I would like to thank Torah Letzion for allowing me to go to Israel this past year and affording me the chance to learn in Yeshivat Shaalvim. It was an amazing experience, and I cannot express to you how much it meant to me to have this opportunity, and to enjoy all that the Jewish homeland has to offer. There were so many great places that I was able to visit, thanks to your help, that really strengthened my connection to Hashem and all that He put into this world.
On our first Friday in Israel, we went on a tiyul to Givat Hatachmoshet and the Kotel, This was the first time I visited both of these sites. It was awe-inspiring to walk the walls of the Old City of Yerushalayim, and to see the wall that surrounded the chatzer of the Beis Hamikdash that Jews for thousands of years could only dream of being near. We davened mincha there, and it was possibly the most influential tefilla of my life. A few weeks later, we went on a tiyul to the Negev, where I went on my first hike in Israel – Nachal Tamar. It was very cool to walk around the desert and see the beautiful world around us. We went to the Dead Sea afterward, which was very exciting. Never being there before made it so interesting to see how the water makes us float and heals sores. We spent that Shabbos in Yerucham, a very nice town which and a perfect place to bond.
Over Succos bein hazmanim, Shaalvim took us to the Golan Heights for a two-day tiyul. We started off hiking up a really steep mountain and visited Har Bental where we saw into Syria and Jordan. We went to the Kinneret where we swam in the water, which was refreshing and allowed us to cool off from the hot day. We stayed in Chispin and saw the movie Ushpizin, which was the first time I saw it. It was a very touching movie that showed us the power of emunah and the thrill that doing mitzvos should bring to someone. The next day we did a different hike that involved a waterfall which was a lot of fun. We saw a film about the film industry that takes place in the Golan and about the Yom Kippur War. The last stop of the trip was the Valley of Tears, the area with the worst tank battle in the war. It was a great trip that I will remember forever.
Later in the year we went to Beit El for Shabbos. We started off at the Binyamin Area Visitor’s Center, where we saw a film about yehuda v’shomron and then visited the site of Mishkan Shilo. It was a major zechus to visit there and see a video about the Mishkan that stood there. The tour guide showed us the archaeological finds they dug up there, further proving that the Jews are the rightful ancestors of Israel. On Shabbos we walked over to the place where Yaakov Avinu had his dream, and had a guided tour from Chagi Ben Artzi. We had very interesting speakers over the weekend describing their experiences in making aliyah and being in the army. Over Chanukah we went to the Aish Discovery Program, a program that helps strengthen emunah by showing many proofs to the Torah through creation, how the world runs, and Bible Codes that show us without a doubt that Hashem is the One Who runs this world.
In February we took another trip to the Negev, where we stayed an a yishuv of people who were kicked out of Gush Katif, known as Naveh. We started off at a desert vegetable farm where they grow produce and citrus fruits in the sand. We picked potatoes, which we were able to keep, and they were delicious. Shabbos was beautiful; there with great speakers who talked about the trials of living in Gush Katif and their eventual forced exile from there. On Erev Shabbos Zachor, we went to Yad Vashem where we learned about the Holocaust and pre-war Europe. We learned about the lives of Jews and how prosperous they were before the war, and the rise of the Nazi empire and how they systematically attempted to kill out the entire Jewish population. We also learned how the Jews built themselves up again after the war and spread out over the entire globe. It was a very special visit that made the Shabbos Zachor experience real, and I will never forget it.
Another great aspect of being in Israel was being able to visit my cousins, whom I never had met before. They are really nice people who helped me out when I needed it and let me come for Shabbos whenever I wanted to. It allowed me to go to the cities and yishuvim where they live, from a yishuv in the Shomron to Mitzpe Ramon in the South. My cousins in Ra’anana even took me on a tiyul on Chol Hamoed to the Lebanese border at Rosh Hanikra. They took me to Chaifa where we went to the Bahai Gardens and delicious lunch at Dan Panorama’s succah. My cousin in Mitzpe Ramon showed me the Giant Crater that borders the city and the big yeshiva that is there, and what life in the Negev is like. For my birthday, all my cousins got together and took me out to a restaurant, which was very nice and I really appreciated it.
Obviously the best part of being in Israel for the year was the learning and growing in my yiras Hashem. The learning and knowledge that I got this year is unlike no other, and I am so glad you allowed me to do this. I have grown so much over this past year in my gemara skills and my overall knowledge of halacha and machshava. It feels good to be able to learn gemara with a little more ease and even try helping other people when they get stuck. Being in Sha’alvim, each of us got paired with a family in Nof Ayalon, the yishuv where the yeshiva is located, where we can go for Shabbos meals. This was good for me because I had to say divrei Torah at their table every time I was there. Now, I do not feel embarrassed to say divrei Torah at any Shabbos table, and make sure all meals bring us closer to Hashem.
Thank you for all that you were able to do for me. I really could not have done it without your help. This year has been very important and meaningful to me, and it will for sure have lasting effects on my life forever. I hope you can give many other people the chance you gave me and continue being a helping hand in the continuation of Klal Yisrael.
Student studying in Sha’alvim