Loaded with non-stop action and inspiration from the moment we landed until the day we returned, our trip to Eretz Yisroel left an indelible impression difficult to describe in words. Yet, I will attempt to offer you a hint of a taste of our experience by highlighting some of our favorite aspects of this amazing trip.
Our first day in the Holy Land began bright and early, waking up at 4:30am to go daven k'vasikin at the kosel! After davening, we headed back to Shaarei Chessed to go to the makolet to load up on food for the week. Let’s just say that the boys were like kids in a candy shop! We then headed back to the Old City of Yerushalayim for a virtual reality tour of the Beis Hamikdash, followed by a tour of Ir David and a hike through The Siloam Tunnel, also known as Hezekiah's Tunnel, a water tunnel that was carved underneath the City of David in Jerusalem in ancient times. After a long day in the Old City, we took a little time to chill in our apartment. We then went for the gorgeous and serene view of Yerushalayim from Armon Hanetziv. We then davened maariv with the Boyaner Rebbe, where all of the boys met and received personal brachos from the Rebbe!
On Friday morning, we took the boys to Neve Yaakov to visit my alma mater, Yeshivas Bais Yisroel. The boys met with the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Doniel Lehrfield, who quizzed the boys on lulav hagazul. Afterwards, the boys heard words of inspiration from my rebbe, R' Moshe Lehrfield, who spoke to the boys about the chashivus of being a Yid. We then visited the Shuk, Kikar Shabbos, Geula, Meah Shearim, the Olive Wood Shop, and let’s not forget the candy store, which turned out to be a MAJOR stop for the boys.
Next came Shabbos in Yerushalayim - the sweetest thing in the world! We began Shabbos in the world-famous Belz Beis Medrash, where we heard from R' Yossi Gold about the deeper significance and historical importance of the building. We then began davening together with 2000 or so other people and the Rebbe. It was surreal. After davening and counting sefira, Rabbi Gold maneuvered us so that we got to say Gut Shabbos to the Rebbe and introduce each boy and get a Bracha. We were then treated to a tour of the Belz center, including 6 subterranean levels! Finally, we went to our seuda at the Strauss's which began at 10 o'clock. During the meal we heard from a number of kollel scholars and R' Strauss even made a siyum on Maseches Chulin. We danced and sang away. We left Sanhedria at 12:30am and assumed the boys were ready to go back and hit the hay. Boy, were we off base! They were unanimous that we needed to continue the night, so...
We set off toward Meah Shearim. We passed by the Mir Yeshiva and decided to stop in and see it. Standing in front, looking he was waiting for us, was Harav Binyomin Finkel, known as Binyomin Hatzadik. He could not believe we were from Arizona. He spoke to the boys about the importance of finding joy in learning Torah and of choosing good friends. He then blessed each boy with all his heart. It was incredible! It was also 1 am by that point. We saw the yeshiva and continued to Meah Shearim. We went to Toldos Ahron where the tish was in full swing. We stood on the bleachers singing along and we even got some shirayim. It was sublime. We then went to Toldos Avraham Yitzchak. The Rebbe was singing and crying "Shabbos, heilige Shabbos, Shabbos, lichtige Shabbos" it was packed, and everyone responded after the Rebbe together as one. It was intense and beautiful! We then left and began the walk home. We got to the neighborhood around 2am to find a family stranded outside their apartment. The boys swung into gear trying to find a way in. One boy even climbed through a second floor window! By the time we got to bed it was after 3am...
After davening in the Gra Shul in our neighborhood, we made kiddush and went to our seuda with R' Moishe Gelb. After resting up a little, we set off with our shalishudis supplies for the Old City. We davened mincha in the holy Churva shul and met R' Yosef Elefant from the Mir who spoke to the boys about being Doresh Tzion and how everything needs ratzon - another heaven-sent opportunity that just came our way! We went to eat shalishudis on the rooftop of Meir Eisenman, who not only gave us his roof for the hour but also came and spoke to us about the history of the Churva and the talmidim of the Vilna Gaon. The view was indescribable, and we finished Shabbos with moon rising above Har Hazeisim and the tune of adir hu yivneh beiso b’karov. Maariv and havdala at the kosel followed all this, which was followed up by a walk back to the apartment to prepare for Sunday's big trip up north.
On Sunday, we drove northward, to Teveria. In Teveria, we visited kevarim of several tzadikim, including those of Rav Meir Baal Hanes, the Rambam, Rabbi Akiva, and the Ramchal. We also went swimming in the Kineret, hiking in the Golan Heights, touring in the holy city of Tzfas, and to Meron to visit the kever of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. On our way to the hike in the Golan, we had a 2 hour delay with a flat tire. We all got to work to make the repair, but were really struggling with a couple of lug-nuts which didn't want to budge and a lack of proper tools to deal with it. BH, Hashem sent us a malach in the form of R' Ezra Gundesheimer, who helped us repair the tire. R' Ezra moved to Eretz Yisroel from Philadelphia 35 years ago where he was best friends with our own Rabbi Ungar's father. He even remembers being in R' Elya Svei's shiur! Mi k'amcha Yisrael!
On Monday, the boys had the privilege of davening shacharis by their Avos and Imahos at Ma’aras Hamachpela! We then went to Bnei Brak and were hosted for lunch by Rav Boaz Raavad who is a maagid shiur and is cousins with Dan Lucas! He spoke to the boys about how precious it is to go see Rav Chaim Kanievsky. We then left for Rav Chaim and had the tremendous z’chus to receive individual berachos from the Gadol Hador! Next, we went to the beis hakvaros to visit the kevarim of Rav Shach, the Chazon Ish, the Steipler, and Rav Steinman. On Monday evening, the boys had a few hours to spend with family.
For our final day in Eretz Yisroel, we once again woke up bright and early to daven k'vasikin at the kosel before heading South to the Yam Hamelach. The boys had a great time and were amazed that they could actually float! From there we continued to Ein Bokek, where the boys enjoyed a beautiful water hike through a canyon. When we finished the South, we headed back to Yerushalayim, for one more stop in Geula, and back to the apartment to pack up and clean.
This was, once again, a trip that will leave a lasting impression on these boys for a lifetime. The sights they saw, the berachos they received, the divrei Torah that they heard - all were infused with the kedushas haaretz! Zachinu, v'zachinu, v'od zachinu!!!