By: Nadia Kalisch
Our most recent excursion started in typical Mayanot fashion, which consisted of excited shrieking, a singing filled-atmosphere, and someone being forgotten and having to run for the bus (in this case that person was me). Our last trip on Tuesday to Ir-David, however, was especially poignant as it was the last trip of the year before most of the girls leave Mayanot and a new group of girls arrive for the summer program. With the majority of students having been studying at Mayanot for a year or six months at least, it was the first of many goodbyes.
Ilana, our tour guide, took us through the ancient City of David, introducing new stories and expanding on ones we already knew, ever able to answer any of our eclectic mix of questions expected from our eclectic variety of ladies.
The tour of the City of David includes the pass through the underwater tunnels through where the city was conquered and the city's inhabitants fled. Treading where so many pairs of Crocs had tread before, we had to go single file into the dark tunnels with only dim lights and our mini flashlights to guide our way...Oh, and 25 Niggun-singing girls!
Though the passage was daunting and particularly dark and narrow in places, we sang all the way through the wading water. I can easily say for me, it was one of the warmest and most enthralling experiences over my whole time in Israel. It wasn't that I hadn't heard my 'sisters' of Mayanot cheering and singing before, but there was more that made it sit with me. Maybe it was our last tour with Ilana, or the ancient city steeped in biblical relevance, or the path we were taking that was saturated with history, or the unyielding ruach and enthusiasm of the Mayanot girls which never fails to impress me, or maybe it was the fact that Zeldy was holding Ilana's hand the whole way because she was nervous. It was most probably, however, all of these simultaneously, which completely summed up Mayanot to me and everything it encapsulates.
After we trudged out of the water we didn't take long to dry off between the cool air of the dry tunnel and the blazing Jerusalem sun! We all sat on the Jerusalem stone, in the shade, to do a closing sikkum, where we shared our highlights from our excursions over the year.
We spoke about the connection between studying Torah and living in Israel and how many of our lessons don't come from books, they come from people and places. Our trips with Ilana fill in gaps that help us create an entire picture of our learning, whilst additionally allowing us to explore Jerusalem and reaping full benefit of studying within Eretz Yisrael itself. We thanked Ilana for her warmth and passion in her lessons. Like many of our teachers, the spark with which she teaches completely cultivates our interest as well as satisfies our hunger and want for answers, which is what brought us to Mayanot in the first place.
I think I might be at risk of sounding like one of the American girls when I say 'We've come on an amazing journey' but I suppose it's correct (they do just have a very appropriate way of wording thing... sometimes!) Yes it's true - the dark tunnels, winding passageways, slightly murky waters and ancient cobwebby stones were something important to discover, explore and trek through in our last trip. Like our personal journeys, they aren't always the simplest or most straight paths, but it's something we encourage ourselves to go through for the better nonetheless. Though it could have been terrifying, we were guiding each other with our flashlights like lighthouses, expanding our knowledge, experiencing the history first-hand, singing all the way through and for some reason seemed to come out even dryer and more joyful on the other side. It was truly spectacular!
I would love to take this opportunity to thank Ilana again for being our wonderful tour guide, Mayanot for organizing and encouraging our awesome trips and all my lovely Mayanot ladies, who made the whole thing that much more special.