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Heroes Stories

This is an exceptionally special time of year to be in Israel. Yom haShoah began with learning from a source sheet about the halachic questions people asked their Rabbis during the Shoah in ghettos and camps. It's mind blowing to see that people cared so passionately about Halacha while going through this time. It makes each of us realize how lucky we are that keeping Halacha is so obtainable in our age and that we can do it openly in public and in the comfort of our own homes. Those who went to Poland got to see what Jewish life was like before the war. Sitting in Jerusalem and learning about Halacha that was discussed during the holocaust makes us realize how it is our job to continue that Jewish life which was destroyed. Next we walked to the Begin highway intersection just in time to hear the siren. As we watched the cars stop on the road, we truly understood how lucky we are that we are in a country where almost everybody realizes the importance of commemorating what happened to us. We then had the privilege to hear from a holocaust survivor Rina Quint. She walked us through her journey of being a 10 year old going through the Shoah. She told us about how after the war she tried to repress her memory of what had happened to her and the cruelty and disease she went through during those years.  She only later realized how important it is for her to tell her own story. We concluded the morning with a talk from holocaust expert and founder of Midreshet Moriah, Rebbetzin Vicky Berglas. She shared stories with us of what happened to the Jews after liberation and how the story of the holocaust is not black and white; we were not just captured and then freed. We also endured multiple hardships after "freedom" and we need to thank HaShem that we are part of a generation that was not physically part of the holocaust but gets to hear first-hand from its survivors.

On Shabbat we had an "Aliyah" themed Shabbaton in Efrat. The community welcomed us with open arms and our hosts were all people who made Aliyah from various places around the world. We had the opportunity to hear their inspiring Aliyah stories and what drove them to pick up and leave the life they knew to something so much greater. Friday night dinner was followed by a great speech by one of our teachers, Rav Aaron Wexler. He spoke about his personal history and crazy journey to Aliyah. The evening finished with a beautiful tisch filled with our favorite activity of singing together. Shabbat afternoon we gathered together to hear the personal stories of women in the community. Each woman spoke about when they came to Israel and their personal struggles. Some made Aliyah with their families, some came married, some single. But each shared the common love and desire to live in Eretz Yisroel. Before Shabbat ended we had the privilege of hearing from a strong powerful woman who told us about her conversion to Judaism and her decision to make Aliyah. She came from a Christian home and chose a life filled with so much meaning. The Shabbat concluded with an uplifting Seudat shlishit, slow shira and havdala.

We went to Har Herzl on Sunday morning and although Midreshet has taken us to Har Herzl before, every experience we've had there has been unique and incredibly moving. We walked around to different grave sites and our tour guide offered anecdotes about many of the men and women who sacrificed their own lives for Israel. Each grave tells us a hero’s story.  Visiting Har Herzl after Yom HaShoah showed us how much we need our homeland and that it's something greater than life itself. It really made us all take a moment to reflect on our own thoughts and actions regarding Eretz Yisrael and wonder if we are truly doing enough to help the klal. We cannot wait to get the chance to go back to Har Herzl on Yom ha’zikaron and hear from the families of the fallen soldiers themselves. Tune in next week to hear all about Yom Ha’zikaron and the Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations!!

Elana Silfen, Sophia Srulowitz and Tamar Skydell



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