The day began in the dark. Literally. At Dialogue in the Dark at the Israeli Children’s Museum in Tel Aviv, we were plunged into total darkness to simulate blindness and had to navigate through a series of rooms using the voice of our visually impaired guide and our other senses. There was a marketplace room, the beach with a rocking boat, a room filled with sound, and a busy street. Each group sat around a table in the darkness to discuss this powerful experience and ask questions of our guide.
We then headed to Jaffa for lunch and shopping in the flea market, although many of us were more interested in Castro than in the tchotchkes in the shuk. Samuel then gave us a walking tour through the city, leaving us spellbound with stories from across the ages of kings, pharaohs, battles, the Jaffa orange industry—and even a house of ill repute.
Then it was off to Independence Hall, where we relived the moments leading to the formation of the State of Israel, listening to David Ben-Gurion’s declaration of independence on May 14, 1948 followed by the Shehecheyanu and singing the Hatikvah. We then spent some time reflecting on our trip, sharing highlights, memories, and ways we’ve been transformed by our Israel experience:
Dylan G.: I want to return to Israel to see the country through living here, not as a tourist.
Justin: I love Israel because of the different cultures and how they live together; it is much different than America and every building and piece of land has so much history. And only in Israel can you step on a stairway that hasn’t been used in 2,000 years.
Dylan L.: I love Israel because it is the Jewish State.
Abe: I love Israel because it is really important to have a state for the Jewish people.
Maya G.: I love Israel because of the strong culture and how everywhere you go there is so much history to discover.
Eitan: I feel a lot more connected to Israel than America. It is a country where everyone is Jewish like me, and I feel at home here.
Ian: I love Israel because almost everybody is Jewish and, just like in Squirrel Hill, you run into people that you know.
Gil: I’ve come here many times, but I loved being here on a class trip with my friends who I have known for mostly nine years.
Aaron: I love Israel because I feel safe here.
Eli: I love Israel because every place here has a story.
Josh: Something I will take with me from this trip is growing closer to my friends over the past two weeks.
Omri: I love Israel because I can visit my family.
Leo: I love Israel because it is a great place to have fun while learning a lot.
Ari: I want to come back to Israel because so many great people live here and the food is better than in Pittsburgh.
Moshe: I am going to take with me the memories that I made here.
Avi: I’d like to come back because of all the technological breakthroughs and to learn more about the modern history of Israel and its future.
Maya K: I want to come back because we’ve done so much in the two weeks we’ve been here, but there is so much more to see.
Lauren: I want to come back to learn more about all the places we haven’t seen.
Sophie: I want to come back to Israel because I have family here and to experience more of Israeli culture.
Shayna: I love Israel because wherever you go, there is so much to learn.
And some words from our guides and madricha …
Liora: What I want you to go back home with is the knowledge and the feeling that you have another home and your home is right here. It is the place that will always welcome you and will always be happy to get you back.
Nir: Your happiness this week made everything feel simple and wonderful, like being back in 8th Grade. And it might take a little bit of time to understand your experience, but there is a good reason why you were brought here. You have a strong connection to Israel and when you grow up there is a decision you have to make about that connection.
Samuel: Until now, you’ve been Jewish by default, within a framework that most things around you were Jewish even though you are living in the Diaspora. And now you have to make some decisions about what it means to be Jewish by choice. And I really hope this won’t be the last time you come to Israel.
Tear-filled goodbyes (with plenty of laughter, too) followed at the Maganda restaurant in Tel Aviv before our long journey home to Pittsburgh …
“The Last Supper”