After an uneventful 11 hour plane ride and breezy time through customs, Rashi’s Grade 8 students have made it to Israel. The Grade 8 Israel trip is a cumulative milestone for all Rashi students, one they prepare for the moment they walk through our doors with our integrated Jewish curriculum. Now, as almost-graduates after years of learning from afar, our students get to experience Israel personally, both as the spiritual Jewish homeland, and the modern day state.
Once they met their tour team, students were dazzled by the immaculate views of Sataf park, spending their first day hiking amongst 500 year-old olive trees and steep, lush hills, and caves. At the end of the day, the class and their faculty chaperones settled down in beautiful Kibbutz Tzuba to prepare for the coming days, which would include staying in Bedouin village Kfar Hanokdim, hiking Masada at the crack of dawn and going to the Dead Sea, and visiting Hezekiah’s Tunnel in the City of David.
“The highlight for me was the water tunnel,” said one student about Hezekiah’s tunnel, a water channel designed to protect the ancient city of Jerusalem from being sieged. “We learned about the history of how it was made and then got to see it first hand. The water was up to our thighs and there was no light. We all brought flashlights and stuck together…it turned out to be one of the biggest highlights of my life.”
“Sleeping in the Bedouin camp was certainly a memory we won’t forget,” wrote another eighth grader. While staying in the desert, students got to ride camels through the rain and meet with Bedouin villagers, including hearing a particularly powerful story from one woman in the camp that deeply resonated with some of our students. By the time they reached the Dead Sea after a soggy Masada climb, the sun was out, and the entire class had a blast floating around in the water.
“Most of the kids absolutely LOVED the Dead Sea and we had to drag them out to get on the road,” wrote Dean of Jewish Learning Rabbi Sharon Clevenger in her email to Grade 8 families.
After saying a reluctant goodbye to the sea, the class was on their way to Haifa, where they reunited with their Israeli friends from the Leo Baeck school, who visited Rashi back in December. “The reunion with the Israeli kids was dreamy, with hugs all around and electricity in the air,” wrote Sharon. By the time you read this, our Rashi students will have visited the Grand Kanyon Haifa Mall, packed meals for over 300 families facing food insecurity, and visited the Yemin Orde youth village. We are thrilled to say that their first almost-full week in Israel has brought our eighth graders deep learning, powerful introspection, and unbridled joy.