The Hebrew Academy sophomore class journeyed to Israel for two weeks, marking the Jewish state’s 70th anniversary. The excitement and patriotism the students encountered created a sense of awe, as they understood how fortunate they are to have the state of Israel.
The trip began straight from the airport as the grade headed to Kfar Kedem. There, the students rode donkeys, made pita, milked goats, and ate dinner. The next days consisted of activities such as museums, hikes, and tours. The blind museum, Yad Vashem, and army training were three experiences that stood out the most.
The night of April 17th began Yom Hazikaron. This day remembers the fallen soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces. To commemorate the fallen, the students went to Ammunition Hill to hear various mothers talk about their sons who were killed fighting for the state of Israel. The ceremony brought the crowd to tears and was something that will stay in their memories forever. From then until the following night, Israel was in a state of depression. The streets that were once loud and chaotic became dull and silent. This lasted all through the next day, and then immediately changed once night fell and Yom Haatzmaut commenced. The holiday celebrating Israeli independence served as the light at the end of the tunnel, taking everyone’s excitement to a new level. The tenth graders partied at a festival held in Jerusalem, the heart of the country. The students, along with many Israelis, danced and sang together as united Jews to celebrate Israel’s establishment 70 years ago.
“It was really inspirational that we saw random people come together and dance with us for Israel’s 70th birthday,” said Noah Ganem (10th grade).
This trip was a momentous occasion, not only because it was Israel’s 70th, but because for the majority of the tenth grade class, it was their first time in Israel. For the students who had already been to Israel, seeing the state from the eyes of someone who was first witnessing everything it had to offer, was heartwarming.
“Being there with my friends created an entirely different atmosphere and it made it a lot more spiritual for me,” said Avigail Kahn (10th). “I felt a lot more connected because I had people there who were my age, who were experiencing this for the first time. It was just really special watching everyone connect and I think that’s what helped me connect.”
Many of the first-timers said that seeing the Kotel in person for the first time was what really touched them.
“When I first got to the Kotel, I went straight to the wall, I put my hand on the wall and my head on the wall, took a deep breath, and I looked up and then I started to realize that I’m actually at the Kotel,” said Abraham Kanter (10th). “That really inspired me because I’ve never been there before. So I started getting emotional and I started praying for my family and my loved ones.”
Others felt the connection between the people.
“In Israel, I look around and everyone is a Jew,” said Yosef Melul (10th). “You feel a sense of connection to people, to the land, anybody you see even if you don’t know them you’re like- I’m connected to them because we’re both Jews.”
Along with the trip being many of the students’ first time in Israel, it was also one of the chaperone’s- Mr. Grant Matla, head of the history department.
“I was surprised and blown away by the beauty and geographical diversity of the country,” Matla said. “From a personal perspective— it made things more tangible for me regarding religion.”
Overall, this year’s Israel trip was a complete success for the students. The sophomores experienced their first time in Israel with their classmates, which was truly unforgettable. Because this year Israel turned 70, the students were able to rejoice with others who have the same love and affection towards Israel. The excitement and energy that poured throughout the streets reminded the students how lucky they are to have Israel and how special Israel is and will always be.
By: Samantha Ebner (10th Grade)