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On Monday and Tuesday, December 16 and 17, when Yerushalayim was still shoveling out from under a record-breaking snowstorm, a group of L’Ayla women enjoyed themselves. They went on the Winter Getaway which was planned – and named – before anyone knew about the snow. Despite the snow, the women enjoyed a warm and wonderful two days in Israel’s north.

Accompanying the group was Mrs. Shira Smiles who gives regular Parshat HaShavua shiurim at the OU Israel Center. She spoke a number of times during the two day Getaway and brought special meaning to each location.

The trip began with the adventure of getting to the OU Israel Center on Keren Hayesod St. Most of the capital was still blanketed with more than an estimated 50 cm/20” of snow. And there was no public transportation.

Day One

The intrepid travelers made their way north. First stop: the multimedia presentation at Atlit, a refugee camp from the War of Independence. Then on to Haifa where the group took a tour of Haifa including The Technion, Israel Institute of Technology and Ma’arat Eliahu (Elijah’s Cave) in the Carmel Mountains.

Dinner and overnight were spent at Nir Etzion, south of Haifa. After dinner, Smiles gave a shiur on Parshat Shemot.

Day Two

An early morning walk in the Carmel Forest began the day.

The second day began with a walk in the Carmel Forest which became a combination of physical and spiritual dimension as Smiles spoke about the significance of trees and nature.

Following the walk, the group went to the memorial for the 44 people who died in the Mt. Carmel Forest fire during Chanukah 2010. Then they visited the settlements of Nahalal and Yoqneam. With the Jezreel Valley as the background, they could get a first-hand look at this wonderful farming area.

It was appropriate that Smiles related the story about King Ahab and Navot the Jezreelite from the Book of Kings. Navot owned land next to the king’s palace which the king wanted. Navot refused, saying, “The Lord forbid that I should give up to you what I have inherited from my fathers.” [1 Kings 21:4] King Ahab killed Navot. Smiles brought to the story to life in a personal and meaningful way.

Left: Lunch in Zichron Ya’acov.
Right: Rivka Daum (left) and Judith Kushner from New York joined the group.

After lunch in Zichron Ya’acov, the group ended the day at Caesarea, which in addition to the impressive Roman ruins, is where Rabbi Akiva was killed. Smiles spoke about the importance and tragedy of Rabbi Akiva.

After seeing sunset over the Mediterranean, the group headed back to Yerushalayim. After two days that were meaningful, relaxing and energizing, it was time to get back to the snow.

Shira Smiles shares some parting thoughts with the group in Caesarea.