Monday, 1 May 2017
Yom HaZikaron, 5 Iyar
Hope everyone is doing well. It was wonderful to see most of you this past week at Ohrsom to welcome Rabbi Segal and recount stories of the boys living and learning in Israel on the Gap Year program. I think we’re all a bit jealous of the experience they are having! That said, I think we are also all so incredibly proud of them and each living vicariously through their tremendously powerful year. As Rabbi Segal highlighted for us, the potential for growth that the boys have already realized is impressive and the desire in each of them to push themselves to fulfill their own potential is truly inspiring to witness.
I hope that in meeting Rabbi Segal, as when receiving the email encapsulating the time the boys shared in India with Craig Daitz, you have a sense of the incredible people whom the guys have had exposure to learn from and grow with in their first few months. We all look forward to joining them next month when the Ohrsom Gap Year meets up with the annual Ohrsom Israel Tour, and we know they’ll be eagerly awaiting the rabbis’ return; they have formed a special connection with the local SA rabbis – R’ Abramson, R’ Bloch, and R’ Sos – and we’re thankful those relationships will only continue to be cultivated upon their return to Joburg at the end of this unprecedented year abroad.
Over the past few weeks, since the boys’ return from their incredible tour through India, they jumped right into Pesach preparations and celebrating the holy chag in Israel. They were welcomed home to warm food, comfortable beds, a trusty blender for protein shakes (erev yomtov!) and for many – a welcome visit from family; truly a sense of freedom! And the unique time in which we find ourselves in now, on the verge between the days of Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut, just a week after Yom HaShoah, is nowhere more pronounced than in Israel, where that surreal juxtaposition was beautifully explained and illustrated to the guys in their first weeks in Jerusalem, when they toured Yad VaShem and then walked across to Har Herzl. We are also now in the weeks of Sefiras HaOmer, between Pesach and Shavuos, which is a markedly introspective and reflective time in our Hebrew calendar. May we all merit to take time now and in the coming weeks to reflect on and conceptualize where we find ourselves, as Rabbi Segal encouraged us. Though we may not have that same plasticity in our personalities that he mentioned defines the boys at their age, we all BH have the ability to work on aspects of ourselves – as individuals, as Jews, as spouses, as parents – and strive to be better versions of ourselves going forward in each of those respects.
Wishing everyone hatzlocha and brocha, and a promise to pG share good news soon! Bris or kiddish to be held at Ohrsom…and would love everyone to join us, bshaah tova. Because who doesn’t love an excuse to have sushi and celebrate another Jewish neshema joining the Ohrsom Joburg crew?!
Week 11 (9-15 April)
Bedekah chometz! Cleaning & searching for chometz…from every last crumb of the daal left in their packs after their recent return from India to the challah of their welcome-back Shabbos. Other than that, we hear these guys are still sticklers for strictly protein and veg; hold the carbs!
Boys burnt the chometz they devotedly searched for the night before…a small version of bonfires around the country, which will be outdone and outshone (literally) in a few weeks’ time by the impressive bonfires of Lag B’Omer all throughout Israel. First night of Pesach! The boys were split into two groups of four and spent sederem at two different families in Jerusalem: the Stern family in the Old City, and the Paige family in Nachlaot, where everyone had spent Shabbos together a few weeks prior. An incredible night, and a beautiful exercise in freedom and understanding practically the lessons the boys had been learning in yeshiva in an applicable way to give over ideas at the yomtov table.
Lunch at the Prima Kings…with some friends in tow. Chometz-free meal, fit for a king.
Second night of Pesach! A big yasher koach to Daniel & Lili for hosting the boys and creating a beautiful environment to re-experience the seder all together, as a little family! A night defined by delicious food, meaningful conversation, and an inspiring reliving and understanding of the Exodus from Egypt. Truly, a Pesach to remember and to redefine the seder for the boys in years to come.
Always a bit odd to be keeping yomtov when you see Chassidim driving past on their phones, but alas, welcome to two-day yomtov in Israel for all of us who still technically live in chutz l’eretz! The boys enjoyed a relaxed lunch in the flat (thank you again, Lili!) and a chilled afternoon wrapping up the first two days of Pesach. And a free night out to celebrate the start of their chutznik chol hamoed!
Chol hamoed Pesach and dinner hosted at the Altschulers’ flat. Time to spend with friends and family, and pretty sure the guys were all still recovering from India at this point (a mere week later)!
A beautiful and memorable Friday night meal in the boys’ flat with the parents who were lucky enough to join the guys in Jerusalem for Pesach. A big thank-you to everyone there who made it feel a bit (more) like home for the boys. And I think only now do some of the parents realise just how hard Lili works to feed and look after these guys! Bless them, but these boys can eat, and they’re still just a wee bit particular about what they eat!!
Week 12 (16-22 April)
Last days of Pesach! Another meal at the Altschulers, lunch at Prima Kings, and a chilled lunch catered for and provided in the flat. Quality time to spend with family and friends. And the surreal only-in-Israel 8thDay feeling of one-more-matzah-meal when the rest of the country seems to be tucking into pizza. Not to worry, pizza and all-manner-of-carbs awaited the boys when yomtov ended Tuesday evening!
Kibbutz! Welcome to Kibbutz Ein HaNatziv. Joined by Jess De Jongh as their madrich for the week, the boys quickly settled into life on kibbutz Wednesday and Thursday. Loved their free day on Friday, and spent a relaxed Shabbos on the grounds. Admittedly, not the biggest fans of manual labour. I think we may be spoiling them! When they’re not working, they’re able just to chill. And they have friends at a kibbutz 4 kilometers away, so they’ve been to visit those guys a few times where they are doing Ulpan in preparation for the army. The highlight (at least photographically) is certainly their erev Shabbos discovery of the nearby Mayan (natural water spring) where the guys were luxuriating under the veil of falling water and thankful for their protein-rich diet of reasonably-priced and oft-available turkey meat.
Week 13 (23-29 April)
Kibbutz continued! If nothing else, they appreciate that the time on kibbutz is considerably shorter for Ohrsom than on other Gap Year programs, and for that they are also thankful! Kibbutz jobs range from working in the fields, doing landscape work around the premises, working in the factory, and working with the baby cows. Our truly South African boys are as yet unaccustomed to tilling the land! Jess left for a few days mid-week (coinciding with Rosh Chodesh Iyar) to start the next zman of learning back at Ohr Somayach, and he rejoined the guys erev Shabbos to usher in sunshine and a relaxed Shabbos before the boys too returned to Jerusalem to begin learning again.
Week 14 (30 April-1 May)
Back to Jerusalem, and back to Ohr Somayach!
The boys had a film screening in their flat on Sunday evening and yeshiva commitments on Monday morning, during two of the public events held in the city to commemorate Yom HaZikaron. Last-minute schedule change to accommodate the 11am siren and ceremony for the boys to experience Har Herzl this morning. We recommended they definitely use their free afternoon to go back and visit the Kotel or Har Herzl, to see personally the many families, friends, and loved ones who visit those graves on this solemn occasion. To be in Israel on a day that can truly only be experienced there is ultimately only understood at the place that bears witness to the history, records the names, and gives a final place – if not always peace – to those loved and lost. And only in Israel, a country of mixed emotions, built on paradox, do we exit tearfully several hours from now to enter into one of the most celebrated and joyful days in the Israeli calendar, Yom HaAtzmaut.
Wishing everyone the ability to create a time and place to allow for your own reflections and introspections during this auspicious time. May we each take the opportunity to tell our boys how proud of them we are, how much we miss them while they are away, and how their growth has profoundly inspired and enabled our own. Remember…don’t just count the Omer; make the Omer count!
From our family to yours, as always, wishing you only well.
The Ohrsom Student Gap Year team