It was a case of East meets West and South joins North when the Chabad Great Wall trek got underway in Beijing. Adventurers and spiritual-seekers from London, Israel and South Africa teamed up for the traditional blend of soul/body challenge that has made Chabad of Hendonâ€™s annual treks so appealing. The eleven participants, aged sixteen to seventy, flew to China to hike along the famed Great Wall. Chinaâ€™s Wall snakes over mountain tops and along cliffs through almost 4000 miles of varied and breathtaking landscape. The Chabad team tasted a smidgen of the experience during the four days they spent hiking a fraction the wall- and that was a challenge in its own right.
This year marked the fifth year that Rabbi Dovid Katz of Chabad Hendon has led a Jewish expedition to an exotic destination. In previous years, his groups have trekked through Nepal, India, Tanzania and Peru. Rabbi Ari Shishler of Chabad Strathavon joined Rabbi Katz for the second time, this time bringing some members of his own community.
Bussing out of Beijing to start the trek, the group members got down to meeting. â€œUnder normal circumstances,â€ one of the chevra remarked, â€œwe would pass each other on the street without greeting.â€ Englishmen, Israelis and South Africans of widely differing religious levels most likely would never have spoken and certainly had not dreamed of spending a week together. By the end of the trip, every one of the team felt he was part of a single unit.
â€œThis trip,â€ Rabbi Katz explained, â€œunified Jews from around the world and brought together three Chabad communities: Hendon in London, Strathavon in Johannesburg and Beijing. It was worth traveling across the globe just to create this unity.â€
Each dayâ€™s hike began with Shacharis, a simple breakfast and then the team headed off for the dayâ€™s challenge. Sturdy and breathtaking in parts and crumbling in others, the Wall provided a physical challenge with its endless stairways, some almost vertical. It also provided opportunity for reflection and learning. Along the way, the rabbis shared insights from Chassidus, peppered with lessons from the Wall experience. The group farbrenged together and each person took on a resolution at the hikeâ€™s end. One member put on Tefillin for the first time in almost sixty years.
Over Shabbos, the hikers joined 200 guests at Chabad of Beijing, where Rabbi Shimon and Dini Freundlich hosted them like VIPs as they also opened their home to an Israeli tour group, Americans, Canadians, English, Irish and French tourists, as well as frum business people, exchange students from the USA and many of the local Jewish residents. Shul was standing room only over Shabbos and the meals reverberated with singing and divrei Torah.
As the trekkers prepared to return home, they recalled trying to explain to Chinese villagers (their hosts, who spoke no English) why they could not use their stoves, putting Tefillin on Israeli tourists at the â€œForbidden Cityâ€, farbrenging on the Wall and witnessing the power of the Rebbeâ€™s shlichus at work in the far-flung, tiny Jewish community of Beijing. They had traveled to see a foreign nationâ€™s heritage and returned with a renewed appreciation of their own heritage.
Tags: Great Wall Historty