Today was a truly magnificent day for travel in the Haifa area and to the north. We began at the Alon School, our elementary school-match in Haifa. While the school-match between Grade 10 Midrasha and the Alliance School is new, our 8-year partnership with the Alon School makes us "old friends." It was a warm reunion...we were welcomed by the Principal of the Alon School, Ilana Vagman, and then enjoyed a clever art project and "presentations" from our friends in Grades 5 and 6. Joined by our teens were some of the the Alliance School students (several of them had graduated from the Alon School and have siblings that are current Alon students), they loved getting to know the Israeli kids and teachers. It was a real reunion! Some of the siblings of the Alliance students are looking forward to "coming to Boston and visiting Temple Beth Avodah" when they are older -- just like their brothers and sisters. At the end of our visit, we departed with a "mishloach manot" bag -- a gift of candies and sweets for Purim which is happening on Saturday of the coming week.
Next we boarded a bus to begin a short touring day in the north of Israel. First, we visited the ancient city of Akko. Akko is a fascinating place with a rich history that spans the millennia. Located at the northern tip of Haifa bay on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Akko is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the region. The extraordinary thing about Akko is the variety of cultures and nationalities and foreign empires that settled it and made it home. Because of its location on the Mediterranean, one conquering nation after another captured it and added its own special imprint to its unique character. Among other sites in the old city of Akko, we explored the enormous Crusader city in Akko that was developed and then sustained for almost 500 years. Now, a predominantly Arab Muslim area, the Old City of Akko and its marketplace remain authentic to Akko's origins and has some of the best hummus in the entire world!
From Akko, we traveled up to one of the northernmost areas of Israel -- Rosh Hanikrah -- which is where the border between Israel and Lebanon stands overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. We took cables cars to the uppermost point and looked through the fence toward Lebanon. Rosh Hanikrah not only has political and geographic importance, but also is a place of extraordinary natural beauty; it is known for its magnificent grottos which are naturally carved out of the soft rock by the power sea that continuously beats against the soft limestone creating wonderful caves and caverns and dramatic views of the Sea. It turned out to be such a clear day that we were easily able to look out in into the Haifa Bay and see the tall towers of modern-day Haifa on the horizon. Tired from the walking and sun and fresh air, many students fell asleep on the bus as we headed back to Haifa.
While the TBA adults were hosted by Haifa-Boston Connection tonight, our students all met at the "Canyon Mall" for some shopping, noshing and meeting Israeli friends or relatives for an hour or so. Then, back to host family homes for a good night sleep!
We are having a great time. Everyone seems happy and satisfied. Israel is truly a living Jewish classroom with lessons to glean even in the most remote corner of the land. We learned from Akko that the modern and the ancient can coexist even in a population where Jews are not always the majority; and we learned from Rosh HaNikrah that sometimes the most externally beautiful sites have suffered the deepest of problems. Above all, even in the most contemporary areas of the state, Israel is a land with an old soul.
Rabbi Lisa Eiduson