There is no more concrete and moving way to learn the history, geography, and deep connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel than walking its hills and valleys, its streets and alleyways.
Tiyulim are an integral part of the educational program of students at Midreshet HaRova – not just “time out” but designed to enhance student’s educational program, giving a living sense of the Land and its inhabitants over time. Tanach in hand, hats on heads and three liters of water on their backs, students traverse the country and experience the thrill of seeing both ancient and contemporary Jewish history come to life, while appreciating the beauty and complexity of G-d’s creations. Moving through the alleyways of the Old Cities of Jerusalem, Acco or Tzfat, visiting the scene of the duel between David and Goliath, walking the hills our ancestors tread, seeing the sunset at the beach where refugees from Europe entered Israel at tremendous physical risk – it is difficult not to be moved by the immensity of the history and geography of the land, and to a greater understanding of the place of the Land in the life of every Jew.
Our tour guides are wonderful role models to the students, extending the sense of bringing our learning alive as we tour the land.
Each year, Midreshet Harova students participate in multi-day tiyulim to Eilat, to the Negev and to the Golan – and several day trips around the country to sites of ancient and modern historical significance such as Latrun, Zichron Ya’akov, Masada, Ein Gedi and more.
Additional optional tiyulim are offered during Bein Hazmanim, and have included snorkeling for techelet snails at a special study site for the making of techelet, or visiting the Carmel area including historic sites such as the Atlit jail from the Mandate Period of modern history and camping on Mediterranean beaches and Galilean mountaintops.
It is of primary importance to the Midrasha that students spend their year not only receiving, but learning the true meaning and value of chessed as they give to the community-at-large. One afternoon a week, Midrasha students volunteer in programs throughout the Jerusalem area. Volunteering options are varied, spanning from helping children with special needs, to medical clowning or working with the elderly and infirm. Time and consideration are dedicated to creating the best “shidduch” between students and placements, with periodic evaluation of both student and volunteer organization satisfaction. Where possible, placements are “tailor-made” according to student interests. One student with a particular interest in environmental issues was assisted the JNF with reforestation issues. Another helped sift through the rubble from the ruins of Har HaBayit, and was delighted to help in the discovery of pottery shards that contributed to archaeological work in the area.
Students see great value in being able to give to the community with no expectation of receiving in return, and are inspired to continue volunteering after leaving the program. Many students develop bonds with volunteer organizations or recipients that go well beyond the framework of the Midrasha, and remain in contact, creating extended relationships.
Students’ response to volunteering is extremely positive, as is feedback from the organizations with whom our students volunteer.
In response to the growing number of creatively-talented young women who join the Midrasha every year, we have developed courses allowing students to explore and expand their artistic, dramatic and writing skills within the structure of their studies at the Midrasha. All courses in the Creative Arts program are designed to guide students in the specific art form and teach techniques used in enhancing students’ learning and living as Jewish women. Attention is given to the specific halachik issues that might arise for religious art students.
In “Artistic Expression” students learn a variety of specific techniques and experiment with materials, styles and mediums including painting, sculpture and drawing in order to produce individual art pieces of each student’s choice or to create a combination exhibit or production with a shared theme. Students are encouraged to create personal projects to build up their own private porfolio, engaging in research in preparation for each work of art. Attention is paid to the Jewish calendar year, with related art projects that will reflect the nature of the Chagim, as well as to themes in Jewish art.
In “Drama and Tanach” students use theater arts as a means of increasing their understanding of various Biblical personalities and pesukim in the Torah in a hands-on approach to Torah learning which is both challenging and transformative. The focus is on deepening one’s appreciation for the text of Tanach and creating greater understanding of the personalities who are central to our study of Tanach.
“The Written Word” is a hands-on writing workshop where student learn techniques for greater creative written expression while exploring the relationship of the written word to their inner spiritual life. Writing topics include those related to the Jewish yearly cycle and those that arise from the learning.
The inspiring location of the Midrasha allows our work to be influenced on a spiritual level that only the Old City of Jerusalem can provide. We are privileged to be studying and participating in creative endeavors at this historic time and the Creative Arts program aims to reflect this.
Each year the Midrasha offers simultaneous intensive programming– generally in late January – during which students participate either in the annual Zeminar (Zionism Seminar) or the annual Trip to Poland.
The Zeminar takes students through an historical and visual tour of the events, places and people who made the modern State of Israel possible – from visits to the museums that connect us to the founders and movements at the start of the State, to places as far as the Golan and Acco or as close as Har Herzl and the Knesset – students learn about what was and the transformation to the Israel that is today.
Students walk through the Palmach and Etzel museums in Tel Aviv, to the strategically important Mount Ben Tal and Emek HaBacha in the Golan, to Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, the prisons of Acco, and spend Shabbat together in the Gush Etzion community of Elazar with Rav Yonatan Horovitz and family. They prepare a number of tekasim to enhance both the informational and experiential sense of the Zeminar. A whirlwind ten-days, Zeminar greatly enriches students understanding of and identification with the Land and its people.
Zeminar is lead by Rav Ari Shames and Rav Yonatan Horovitz, and includes madrichot and mashgichot in whirlwind days and nights of experiential learning.
Warsaw, Bialystok, Kotz, Majdanek, Auschwitz, Lublin – names that all bring images of both thriving communities in the history of Jewish life, and their destruction in the course of the Holocaust. On the annual trip to Poland, Midreshet HaRova students visit the sites of historically strong Jewish life in Poland and the Ukraine, remembering what was and commemorating the horrific destruction that followed. From tisches in the shuls of the past, learning about such varied figures as Rabbi Shmuel Moholiver, the Kotzker Rebbe, Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlev, visiting the kevarim of the Sfat Emet and the Chidushei Harim, Yehudi Hakadosh and Rav Simcha Bunim Mipshischa, to seeing the sites of mass destruction like Babi Yar, Auschwitz, and Majdanek – it is a deeply emotional and moving journey through history and back to Israel, to the Kotel, to home.
Rav Milston and Jeremy Kurnedz lead the trip, accompanied by staff members as well as madrichot. Students are responsible for tekasim (ceremonies) that deepen the identification with and understanding of the dilemmas, the traumas, and the day-to-day struggle that marked the times. Jeremy shares the personal story of his family, which hailed from Piotrokov, taking students to see his family’s former home, and tells how his father escaped the roundup of all the other members of his community and therefore was spared their fate.
Students bring along histories and names of family members who were lost, or who survived, deepening the identification with the horrors and with the mixed emotions of living through and making it out alive from such a time.
The trip to Poland and the Zeminar each have a tremendous impact on the students and for many are a turning point in the development of a committed and clear sense of Jewish and Zionist identity.
What could be more special at times of Jewish celebration than the blend of the atmosphere of the Midrasha on the backdrop of the Old City, and the place of the Beit HaMikdash? Midreshet HaRova takes advantage of our unique location to deepen and strengthen students’ sense of each chag, while encouraging students to visit other communities throughout Israel to experience how Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael celebrate together.
Students have the opportunity of going in groups and enjoying home hospitality in communities throughout Israel. Students who wish to make their own arrangements and spend the Chag with friends and family may do so.
The holiest day of the year is spent as an intense group experience at the Midrasha. We conduct our own minyan including many of our key staff, with an ezrat nashim packed to the brim with over two hundred women. Each year, we are joined by alumnae (and their husbands and children!) for an unforgettable Tefila that includes joyous singing and even dancing! During the day, tefilla goes from early in the morning until the end of the fast, with a festive tisch post break-fast to round out the tefilla experience.
Sukkot is break time used by students to travel and visit with family and friends in Israel. The Midrasha sponsors an optional two day tiyul in the week preceding Yom Tov. Dormitories remain open for those wishing to stay in the Midrasha over the vacation and meals are provided. We rejoin as a group for a Midrasha night of learning on Hoshana Rabba.
The week of Chanukah is full of activities including special seminars, visits to hospitals and the elderly to celebrate with them, and other special programs. Each night, students gather to light candles together and share the pleasure of eating (perhaps one too many!) sufganiot.
Tu’ B’shvat is marked by a “Seder Tu’ Bshvat”, where students share the varieties of fruits of Eretz Yisrael, and in most years (shmitta being the exception) go on tiyul to plant new trees in Eretz Yisrael.
Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha
The joy of Purim can not be contained in just one day, with festivities, including dress-up days and secret gifts to peers, beginning from Rosh Chodesh. Shabbat Zachor is held together at the Midrasha with activities on Purim including a Midrasha megillah reading and late-night dancing session with the best of Israel’s female bands! The Purim seuda turns into an inspirational “tisch”, demonstrating how one can respectfully celebrate Purim in the true spirit of “ad d’lo yada”!
Pesach is vacation time and once again dorms are open for those students who would prefer to stay in the Midrasha than visit family and friends. All students who request such are placed with families for the seder and any other Shabbat or chag day of the vacation as per their request.
Yom HaZikaron/ Yom Ha’Atmaut
As visitors to Israel will know, Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for the Fallen, and Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day, are held back-to-back, with the sorrow of those lost followed immediately by the great joy of what we gained as a nation. Midreshet Harova marks these moments in the history of Israel in ways not likely experienced before by our students.
On Yom HaZikaron, we host guest speakers who tell of loved ones lost in Israel’s wars, and visit Har Herzl, the national cemetery for fallen soldiers and national historical figures, joining bereaved families who visit the resting place of loved ones. Many years, students are given names and information regarding specific soldiers whose graveside they might visit while at Har Herzl. In some cases, students then meet family at the site, deepening their connection to the soldier and the loss.
The deeply moving transition from Yom HaZikaron to Yom HaAtzmaut is marked by staff together with students, after which the celebrations begin! From a festive evening meal together with our Israeli peers, with keynote addresses by the heads of the Midrasha and lots of singing and dancing, to day time visits to historic sights in and around Jerusalem – the day comes to and end with the Israeli tradition of firing up a delicious barbecue!
There is no more natural a day for a Midrasha than Shavuot, when the Beit Midrash is filled throughout the night with intense learning and back-to-back classes. In the wee hours of the morning, as is the tradition throughout Yerushalayim, we join the multitude from all corners of the city to daven “Vatikin” at the Kotel.
The educational program at the Midrasha reaches beyond the traditional walls of the Beit Midrash and classroom. In the course of the year we offer seminars and workshops which focus on specific topics of interest and importance. Special programs are conducted by members of our own staff in their areas of particular expertise, as well as by guest speakers from both within and outside Israel.
In addition to the seminars we also conduct one day Yimei Iyun throughout the calendar year. Prior to many of the holidays, we dedicate a day of learning to the practical and philosophical basis of the chag. When Israeli elections are due we have guest speakers who explain the electoral system and the multitude of parties. We are also privileged in the course of the year to hear visiting lecturers on topics of particular interest.
Learning together and living together create an atmosphere of their own, a melding and blending of personalities and people, developed all the more when we come together to share our Shabbat experience. One out of every three Shabbatot is designated as an “in-Shabbat”.
Shabbatot in the Midrasha are among the highlights of the year. As Shabbat approaches, we light our candles and head down, as a group, to the Kotel for Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv. The people, the tunes and the location create a moving and deep experience in an atmosphere that cannot be matched anywhere in the world.
Staff members and their family join the students for the meals and programming, each imbuing their own special tone for the day. Shabbat morning davening takes place in any one of the many Batei Knesset in the Jewish Quarter, giving students a chance to experience the different styles and customs of the varied communities that create the flavor of Jerusalem as a whole and the Old City in particular. Seuda Shilishit together rounds out the group Shabbat experience.
In addition to Shabbatot spent “at home” in the Old City, we spend 2-3 Shabbatot away from home, in locations such as Tzfat and Hevron.
On free Shabbatot students are welcome to visit family and friends in Israel. We encourage students to take advantage of free Shabbatot to experience different communities in Israel. The Midrasha actively places interested students with host families in communities throughout the country. Students wishing to remain in the dorms on free Shabbatot may do so, provided that there are a minimum of ten students who have chosen this option.
The Midreshet HaRova program is a full one-year program, including vacation times on Sukkot and Pesach during which classes do not take place. Students have access at all times throughout vacations to the dormitories and facilities, and are provided with full-service, including meals. While we close on the first and last day of Chag as well as Shabbatot of vacation, we help place any student who needs accommodation on those days.
During vacation times, students are free to visit family or friends throughout the country. Staff provide ideas and placements for students wishing to travel or visit other communities.
Although Sukkot is a time without official classes, students are invited to Simchat Beit Hashoeva celebrations at faculty members’ homes, and a special learning program takes place on Leil Hoshana Rabba.
On both Sukkot and Pesach break, the Midrasha offers a two-day tiyul for all students interested in participating.