Notes on the Summer Program

published on: 12-09-2016

Adi Asherman (participant)

I heard about the Summer Program "Between Heaven and Earth" quite by chance. My mother met Einat, the director of the hike, at a conference, and during the conversation Einat told about the unique summer program that she was about to launch. I naturally called her to hear more details, and although the program sounded exciting, it took me a while to decide whether or not to sign up. In the end, I signed up three days before the opening and for me it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. As an 11th grade graduate, my vacation only began on 12/7 because of exams, so I had to give up on some of the things I'd wanted to do in the vacation. The "Between Heaven and Earth" hike gave me the experience I was looking for and even more. We did so much in one week: we climbed Har Meron, we hiked along the Amud stream, we visited Safed and kibbutz Tzivon, we planned Shabbat together, learned in chevrutot, sang, danced, studied interesting texts, took part in social activities, met interesting people and even had a little time to sleep.

Going out into nature and getting to know our country, while simultaneously studying Jewish and Zionist sources, enabled a true meeting with both ourselves and with our friends. One of the most meaningful things that I learned on the hike was that true bonding with nature and disconnecting from distractions form a deep affinity to one's own inner self. In addition, leaving one's routine behind allows you to be more open to others and thus to form bonds with them. In my opinion, nature is a powerful educational means of imparting tools for life to us. If this program hadn't taken place in nature, it wouldn't have succeeded in achieving its aims.

We each had our own Jewish and Israeli spirituality, and interestingly enough, that was what united us. This expressed itself in a number of ways during the hike. For example, when we finished the hike along the Amud stream, we went up to Safed and stayed in a spiritual retreat called "The House of Love and Prayer". The couple who run the center were greatly influenced by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Once we'd eaten and attended to our physical needs, we went on to attend to our spiritual needs. Hearing the Carlebach tunes gave rise to a spurt of Jewish spirituality in each one of us. Even though we were exhausted from the hike, the music filled us with renewed strength and we all sang and danced. Another spiritual high point was on Friday night when we made a tisch (Chassidic get-together). We sang a mixture of Shabbat and Israeli songs, interspersed with stories by some of the participants of meaningful spiritual experiences they remembered. I was surprised at how many of the group were prepared to reveal their spiritual world. Every evening continued in that spirit as we sat around in a circle, playing guitars and singing. There was a really uplifting atmosphere of unity and elation.

If I had to sum up the hike in four words, I'd say: "nature", "Jewishness", "spirituality" and "Israel". These four components were the core of the hike, defined its character and guided us. I think each of the participants identified with these components in one way or another and it was fascinating to see how each of us was affected differently.

It's difficult to sum up this experience because it's ongoing. We are still in touch with each other and we've already met up again. I personally can tell that I made two friends on the hike who have asked to come and experience a religious Shabbat at my house. I am so pleased that I met all the others who came on the hike and that I was privileged to get a glimpse into each one's unique world.