel there is a mix of traditions and a combination of deep simcha and intense teshuva, but there are no breaks.
EILAT (Eilat Mountains)
Israel’s southernmost tip, the port city of Eilat. Home to dramatic desert and mountain hikes, oases, and access to the Red Sea. We will spend three days in Eilat, hiking with the sunrise, swimming and snorkeling in the sea and learning about Israel’s relationship to the desert from Avraham to Sinai.
Every Jewish community has its own holidays. Fifty days after Yom Kippur, the day on which Ethiopian Jewry raised its eyes to Jerusalem and reminded itself that it too was striving to return home, the Sigd is a national holiday in Israel celebrating not only the unique contributions of Ethiopian Jewry but the longing for Jerusalem shared by all exiled communities.
American Jewry has an enormous amount to be thankful for. America provided the Jewish people with a safe haven at a time when Europe was turning against us. By protecting democracy, the rights of minorities and guaranteeing freedom of religion, America has given Judaism the opportunity to truly flourish. At the same time, American Jewry is facing staggering degrees of assimilation. On Thanksgiving, our American students teach the rest of the Midrasha about the depth of the American Jewish experience, and also about the challenges their communities face.
Bet Shemesh today is the heart of one of the largest immigrant communities from English speaking countries. Meet families who have decided to raise their children in communities of other olim. What are the challenges, and what are the blessings of moving to Israel?
Nachal Amud flows year long in a ravine between the cities of Meron and Tsfat. One of the most beautiful locations in Israel, with forests, wildlife and endless pools in which to swim and cool oneself on a long hike. It also is witness to the flowering of the Jewish communities in the Mishnaic period and again in the golden age of Tsfat, when Rabban Yosef Karo and the Arizal lived in Tsfat.
Beneath the home of the BIblical Jeremiah, lies a gorgeous deep ravine that housed the prophet in his times of crisis. Hike along a string of natural pools, fed by the many springs just east of Jerusalem. Watch a unique natural spring as it naturally fills up and then empties out, an endless cycle of providing fresh water for thirsty hikers and agriculture along its path.
Alon Shvut, in Gush Etsion is one of the most remarkable Zionist Torani communities in Israel. Home of the “Gush” yeshiva and many of its rabbanim and avreichim, it is a center of depth, authority and innovation in Torah learning from Halacha to Tanakh to Gemara.
Ein Gedi is mentioned in Bereishit a city of Date Palms. Located at one of the desert’s most reliable and flourishing oases, Ein Gedi has been both an agricultural and spiritual powerhouse since very ancient time. Archeological digs on site have revealed it as a religious center since the times of Abraham, and the Talmud often mentions the potency of the “afarsimon” perfume, the single most valuable commodity in the ancient world -worth more than its weight in gold, and extracted only here at Ein Gedi and in Jericho. Explore and hike the Tsafit trail, with its waterfalls, ravines and wildlife.
Nishmat’s faculty is unusually diverse. With rabbanim and rabbaniyot from the main centers of Torah learning in Israel, who live in as many different kinds of communities. Spend two Shabbatot this year with your faculty. Join their families for discussion, tefillot and meals.
Nachal Sorek, Emek Refaim, Kiryat Anavim, ancient mikvaot and hillside terrace agriculture, wildlife and wild edible plants -from figs to almonds to anise. All on one three hour hike only 10 minutes from Nishmat. Walk along a section of Shvil Yisrael overlooking several modern day moshavim and the valleys in which central stories from Shoftim and Shmuel took place. And take a lunch break at a natural spring large enough to swim in.
We will spend one Shabbat in the Hareidi community of Jerusalem. Praying, and sharing meals with Hassidim from the Belzer and Slonimer communities.
Yerucham is a development town. Mostly Sephardi, mostly working class, located in the heart of the Negev, south of Beer Sheva, Yerucham hosts one of Israel’s dynamic “garin Toani” communities. Idealistic Zionist religious families have moved to Yerucham to be a part of the life of the community at large and to give the Torani and halachic aspects of the city a much needed boost. Community members will speak about the challenges and excitement of living where they do.
David Ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan, Amos Oz -an astonishing percentage of Israel’s early political, military and literary leadership came from kibbutzim. The kibbutz, with its communal life style, love of Israel and commitment to settling the land, shaped the Israeli ethos in its first decades. We will spend a Shabbat on kibutz Maaleh Gilboa and hear about this specific kibbutz’s struggle and eventual success in accommodating the tremendous changes in Israeli society. Maaleh Gilboa is the home of Yeshivat Maaleh Gilboa and we will hear a shiur from rosh hayeshiva, Rav Bigman.
TEL AVIV YAFFO
Tel Aviv, the altneuland of Israel. The “tel” signifies its ancient roots going back four thousand years as the main port where Yonah fled and Shlomo brought the ceders for the mikdash. “Aviv” reminds us of the Spring of modern Israel. The first Jewish neighbourhoods, the first Jewish city in two thousand years, a bustling city of great food original architecture, and Jews of every possible background -a city that never sleeps. Tel Aviv includes both the ancient Yaffo and the modern city -and in between the picturesque Neveh Tsedek, where giants of Israeli culture and Torah such as Rav Kook and Agnon, Brenner and Nachum Gutman began their lives in Israel.
The Golan has played a role in Jewish history since the Bashan was first conquered by Yehoshua and Israel entering Israel. Later in history, the Golan was a thriving centre of Jewish life – from the great rebellion against Rome and through the times of the Talmud, the Golan was blessed with a stunning range of synagogues and communities – many of which are remarkably well preserved till today. Built over geological ages by volcanos and the shifting Syrian-African rift, the Golan boasts some of the most beautiful hikes in Israel – waterfalls, deep ravines, and natural forests.
OLD CITY, JERUSALEM
Three thousand years ago, the centre of Jewish Torah and sovereignty. Since the destruction of the Temple, the focus of Israel’s yearning to return to its home, this square kilometer of real estate is the most intense in the world. Two great Jewish Temples stood here, with millenia of history, wars and Torah study. Kings and prophets, chachamim and simple Jews came here to live, worship Hashem and also to die. We will spend several days of the year walking the alleys and streets of Jerusalem -both the familiar and that which is hidden from view.
TSFAT – GALIL
With the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the Galil became the centre of Jewish life. Here Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi redacted the Mishna and Rabbi Yochanan the Jerusalem Talmud. We will hike in the valleys around Tsfat, visit the graves of tsadidkim and learn about the Kabbalistic understanding of the soul and why gravesites matter to so many Jews (and why they matter less to others). We will explore the old city of Tsfat, the synagogues of Rabban Yosef Karo, the Arizal, and the graveyard in which they rest. We will spend Shabbat with contemporary spiritual seekers, Hassidim of Breslov and Habad who search for God in the synagogues, study houses and woods of the city.
We spend the day of Yom Zicharon on Har Herzl together with tens of thousands of mourning Israelis. Hearing their stories, and visiting the graves of soldiers who gave their lives for their people. From the graves of the War of Independence, to the lost navy men of the submarine Dakar, from the grave of Hannah Senesh to the graves of soldiers lost only this past year, we will take a day to remember and give respect.
Yom HaAtzmaut Celebrations
Celebrating Yom HaAtsmaut in Israel is different. The day begins with the final moments of Yom HaZicharon – the memories and the loss- and continues with fireworks and powerful ceremonies on Har Herzl. Meanwhile, at Nishmat we celebrate with a special night of tefillot and a seudat chag in honour of the modern State and the religious yearnings that it fulfills. In the day we hike in Jerusalem together, noting the moments from David’s time to the Six Day War, where Jerusalem became the centre of Jewish life in Israel.
Mercaz Shapira is a combination of a small community outside the main population centres of the country -framed by farmland in the shadow of the Hebron hills- and the home of one of religious Zionism’s great yeshivot, Ohr Etsion.