Senior Israel Experience 2018

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June 11, 2018

June 11, 2018
By Jeremy K.

If you’re reading this, you are about to complete the journal of the senior trip to Israel. Congratulate yourselves. It’s a remarkable feat! It’s almost as remarkable as sitting in a 747 for the next 12 hours. Wish us luck!
This has been our final day in Israel, so you can bet it was intense. Leaving the Agron youth hostel, we started our day at Robinson's Arch, the egalitarian prayer section near the Kotel. There, we davened Shacharit, creating a meaningful bond between each other and our heritage as we prayed our final service together as a grade. Sad.

After Shacharit, we went to the home of our tour guide, Itzik, for lunch. He lives in Gush Etzion, which is across the "Green Line." This gave us a crucial opportunity to learn about the dueling sovereignties over the West Bank, and Sections A,B and C. This knowledge should serve us well as we depart for college and may encounter anti-Israel sentiments.

Our political lessons did not end in the West Bank. Following lunch, we visited the newly dedicated US Embassy in Jerusalem, a source of debate among our classmates.

We then recounted memories from the trip and our four years together at a scenic overlook of Jerusalem at Talpiyot. We finished our day with one last stop at Machane Yehudah and dinner at the Israel Museum.
Now, off to Ben Gurion International Airport, we are upset to leave each other. We are upset to leave this beautiful country. Listening to people recount their experiences of the last 3 weeks, I have noticed the obvious: we are leaving Israel with a stronger connection to our homeland, with, especially, a renewed relationship to our faith.

We’ll see you soon at JFK where we can’t wait to tell you even more about our amazing three weeks.

Signing off,
Jeremy K.

June 9, 2018

June 09, 2018
By Gabby G. and Lizzy K.

We just celebrated our final Shabbat in Jerusalem(and Israel) and it was such a beautiful experience. In the morning, our class was given the option of selecting from four different synagogues for a Shacharit. We chose the Great Synagogue, a short walk from the hostel at which we are staying. The service was really long and sadly we ended up leaving early in order to be back in time for lunch. After lunch at the Agron youth hostel, we had just shy of two hours of mandatory Shabbat rest time followed by a little over two hours of free time. Some of us chose to go to the park with our Madrich Dan and from what we heard, they had a fun time.

At 5:30, we all gathered for a reflection program which allowed us to share some of our funniest and most memorable teacher moments in high school. We enjoyed Seudah Shlishit for our third meal and afterwards, we shared our roses & thorns and shabbuddies of the week and had Havdala right after.

Our post-Shabbat evening began with the delivery of our Hadaya jewelry that we ordered last time we were in Jerusalem. We spent the remainder of the night with a short walk to Ben Yehuda Street where we were able to shop around for some last minute souvenirs and grab some desserts. Some people opted to have a second dinner.

We've got an action packed day in store for us tomorrow and can't believe this adventure is coming to a close so soon!

See you in a few days!

Gabby G. and Lizzy K.

June 8, 2018

June 08, 2018
By Julia H. and Rachel L.

This morning we woke up at 6:30 and all dressed nicely to prepare for Yad Vashem and Har Herzel. It was a very emotional day for all of us. We first went to Yad Vashem where we began our tour with the children’s memorial. As we walked through, the names of the 1.5 million children that perished were being spoken aloud in the background. This is the only memorial that reads all of the names in such a way.

Afterwards, the students that had already visited got to see the rest of the memorial while the first-timers took a tour through the main exhibit. We saw many first hand accounts of survivors and live footage from life before and during the holocaust.

We then traveled to Har Herzel to pay our respects to those who lost their lives fighting and others who dedicated their lives to helping the state of Israel. Ilan shared with the class about his uncle who died while serving in the IDF and Dan, our madrich, took us to a few gravesites and shared the stories of those soldiers. These personal and meaningful stories made our visit today emotional and more relatable. We ended our visit by singing Hatikva because while it is ok to mourn we must still have hope and continue to live our lives. We learned that we must not drown in sorrow but we must live to honor those who lost their lives so we could continue living ours.

We went to Machaneh Yehudah for an enjoyable lunch and to buy shabbuddy gifts to conclude our day before heading back to agron to get ready for Shabbat. 

- Julia H. and Rachel L.

June 7, 2018

June 07, 2018
By -Gaby G and Daniel

It was another early wake up, and all the students gathered together in the lobby of Kibbutz Ketura with all of our suitcases prepared to say goodbye to the beautiful desert paradise that is Eilat, the Arava Desert and the south of Israel. Before leaving the south we made a few last stops and saw the naturally occurring craters in machtesh jrRamon and visited a museum where we learned about the Big Bang theory and the millions of years of erosion and evolution that went into creating the beautiful craters we saw today. At the same museum, we also learned about the history of Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut and his fatal flight.

After leaving the museum, we stopped by the grave of David Ben Gurion and his wife Paula. Then we went on a tour of his home in the Negev where we got to really get a feel for who David Ben Gurion really was. Then we made our way back to Jerusalem where we watched a short documentary on an American Israeli paratrooper who died in battle and is buried on Har Herzlwhich will be seeing tomorrow. Then we ate dinner and then ordered more food to our rooms from the local pizza place. All in all is a was a really interesting day that gave us a better glimpse into Israeli history and culture.

-Gaby G and Daniel

June 6, 218

June 06, 2018
By Ilan B. and Max H.

You simply can’t imagine waking up daily to the incredible mountainous view at Kibbutz Ketura. To start off our first morning at Ketura, we were given 3 choices of activities; decoupage, a bike ride around the Kibbutz property or a soothing oil painting workshop. Ilan: I chose to do the oil painting and was surprised to see what I was able to create on the blank canvas. Some found their muse in the humble rocks while others, like me, focused on the breathtaking still horizon. Max: I chose the Kibbutz bike ride. We started by crossing the highway (walking the bikes when we had the all clear) and we rode into the date palm fields. Our guide shared how the Ketura dates have been recognized as some of the best dates in the world. We rode up to the border fence with Jordan and learned about the peace that exists between Israel and its neighbor. On the way back we passed a few fields of different types of trees who's fruits/seeds are used for a variety of medicinal and chemical purposes.

Following breakfast and Shacharit, we learned and explored the joint project between Ketura and the Aravah Institute on ways to recycle and create energy out of natural resources in their "Off the Grid" village. Some of the projects focused on renewable energy while others focused on harnessing the power of solar energy for basic needs.

We left Ketura as made our way towards Eilat with a pit-stop at Kibbutz Yotvata where we enjoyed a variety of delicious dairy treats, including Choco B'Sakit, milkshakes and homemade ice cream and gelato.


After this we were on our way to the Ice Mall in Eilat. The mall was a new experience and interestingly had an ice rink in the center to our surprise as it's located in arguably the hottest city in Israel. We enjoyed a pizur lunch and a tax free shopping experience and then we were headed on our way to snorkeling in the Red Sea. Snorkeling in the Red Sea was unlike anything we've seen before, with giant coral reefs and extroidary fishes captivating our attention every second. After we showered up and we’re feeling all clean again we took a short pit stop at another mall to rest, cool down in air conditioning, use the facilities and make any final purchases in Eilat before we headed to the Kasui Sand Dunes.

At first the dunes were unbearably hot but as the sun set it progressively got cooler and more comfortable. We all were able to find our own meanings and values in the endless desert that we and our forefathers crossed. After jumping around and going a little nuts in the dunes, we watched as the sunset over our nice pita and falafel dinner. After everyone’s stomachs were full, the grade was able to bond and share highschool memories and experiences under the stars, something we will take with us past graduation. After a long day we headed back to Kibutz Ketura, where it all began in the morning and got some well deserved rest time.

We've got to get some sleep. Tomorrow is our last long bus ride as we prepare to return for Jerusalem. Our time in the desert was really something special and we're so grateful to have shared it with one another.

Ilan B. and Max H.

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