Day Schools Visit Our Sister City

Tags: Teens, Israel, Overseas, Federation

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8th Graders at Gross Schechter Day School and Mandel Jewish Day School are embarking on an Israel journey – read about their experience visiting our sister city of Beit Shean here!

Gross Schechter Day School

Goodbye Tzfat, Hello Beit Shean & Pen-pals by Ilan

Today began with walking into Tzfat to see artist Sheva Chayah and her glassblowing artwork. The whole class was in awe by her story and how she didn’t expect to make Aliyah to Israel, but somehow, she ended up in one of the holiest cities in Israel. After the art show, the whole class went to a little art shuk and bought presents, gifts etc. Then we made our way to Kfar Blum where we met our pen pals and went rafting.

After a long bus ride to Kfar Blum, we finally met our pen pals who we have been dying to see since November. We ate pizza with them and then we went on our journey on the Jordan River. It was so much fun, people were splashing and having a ton of fun. After the Jordan River, we went on the bus with our pen pals and went to Beit Shean to have a nice time with the pen pals’ families. Every Schechter student went with their buddies for their houses to eat dinner and experience the Israeli culture and food.

After all the fun with the Beit Shean kids we had to leave to Kibbutz Ma’agan. When we came to the hotel, we switched our modes for the remembrance for the 6 million Jews the died in the Holocaust. Lindy, Reanna and I did a little ceremony for Yom Ha’Shoah that included singing prayers and poems. We are very excited to see our pen pals for the next two days and learn a lot more about Beit Shean!

Mandel Jewish Day School

After t'filot - after praying for the dew to fall where such an entreaty makes geographic (and national) sense - we head to an Israeli breakfast of champions; my personal plate is layered with shakshuka and a side of olives and fresh peppers, but there are dozens of other choices for a North American palate.

We travel forty minutes south, slightly past Beit Shean to Kibbutz Nir David for a mifgash (an encounter) with our students' Beit Shean counterparts - separated by thousands of miles and accidents of birth; united by common history and a shared future. Amazing how splashed water and adolescence can bridge language and culture.

An unseasonably cool 88 doesn't impede our constant admonishments to drink and put-that-hat-on-your-head. Toto, we are so not in Cleveland anymore.

Nir David was founded in 1936 as one of the first Homa u'migdal settlements - those "tower and stockade" outposts that helped both to birth and to protect the New-Old state twelve years hence.

After the sun and the water and lunch, the Beit Sheaniks and we hear a very specific and too-universal narrative of Ethiopian aliyah. Change a few names and dates and a few highly individualistic details, and it could have been Yemenites or Russians or Cochini Jews from southwest India. To say this takes nothing away from the extraordinary story of Ethiopian Jewish repatriation to their national Homeland; it does, however, speak volumes about the commonality that links all of us.

Dinner in a truly gorgeous park, replete with shooting fountains gurgling in time to colored lights and music, some genuinely teary-eyed goodbyes, and we're back by ten minutes to 9:00. Tomorrow is an early morning hike up Mount Arbel, the site of a spectacular view and where Romans sought the remnants from the Hasmonean rebels, centuries after the revolt that gave us Chanukkah. History here is tangible, not metaphorical.

Today's bonus I-couldn't-make-this-up-if-I-tried quote: after t'filot, someone quietly and sweetly sidles up to me and says, "I never really was into praying - but the words seem to make so much more sense saying them here."

Laila tov,


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Learn More: Teens, Israel, Overseas, Federation