Each spring, the graduating 8th Grade class of Community Day School (CDS)—an Age 3 to Grade 8 independent Jewish day school in Pittsburgh—travels to Israel together as the capstone learning experience of their Hebrew and Jewish Studies curriculum.

Helping our students to forge a strong connection to Israel in Middle School—at a crucial life stage when they are learning more about themselves every day and developing their identities—increases the chances they will maintain that relationship into the future.

In this way, the trip does not signal the end of their day-school career, but rather the beginning of their lifetime commitment to their Jewish heritage, the State of Israel, and the Jewish community in Pittsburgh and around the world.

The two-week, “hands-on” CDS Israel trip is designed to give our students a meaningful, intense, educational, emotional, and focused taste of their Jewish homeland. How do we fill their days and nights? Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Tiberias, Tzfat. Kayaking down the “mighty” Jordan. Trekking through deserts and floating in the Dead Sea. Visiting historical sites and museums. Ascending Masada at sunrise. Making friends with other teens in our sister cities of Karmiel/Misgav and with IDF soldiers guarding the northern border. Engaging in social justice projects. And much, much more.

This year, 20 CDS graduates of the Class of 2016 will spend 14 days in Israel, establishing connections that last a lifetime. This blog aims to capture their experience through photos, video, and words. Join us for their adventure. We hope it will transform you as it will surely transform them.