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The Israel trip is thanks to Taglit Birthright Israel: Mayanot in partnership with The Friendship Circle

Mayanot Trip 99 - Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The last day of our trip had arrived. After a very early wake up call, Mayanot 99 had to pack up their things on the kibbutz, collect a packed breakfast, and board the bus to head straight to the airport. 

The goodbye at the airport was very emotional. Everyone was very excited about seeing their family, but upset about leaving each other. The Israeli staff waved goodbye to Mayanot 99 as they walked through security and made their way to the gate. 

Thank you for following our blog throughout Mayanot 99’s adventures! We hope to stay in touch!

Mayanot Trip 99 - Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Good morning America, 

We were off to an early start this morning, as we had much to do! We ate breakfast, packed our bags and then we were on our way to Masada. It was a really hot day, but we were lucky enough to catch the cable cars up to the mountain top. Oreet, our tour guide, took us through the history of Masada detailing the type of palaces that were built on the mountain top, and the siege of Masada by the Roman troops. After walking around in the heat, we went to the air-conditioned mall for a delicious lunch and some shopping.
 
Our next stop, Ein Gedi! We walked through the dessert for 5-10 minutes on a pathway that led us straight to a natural waterfall. At last, some relief from the desert heat!! We splashed around and cooled off before getting back on the bus to make our way to the Dead Sea.
 
We were then able to experience the phenomenon of the lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea! We lathered ourselves in mud and then went to rinse off in the salty water. We were careful not to get any water in our eyes, as we lay there floating in the water.
 
After the Dead Sea, it was off to Kibbutz Almog, where we spent our last night together. We had some time to settle into our rooms and get ready for dinner before gathering for our last group session. Once we had all arrived to the closing session, our staff summed up our trip and we were each given the opportunity to talk about what we experienced on the trip, what we enjoyed and what we would miss the most. We were given T-shirts, CDs and watched a slideshow of pictures and memories from the trip.
 
It was then off to sleep, so we would be able to wake up for our flight the next day...

Mayanot Trip 99 - Monday, June 24, 2013

Dear Friendship Trip followers,

Today was our last day in Jerusalem. But before we left the capital city to travel down south, we made one more stop. We dressed up with aprons, put on our hair nets and gowned our gloves to help package rice for the needy and poor. Needless to say, we were very efficient and managed to help lots of families in need. 

After eating lunch in a beautiful park in Jerusalem, it was time to make our way down south. We sat on the bus for a couple of hours before arriving at our next destination; the salad trail. There we learned how they grow herbs, plants and vegetables in the dessert. We were able to pick and eat fresh herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers and flowers. We also picked carrots from the ground, but not just orange carrots; purple, yellow and white carrots as well! Before we thanked the salad trail for having us, we were also able to see and learn about messenger pigeons.   

We then continued on our bus journey to arrive at the Bedouin tents. Before we were able to settle into our tent, we had the opportunity to go camel riding by sunset. It was beautiful!

We had a traditional Bedouin dinner with Humus, Laffa, meat and salads, and were able to learn a little bit about their musical instruments, culture and tradition. Once we settled down in our tent and made our beds, we headed straight to our bonfire where we all had the opportunity to shine as bright as the moon at the evening’s talent show! We then roasted marshmallows on the fire, tradition of course, and made our way to sleep for a busy day tomorrow...

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Mayanot Trip 99 - Sunday, June 23, 2013

Good afternoon friends and family,

What a jam-packed, adventure filled day we had in Jerusalem today. After a healthy breakfast at the hotel, the group set off to the southern wall excavations in the old city of Jerusalem. There we were able to walk the same paths of many of our ancestors who came to visit the temple in the olden times. After learning about the history of the temple, we moved on to visit the Western wall. We each took a few moments to connect with ourselves and process the significance of the structure. Some of us had notes prepared to leave in the cracks of the wall, as is customary at the holy site.
 
There was much to see in the old city, and we continued on to listen to a tour that guided us through the history and life of the cardo in the old city. Following on, we sat down for some yummy, fresh pizza and then split up into smaller groups so that we could explore more areas of the old city and purchase souvenirs.
 
We had one last exciting stop before heading back to the hotel for the evening. We went to visit the zoo!! There were so many new animals to see and sounds to be heard. Some of us were lucky enough to catch the train for a light tour of the entire zoo. Before getting back on the bus, it was time to say goodbye to the soldiers who joined us for the trip. We all sat down together on the grass to reminisce the fun times we had with each of them, and to thank them for everything they have done for us. It was sad to see them leave, but we still have several more days of the trip to look forward to!
 
After a long day of walking, it was time to return to the hotel for some dinner and good restful night.
 
See you tomorrow!
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Mayanot Trip 99 - Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dear family and friends,

Today we had our first well-needed day of rest on the trip. We woke up at leisure, had breakfast and then participated in a group discussion about our Jewish identities and what being Jewish means to us.

After the group activity, we went straight to lunch. During the afternoon we swam, relaxed by the poolside and were able to spend more time getting to know each other. We then had a question and answer session with Rabbi Zev where he answered all of our questions.

After, our mifgashim (the Israelis that have joined us for 5 days on our trip) ran a fantastic activity for us about the Israeli army. It was great to learn a little bit about some of the things that the soldiers in the army do, and we all received a gift from them!

After Shabbat we stood under the stars and sang along to havdalah with a guitar played by Steven.

Finally this evening we went bowling!!! Everyone had a great time and we even got to get some dinner there too.

Can't wait for tomorrow!!!!

Mayanot Trip 99 - Friday, June 21, 2013

Dear friendship followers,

We started our day in Jerusalem asking ourselves what is the Shoa - the Holocaust, and why is it important for young Jewish Americans to remember it? While discussing our thoughts before our tour of Yad Veshem, one fellow Mayanot’er mentioned a beautiful idea that I would like to share with you. He stated that the Nazis may have taken their shoes, hair, teeth etc… But were they able to take their identities? During the follow-up discussion, another Mayanot’er answered the question that it's both yes and no. Yes, they took our physical bodies but no, they did not capture US, our identity, as we are here today!!! 
 
After a powerful morning we headed off to the SHUK for some fun shopping and food tasting! We each were given a secret buddy to buy a small gift for a game of Giants and Gnomes. Following our wild adventure we headed to our new hotel, the Jerusalem gardens to get ready for Shabbat.
 
We had a pre-Shabbat activity explaining what Shabbat is all about, then candle lighting and Kabbalat Shabbat. After our services led by Rabbi Zev, we enjoyed a wonderful Shabbat dinner. Our night ended with our gift exchange game, lots of love and laughter.

Mayanot Trip 99 - Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday morning started off bright and early, as we packed up our bus and said goodbye to northern Israel, heading south for the long ride to Tel Aviv.

As we entered the greater Tel Aviv area it was evident that we were no longer in the more rural north and we were changing gears and entering the modern metropolis of Tel Aviv.
 
Our first stop in Tel Aviv was the Olympic Experience. We broke up into smaller groups and followed our Israeli tour guides through the history of the Olympic games.  The Olympic experience started off with an interactive simulation where we tested some of our reaction times that are used for some of Olympic events. Additionally we were taught about the history of the Olympic games and the illustrious history of Jewish Olympians. Finally we saw a film about the history of Israel in the Olympic games, and a learnt about the history of Israel’s medalists.  
 
Our next stop in Tel Aviv was the old city of Jaffa. We toured around the port, and walked up the hill of Jaffa to a lookout, which overlooked the Mediterranean and the city of Tel Aviv. After seeing the old city we went to the downtown area to the hustling bustling Tel Aviv beach! After a little fun in the sun, we got back onto the bus to head to our beach side hotel in Netanya. Our hotel’s lobby is 50 feet from the beach. After we enjoyed dinner overlooking the sea we wound down our day with a surprise birthday party for our Madrich Jake! With all the action in our schedule it is hard to wrap my head around the fact that we have only been together for five days.
 
All the best from Israel, Manny
 
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Mayanot Trip 99 - Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hey everyone,

They tell me today is day 3, all I know is today was amazing and coming after such an awesome day 2 makes me wonder what’s coming next.

We woke up for the 2nd morning with a beautiful view of the Kineret and after breakfast we got our our maps of Israel to see where we had been the past 2 days (we made it all the way near the top).

After getting on the bus we met our 3 new Israeli friends Odelia, Hadas and Hila who are really excited to tell us all about life in Israel and hear about what it’s like for us here and at home.

Tzfat (also known as “the mystical city of…”):
We got to learn all about a Sofer (scribe) and even got to try writing our names with the quill and special ink.  We also got to learn all about writing Torah Scrolls, Mezzuzot and Tefillin (some of the holy things a Sofer writes).
LUNCH TIME and it’s our FIRST Israeli FALAFEL but not even in a pita we got it in a Laffa all wrapped up and ready to go, YUM!
After lunch we went down to the Old City of Tzfat for a little tour and got to visit 2 old synagogues that look nothing like what we have back home.  In these synagogues they all sit around the room with the Bima in the middle (at one it was really high up), one was all blue and the other full of vibrant color.  From the Synagogues we went to the famous Tzfat candle factory where them make all sorts of incredible candles (everything from Havdala candles to Noah’s Ark to superheroes and everything in between.)
From the candle factory we got free time to walk around all the beautiful art galleries and stores where some of us even got to buy a few things we had been excited to get in Israel.

After Tzfat we got back to our hotel for swimming, dinner and a fun night activity with our new Israeli friends (who knew we had so many DJs).

Tomorrow we have an early start as we are heading to Tel Aviv.

Laylah Tov to all,

Mayanot 99

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Mayanot Trip 99 - Tuesday, June 18, 2013

 Dear parents and friends of Mayanot 99,

We began the day with a delicious breakfast buffet of an Israeli style breakfast.

We travelled north on the bus to Tel Dan national park. After putting on our hats and applying sunscreen we were ready to go!  At the beginning of our hike we walked across a beautiful river and took some wonderful photos. Oreet, our tour guide told us that it is the second oldest dirt gateway in the world! The gateway was over 5000 years old, and looked like something out of Indiana Jones.

After lunch at Tel Dan, we got back on the bus and travelled to our next destination…JEEP RIDING!!!! Six of us piled in to each open back jeep, plus and we were on our way. Up and down the dirt roads, we passed through orchards with figs, pomegranates, pears and grape vines. We also saw cows, horses, bee farms and fish in the Jordan river. We ended off with a watermelon snack by the Jordan river, and then got back on the jeeps to return to our air conditioned bus.

Dinner tonight was great. We went to a delicious restaurant on the Tayelet (main prominad) in Tiberia called Cherry. The night ended with a party boat ride with drums and dancing. Everyone had a fantastic time.

Now we are off to bed….

Cant wait for tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Jacob P. Blady over and out! #Mayanot99

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Mayanot Trip 99 - Monday, June 17, 2013

 Dear Parents and Friends of Mayanot 99,

Our journey has just begun! After a long flight we safely touched down at Ben Gurion International Airport where we were welcomed by our smiling Israeli staff. We started our adventure in the northern coastal city of Ceasarea. Once in Ceasarea we enjoyed breakfast on the beachfront of the national park. With our tour educator, Oreet, we explored and toured the park before making our way to Kfar Kedem. At Kfar Kedem we were taken back to the ancient Hebrew times where we made our own pita bread and rode donkeys. As we were getting tired from our travel our next stop was the King Solomon hotel in Tiberias. At the hotel we were shown to our comfortable accommodations and introduced to our roommates. Once everyone was settled next up on the schedule was time to relax poolside. After some fun in the sun we started group activities and have begun to make new friends that will last a lifetime!

Thank you for following us on our Journey! Please check back for pictures and more posts about the adventures to come in the next few days! 

See you soon!

Mayanot 99!

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2013 Pictures - Part 3

 A selection of pictures from the 2013 Friendship Circle Birthright trip. We will be updating the blog for this year soon, so keep checking back!

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2013 Pictures - Part 2

 A selection of pictures from the 2013 Friendship Circle Birthright trip. We will be updating the blog for this year soon, so keep checking back!

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2013 Pictures - Part 1

A selection of pictures from the 2013 Friendship Circle Birthright trip. We will be updating the blog for this year soon, so keep checking back!

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Israel Trip 2012, final day

Dear family, friends, participants, staff members, fellow Friendship circle's, supporters, community members, Birthright alumni and readers,

This blog entry comes to you from 34,000 feet  high in an El-Al flight to JFK. As I sit in my seat and watch the little airplane on the Gps screen move closer and closer to the US I can't help but feel it pull further and further away from Israel.  These hours are the hardest hours of the trip as i sit here wishing we could just stay a little longer. Just to spend one more day walking around Jerusalem or to sing on the bus every song imaginable, or to swim in the Kineret or just hanging out....  The emotions that i am feeling right now are so overwhelming That it's hard to put into words this experience.  I just keep reminding myself that this is not the end, this is just the beginning.

Originally when coordinating the trip my goal was to maximize the social opportunities for those with special needs in a judgment free environment. However as I rethink these past 10 days I realize it's much more then that. Social opportunities can be found at home or on a family vacation. Something so much more powerful took place, something that is truly priceless. I look around the plane and see all the exhausted and happy participants and staff clad in bright green Mayanot 279 t-shirts and realize that this trip is not about enhancing social skills or going on hikes but creating a meshpucha, a family. And that is really what we have become. 10 days ago we were all strangers with fears and anxieties about the days ahead and today we head back with 50 new brothers and sisters.

The incredible love and acceptance that you have for each other is really admirable So my dear family where ever you go or what ever challenges life may bring to you just remember that you have family all over the US, Canada and Israel that love you and will be by your side no matter what.

I would like to express my sincerest thank you to Taglit-Birthright, Mayanot (Danny, Chani, Ilana and Raizy) The Friendship Circle-Philadelphia Region South, Masah Yehudi (Talia), the staff at El- Al, Gill Travel and all supporters of Birthright for making this trip possible. Without the joint effort of these organizations the trip would never have happened.

A special thank you goes out to my fellow staff members, Rabbi Zev, Dr. Bruce, Bruce, Tal,  Yaniv, Manny, Penina, Gavriel and Lera, Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

But most of all I would like to thank each of my new brothers and sisters for giving me the opportunity to partake in their personal Israel experience.  I wish you only good, and hope that we keep in touch and you come to visit sometime. Ps- call me maybe?

May each one of us be able to return to Israel with our family and friends and relive these wonderful moments.

Thank you

- Hindy

Ps: if you would like information about this trip or know someone who may be eligible in joining The Friendship Trip 2013 please email me at [email protected]

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Israel Trip 2012, Day 10

Boker Tov Mishpucha,

With mixed emotions we boarded the bus for what would be our last full day in Yisroel.

How amazing it is to see water in the desert. A sea of salt, how could this be?

As we drove we soon learned what happened at Masada and walked on the earth that they say our ancestors took their own lives to keep from becoming slaves.

Soon we would be floating in this body of water and cleanse ourselves with salt and mud.

How appropriate to spend our last night in a Kibbutz.  5am would come way too soon. We had our concluding ceremony discussing how we felt and what we learned about ourselves during this time away and certainly talked about our favorite activities.  We thanked our Israeli staff and realized that we had become one family over these 10 days.

The beauty of the trip is that everyone is accepted for what they bring to the group. No one is isolated and the group is as strong as its weakest link.

Laila Tov Mishpucha!  Enjoy the wonderful music our Israeli staff made for us to keep the spirit alive.

Am Israel Chai!

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Philly Friendship Circle
The Friendship Circle Philadelphia Region South - A registered 501c3 organization serving Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware Counties. 754 South 9th Street Philadelphia, PA 19147 Founded by Chabad- Lubavich