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I started off the weekend by leaving to spend Shabbat with family friends.

This week has been a whirlwind. I started off the weekend by leaving to spend Shabbat with family friends. It was nice to get away and I took a friend with me, but by Saturday night we were all missing each other and glad to be back in the Hod.

On Sunday all three groups on Muss right now were on campus so we had a Tu B’Shvat Party. The Milkin, Semester, and February groups were all divided equally into color war teams to play Tu B’Shvat themed competitions. It was cool to meet other people on HSI and of course to win (Go Green Team!).

On Monday we had Core in the morning and classes in the afternoon. I’m finally settling into the schedule of General Studies and am confident that I am keeping up with my education back home.

On Tuesday we began our tiyul for the week, integrating our studies in Core class about the 2nd Temple Period in Israel with exploring it in real life. Unfortunately this tiyul also included a lot of rain, but we powered through it. We first went to the Israel Museum, visiting two sections that related to our class. We first saw a replica of 2nd Temple Period Jerusalem. It was really interesting to get a view of Jerusalem in that time in all its splendor. Even with its miniature architecture we could see the divisions between the Jews at that time, and the impact Hellenism and Roman rule had on Jewish culture. We then rushed inside out of the rain to the Shrine of the Book, a shrine to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Although the actual scrolls weren’t there, the architecture of the building was incredible and the message was clear. Next, we drove to the Old City and saw some ancient Saducee houses. It was really interesting to see how lavishly they lived and all the amenities they had. Next, we visited the archaeological remains around the Southern and Western walls of the 2nd Temple. It was a great mix of rain and dry, as well as memories from my visit this summer and new information. For example, this summer our group all tried to race up the steps, the difficulty of climbing the large steps showing the value of walking up slowly to be in the reverence of the Temple. However, I didn’t know that a prayer I knew was based off of the walking pace of those steps. It was incredibly powerful as we sang it and walked up to the Temple hand in hand.

The next day, we woke up bright and early (4:00 in the morning) to climb Masada. We had gotten to the front gate when we discovered the snake path was closed due to complications with the cable cars. We ended up driving an hour and a half to ascend Masada via the Roman ramp path. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to at least try the snake path and see the sunrise. However, I was grateful for the lesser difficulty of the hike up and the extra sleep I got on the bus ride. Again at Masada I was met with experiences old and new like at the Temple. We visited the Bet Knesset this summer, but this time we had the incredible opportunity to meet a man who was writing Torah in the Bet Knesset and bringing Masada back to life. Masada is always impressive, but every time you explore it you learn something new. We finished off our visit by going to the Southern side of Masada. There, everything you say echoes off the side of the mountain. As a class, we all yelled “Shenit Masada lo tipol” which means “Masada will not fall again,” as a metaphor for Israel.

After Masada we went to the Dead Sea. It had started raining during lunch, which wasn’t a good sign. The rain lifted when I was changed and ready to go in, but had gotten harder when I was knee deep in the water. Too cold already to float, I decided to head in with my wet jacket and towel. Although I didn’t get the full Dead Sea experience, I’m glad I went in.

At the end, my friends and I decided to think of the rain in a different light. Although it made for an unpleasant experience throughout the trip and in the Dead Sea, how often is it that it rains in the desert? I guess we were truly lucky after all to see such a sight. At the end of the day, we were finally back in Hod Hasharon all together.

After another open weekend we came back for a nice tiyul on Sunday. We learned about the Bar Kochba revolt. The revolt was successful in the beginning, due to the guerilla warfare tactics the Jews used. They hid in the foothills if Israel’s Judean Hills and ambushed the Romans. We got the opportunity to climb through one of the caves used by these rebels during revolt. I myself was too claustrophobic to go in, but my friends told me it was scary but incredible and gave them a great sense of accomplishment. Then, we visited a Roman amphitheater and learned about the unfortunate end of the revolt. We learned about the Romans awful demands and how the Jews persisted throughout history.

Living in a different country has also been a new experience. Managing money, especially a different currency than I’m used to is something I’ve had to adapt to. The independence has also been exciting—walking around campus and going to town on my own to run errands and get dinner. Another thing that’s interested me is how it seems everywhere you go there is history and archaeology. If this was in the United States, it would be some guarded artifact in museum. Yet in Israel, it is everywhere and is still a part of everyday life and culture. I’m having such an amazing time exploring Israel and making new friends, I hope it stops flying by so fast!