By Gabriella Tankel, Grade 9 Student
– In April, the grade nine classes from Edmonton Talmud Torah and Calgary Jewish Academy traveled to Israel. We went to many sites, learned a lot and created tight-knit friendships. Having the opportunity to see the things we have been learning about for nine years was an amazing experience.
Our journey began in Jerusalem during Pesach. We got to meet our “Mishpucha,” our family, before the Yom Tov began. On the seventh day of Passover we walked around the city and visited Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue, as well as the Western Wall, where we did Kabbalat Shabbat, welcoming Shabbat. Resting the next day was wonderful before a busy, fun-filled week.
One experience that will always stick with me is Yad VaShem, the Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, where a guide took us through and told us stories we’d never hear otherwise. We discussed the importance of having a Holocaust museum in Israel and why it’s different than in any other place. Memorializing the six million Jews we lost is something that absolutely needs to be done in the Jewish state we have today. It was a very powerful and emotional experience.
Next we drove north to the Hula valley area to meet our friends from the P2G Mifgash. We were overjoyed, having not seen them for 6 months. Their families warmly welcomed us into their homes for five nights. All of them were so hospitable and felt like our own families. For me, it was really something to experience the diverse lifestyles and ways of practicing Judaism in another country. These are kids who are just like us, living completely different lives!
We did a lot of exciting activities with the Mifgash- rafting on the Jordan river, jeep rides in the Golan, skating and swimming at Canada center, hiking in the Baniaas, the list goes on. Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, was also spent with them. We attended their school’s ceremony and watched a play. I was fascinated to see how just about every Israeli, no matter how secular or religious, took that one day to remember the victims of the Holocaust – our parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters.
Leaving the Mifgash saddened us all but led to a new chapter of our trip. On Erev Shabbat, we were on Mount Meron and in the lively city of Tzefat, where we saw plenty of art and even met a Kabbalistic artist. Shabbat was spent restfully on Kibbutz Farod.
The next day we traveled to Akko and Caesarea, two cities with really interesting and unique histories, and learned about all that happened there. Following this we drove south to spend time in the Negev and the Judean desert. First we visited David Ben-Gurion’s and his wife’s graves in Sde Boker, and learned about his heroism. The next days’ brought hiking, camel riding, being hosted for a night at Bedouin tents, more hiking, this time at Masada where we learned its history, and floating in the Dead Sea. Though most of us complained about the burning salt, it was fun.
Our final destination was Tel-Aviv. On Yom-HaZikaron, we stood silently for two minutes in Rabin square when the siren went off. We saw Independence Hall where Israel’s independence was declared, went to the tank museum and soldiers’ memorial and ended Yom HaZikaron by bringing in Yom HaAtzmaut with March of the Living at Mini Israel. We had a ceremony and party there for the celebration. Yom HaAtzmaut was a family visiting day for some of us, and a beach day for others. It was a relaxing day before our busy Friday with visits to Palmach museum, Shuk HaCarmel (the Carmel market), Nahalat Binyamin (the artist’s market) and touring Yafo.
Then we returned to our hotel for our final Shabbat together. We visited Chaim Bialik, the famous poet’s house. The rest of the day was spent on the beach before our closing program. That night we left – unfortunately. Though saying good-bye to Israel, our Calgarian friends and our trip in general was not easy, as Moreh Ari said, it’s a good thing if we’re sad, because it means we had a great time!
Gabriella Tankel is a Grade 9 Talmud Torah student who recently returned from her class trip to Israel.