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Sunday, January 27, 2019

Chesed Mission 2019/5779: Day 7 - Shabbat

For the first time ever we ended Chesed Mission with Shabbat. Right before Shabbat, we took a bus to the Old City and walked to the home of Aba and Pamela Clayman and went up to their terrace that has front row seats to Har Habayit. As we took in the breathtaking view, we heard from a group of soldiers and sang songs to welcome in Shabbat. Then we went down to the Kotel for Arbit and Kabalat Shabbat. We then walked back to the hotel where we were joined for Seudat Shabbat by a group of lone soldiers. We heard from the soldiers during the meal and then ended the night with a really meaningful tisch where many of us shared what we gained from this incredible week. 
On Shabbat day, we had our final Inbal breakfast, and then had a break before eating Seudat Shabbat where we heard from Yehuda Benhamu, Susan’s nephew who is a paratrooper. We then walked to the Old City one last time for Seuda Shlishit with soldiers from Thank Israeli Soldiers. We ended Shabbat with a musical havdalah, singing and dancing, and gifts for the soldiers.
Then we headed back to the hotel to pack up and leave for the airport. We can’t believe that this life changing week has come to an end. Thank you Rabbi Besser and Susan Franco for everything.

Chesed Mission 2019/5779: Day 7

Friday, January 25, 2019

Chesed Mission 2019/5779: Day 6

I can’t believe we’re already up to the sixth and second to last day of Chesed Mission. The trip has gone by so fast and we’re sad to see it slowly creeping to an end. Friday started off like any other day full of energy and spirit. Our first stop of the day, was the Michael and Lola Goldstein Emunah Day Care Center located in Neve Yaakov. The school serves poor families by offering free day care and therapy for parents in order to build healthy family lives. All of us had a great time blowing bubbles and playing with all the children. No one wanted to leave!
After that, we went to Machane Yehuda to have lunch and buy awesome gifts and food for Shabbat. We’re also looking forward to going to the program from Todah L’Tzahal at the house of Abba and Pamela Claman. After that, we plan on praying Friday night prayers by the Kotel. Following this, we will be going back to the Inbal for dinner and after that the Tisch.
With only one day left we are sad to hear that the trip is almost over, but we are very excited for what Shabbat in Jerusalem has in store. Shabbat Shalom from Israel! ~Marc Franco, Class of 2019

Chesed Mission 2019/5779: Day 6

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Chesed Mission 2019/5779: Day 5

It’s hard to believe that Chesed Mission is coming to an end. We began our last full weekday of Chesed Mission at Yad LaKashish - an organization that teaches elderly immigrants art skills. We gave our scarves and sunglasses to the artists and bought lots of gifts to bring home in the shop. 
We then drove to Tel Hashomer hospital where we distributed toys to sick children. 
After a stop for lunch in the Petach Tikvah mall (that does not have fish pedicures), we visited Project Tikvot that helps wounded soldiers through sports programs. We heard from Mayan Berman who was injured in 2002, had his foot amputated in 2009, and went on to become one of the top ten rock climbers in the world championships. He even competed in Israel Ninja Warrior! Then we had a chance to try out the rock climbing walls ourselves, which was a lot of fun!
Then we settled in for the drive up to Netanya to Bet Elazraki, an Emunah children's home for children who cannot live with their families. After hearing from the incredible Yehuda Kohn, we watched an emotional film about the children of Bet Elazraki. We then walked across the beautiful complex to the lobby for a performance by the girls and a delicious dinner. We got to really let loose and have a lot of fun with an epic dance party - with a DJ and flashing lights. We paused in the middle to present gifts to the Bar and Bat Mitzvah boys and girls and the program graduates. We got T-shirts to take home as a reminder of the fun we had and the connections we created. We were so exhausted by the time we finished that we were grateful for a long bus ride back to Jerusalem. To cap off the night, a group of us went to a final dinner in Emek Refaim with Rabbi Besser and Rabbi Galpert. We can’t wait for Shabbat in Jerusalem tomorrow!
Chesed Mission 2019/5779: Day 5

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Chesed Mission 2019/5779: Day 4

Day four of the Chesed Mission began, as always, with energy and excitement at Ilanot. The special children greeted us with a choir performance filled with hopeful messages and left us with smiles and positive energy! We then had the opportunity to interact with them and even enjoy some of the pets from their animal therapy center.
At our next stop, Keren Or, we were greeted by a recent Fatbush graduate, Jacqueline Mizrachi (HS '18), who inspired us to enjoy and make the most of our short, but meaningful, dance party with the children who are severely disabled and visually impaired. 
Next, Steve Gar taught us to value every moment of life through the detailed stories and history of Pinah Chamah, the rest corner for many soldiers in the Gush Etzion region. He then took us to the location where Ari Fuld A"H was killed. We left stones to remember Ari Fuld's memory and keep his legacy going. We then gave bags full of clothing and needed items to Israeli Soldiers and enjoyed our lunch at the Gush, the best Chummus in the world! 
To conclude the action packed day we learned at The Blind Museum and at Save a Child’s Heart to appreciate each and every ability that Hashem has given us! Save a Child's Heart is an organization that treats children with various heart conditions in Israel from around the world. We played with the children there and then presented them with gifts. At the Holon Children's Museum: Dialogue in the Dark, we learned to appreciate what it truly means to have the sense of sight by being immersed in total darkness. 
~Ricky Sasson, Class of 2020
Chesed Mission 2019/5779: Day 4

Chesed Mission 2019/5779: Day 3

After another morning of the delicious Inbal breakfast, we began our 3rd day of Chesed Mission at Aleh - a school and facility for children with neurological disabilities. We divided into a bunch of rooms where we interacted with the children. Then we all joined together for a big dance party which we all loved. 
Next we went to United Hatzalah to learn about the amazing life-saving work that they do. We had a surprise visit from Eli Beer, the founder and president of United Hatzalah who taught us the Heimlich maneuver, showed us the dispatch center, and took us down to the bunker that is set up to be a command center in case of a war. 
After a stop for lunch where we got to enjoy the beautiful weather in an outdoor mall in Ramot, we went to visit the indescribable Shalva. This magnificent, state of the art organization services over 2000 children and young adults with special needs each week. We got to meet Yossi whose parents started Shalva when he became blind and deaf. Then we had a really fun dance party, prayed Mincha in the beautiful Beit Midrash and took a picture on the roof where we got to take in the breathtaking view of Jerusalem. 
Then we were off to Susan’s House a rehabilitative occupational programs for adolescents who are at-risk These young adults are taught to make art. We had an opportunity to buy some of the beautiful things that they produced. 
After dinner in the Malcha Mall, we went to our last stop of the day - Pantry Packers - where we packed bags of pasta for needy families across Israel. We were inspired to hear about their brand new partnership with Leket which picks up food from weddings and leaves it in their freezer at any hour of the night. The food is then distributed to soup kitchens. It was a really long day, but we can’t wait to do even more tomorrow! ~Ms. Lamm
Chesed Mission 2019/5779: Day 3

Monday, January 21, 2019

Chesed Mission 2019/5779: Day 2

Our first full day of chesed took an early start when Ms. Lamm took a group of students to the Kotel early morning for a spiritual experience. After prayers and an amazing breakfast we went to the incredible organization, Meshi, where we were able to spend time with children with different neurological impairments. We were inspired by Elazar, a ten year old child who is only able to use his eyes. He was able to communicate with us through a screen and eye movement, and even though it seemed like he was at a disadvantage in life, he had more emunah and positivity than we thought possible. It showed us that there is always hope, even in a seemingly hopeless situation. We also got to pair up with the children and create beautiful projects with them for Tu B'Shvat, learn more about their stories, and build a special connection with them. Spending that time with them gave us a sense of gratitude for what we have been blessed with and let us see the great impact we have on others. 
After saying our goodbyes we headed to Hadassah Hospital where we were able to distribute gifts to ill children of all ages. Watching a smile appear on their faces during their hard times was a very fulfilling and meaningful experience. We then enjoyed a relaxing lunch at the mall inside the hospital. 
After lunch we all went to Har Herzel, where we paid respects to those who dedicated their lives to our country. We visited many graves and our guide Mayaan was there to inspire us with the fallen soldiers' stories. Using this emotion we prayed Mincha near the graves and said a heartfelt kaddish for our heroes. Following this experience we visited at-risk children from broken homes at the organization Afikim. By interacting, laughing, and creating works of art with these children one on one we were able to bring a little light to their lives and show them that their lives are valued. Leaving the school, we felt a sense of accomplishment, knowing that we impacted these childrens' lives forever.
After a quick dinner at the mall, we then connected with our Flatbush family at the beautiful wedding of a lone soldier, who is the son of a Flatbush elementary teacher. We gave out the hand packed gift bags to the many soldiers who attended the wedding, and were able to thank them for all that they have done for our country.  Dancing with the bride, groom, and their families and friends, helped us realize the importance of coming together in times of happiness as well as times of hardship. It was an amazing full day of chesed. ~Jaime Ashkenazie, Class of 2019

Chesed Mission 2019/5779: Day 2

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Chesed Mission 2019/5779: Day 1

On Motzei Shabbat, we all arrived at JFK airport ready and excited for the 17th annual Chesed Mission to Israel. A group of 55 students along with Rabbi Naftali Besser, Mrs. Susan Franco, Rabbi David Galpert, and Ms. Tziri Lamm, decided to spend their winter break in Israel visiting the sick, meeting with soldiers, volunteering in soup kitchens, interacting with special children, and so much more. When we got off the plane, we went straight to the Kotel to pray Arbit.  The students who have never been to Israel before "kissed the floor" by the Kotel to show their love for the holy location. After we prayed, we took a group picture and headed to the Inbal hotel. We unpacked, settled in, and then walked to Emek Refaim for dinner.

After dinner we all went back to the hotel and packed long johns, socks, scarves and other items for soldiers in large duffle bags that we will deliver to them within the next few days. We are all looking forward to see what the next full week of chesed has in store for us!

Chesed Mission 2019/5779: Day 1