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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Chesed Mission 2020/5780: Day 8

We started our last day in Israel by visiting soldiers at the Latrun Tank Museum. We had a chance to take pictures on the tanks and give out gifts to the soldiers. 
Then we went to Kever Rachel to pray Mincha. We had in mind all of the people we interacted with this week. We spent the final moments of Chesed Mission recapping our amazing and inspiring moments during a tisch before we left for the airport!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Chesed Mission 2020/5780: Day 7

We started off our early day at Yad Lakashish, where we saw how this organization gives the elderly a skill and something to do during the day. We walked around the workshops in awe of the handcrafted works of art the participants were making. We then went to the shop to purchase some of these products. 
Our next stop was Keren Or, where we sang and danced with children from ages 6-21 who are disabled and blind or visually impaired. Due to our experience at the blind museum last night, we were more sensitive to their situations. In addition to dancing, we were able to thank the hardworking volunteers and workers there. It was a special experience because everyone took someone’s hand and started dancing. Even if we didn’t get a smile from the kids, we understood that they felt our presence. 
Next, because of our large group, we couldn’t all fit into one hospital. Therefore, we split up and went to Tel Hashomer and Schneider’s Hospital. I went to Tal Hashomer where we delivered toys and jewelry to the patients and their parents. Everyone there was super appreciative and friendly and thankful that we came. My friend and I went into a room with a mother and a small baby. We handed her a baby gift and she was so appreciative and said “this gift is so fitting.” She played with it for him and let us watch. I gave her a necklace and she was so happy. My friend explained to me later that she went back to give another gift and she said, “It’s okay more people need.” This experience made me realize the importance of appreciation and giving.
Then, we went to a mall to eat lunch. 
After that, we traveled a long way to get to Bet Elazraki, a Emunah children’s home for children at risk. When we arrived we heard inspiring words from the inspirational director, Yehuda Kohn and watched a video about successful commanders who came through this program. Something special happened next. Yehuda explained that the 18th year annual chesed mission group had dedicated a plaque in honor of Rabbi Besser, Susan Franco, and the Chessed Mission Team. We had a nice ceremony while internalizing that chesed mission’s name will be on the wall throughout the year. Chesed mission’s legacy is important and honored in this special place from now on. We also gave out gifts. In addition, Albert Chehebar delivered Tefillin sponsored by his parents to the bar mitzvah kids of this year. Our group was in awe of this amazing chesed that the Chehebars provide. We then ate dinner and got to know the kids. After, we danced till we heard the ground shake. Everyone was smiling and having the best time. I got to know three beautiful, happy, and fun 14 year old girls. They immediately became my friend. It was hard to leave at the end. I was comforted when one of my new friends walked me to the bus, but I still didn’t want to leave. However, I had a feeling that she would remember me and I would remember her as well.

We got on our bus to travel back to the hotel, when all of the sudden it started hailing. People on my bus were frightened, so we bursted out in a united song of “Kol berama”. After uniting with children with disabilities and children from broken families, uniting with our own community was the right way to end a meaningful day!
~Vivian Cohen, Class of 2021

Monday, January 20, 2020

Chesed Mission 2020/5780: Day 6

To kick off Day 6 of our amazing Chesed Mission, our lovely students visited the the children of Aleh, a school for children of all ages with various types of mental and physical disabilities. Our students played, interacted, and danced with them throughout the morning. 
Then we visited Steve Gar in the Gush to hear about his experiences as a first responder, later followed by the best falafel in Israel. After we were taken by Mr. Gar to the Pina Chama, or warm corner, in Gush Etzion. There, the soldiers stationed in the area can come during breaks to be fed warm food and be comforted by the volunteers. 
Moving along in our day, we went to Save a Child’s Heart, where we played with the children  post and pre surgery from around the world receiving heart transplants from this beautiful organization. 
To top off our fantastic fun filled day of chesed, we put ourselves in the shoes of those we were visiting through out the trip by attending Dialogue in the Dark. Here, the group experienced various situations lead by visually impaired instructors as a look into their everyday lives.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Chesed Mission 2020/5780: Day 5

The fifth day of Chesed Mission started for 10 girls at 5:30am, where they walked with Ms. Lamm to Hadaya and the Kotel to pray at sunrise. The first stop for the whole group was Ilanot School for Special Children, where we met some of the students who go there. These students have various disabilities and it was hard for us to communicate with them. We had the opportunitiy to listen to their school choir. You could tell in their passion that they not only loved to sing but it was their happy place. That showed us that just like we have to find our happy place for even the smallest of bad days, they use their happy place to always remember that life is a gift even with a disability. 
Our second stop was to United Hatzalah, where we got to learn about how they are innovating to reduce the response time to any emergency. We then dedicated a defibrillator to help save lives.
After that, we went to Afikim, an after school program for children at risk. We played bingo with questions about Israel and then had a big dance party where a lot of us created special bonds with the children that made it hard to leave. 
Our last stop of the day was Susan’s House, where we learned how the organization got started and what they do to help teenagers at risk. We then got to see all the different works of art that the teenagers have learned how to make and then we even got to shop some of their handmade items. 
While the day may have started off hard as the day went on it became more clear why Illanot was the first stop on our journey and why what we are doing on Chesed Mission is very important! ~Frieda Maleh and Marcelle Sasson, Class of 2021

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Chesed Mission 2020/5780: Day 4 - 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 sang songs with Israeli soldiers to welcome in Shabbat. Then we went down to the Kotel for Arbit and Kabalat Shabbat. There we started a huge circle with people that were praying at the Kotel. We then walked back to the hotel where we were joined for Seudat Shabbat by a group of lone soldiers and alumni from Flatbush learning in Israel for the year. 
On Shabbat day during lunch we heard from a couple of our alumni about their experiences. We then walked to the Old City for Seuda Shlishit with soldiers from Thank Israeli Soldiers. We ended Shabbat with a musical havdalah, singing and dancing, and gifts for the soldiers.
After Shabbat we went to Pantry Packers to help pack food for the needy. We packed hundreds of portions of peas, couscous, and barley. We then ended the night with a late dinner on Ben Yehuda!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Chesed Mission 2020/5780: Day 3

On the 3rd day of Chesed Mission we visited 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 with Lone Soldiers and Flatbush Alumni learning in Israel for the year!
We are looking forward to spending Shabbat in Jerusalem. Shabbat Shalom from Israel!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Chesed Mission 2010/5780: Day 2

After a delicious breakfast, we kick started our first full day of Chesed at Meshi, a center for children with disabilities. We split up into rooms and were able to have one on one time to connect with a child. We participated in many different activities with the children. Immediately after walking into the room, we felt the energy and happiness of the children and teachers. Everyone was so excited that we came all the way from America. After creating a bond with the children, it was difficult to say goodbye.
We then distributed toys to sick patients at the Hadassah Hospital. We tried to uplift the families in the hospital with small acts of kindness.  Next, we visited the cemetery of many heroes and soldiers of our homeland at Har Herzel. There, we also gathered to hear some more about the heroism of two soldiers: Yonatan Netanyahu and Dvir Emanueloff. We heard the personal story from one of our tour guides as well as an injured soldier from Tikvot. We ended by saying a perek of Tehillim and then united by singing “Acheinu” with hope for our brothers in the army and pride in our nation.
We then continued our day with rikkudim at Shalva, an organization which supports families and children with disabilities. The site was huge and filled with an abundance of volunteers and children who were smiling from ear to ear. We learned about the background of how Shalva started. Kalman Samuels, the man who started Shalva, had a child who became blind, deaf, and mute. After his child learned to communicate, the Kalman's dedicated time to help children in a similar situation. He used a hardship to grow instead of an excuse which was an inspiration to us all. We were in awe to see what one man could do to the world. We ended off our second day in Israel by rock climbing with Tikvot.
~Vivian Cohen, Class of 2021

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Chesed Mission 2020/5780: Day 1

We started off our 18th annual Chesed Mission to Israel at JFK airport. A group of 74 students - our largest ever - along with Rabbi Naftali Besser, Mrs. Susan Franco, Rabbi David Galpert, Ms. Tziri Lamm, and Ms. Samantha Chabot 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.  
On the plane we took advantage of the long flight ahead with an early shachrit at the break of dawn, which was my first time praying vatikin, along with many others. From the airport we went straight to set the mood as we prayed Arbit by the Kotel. I got the chance to spend my first ever moments in Israel praying in the most holy place in the world, an experience I’ll never forget. 
We then had dinner at Emek Refaim, where we got to taste a little of Jerusalem - food was incredible. To end the night with Chesed, we packed bags for soldier that we will meet through out the week.  
~Etty Jajati, Class of 2021