For me, Israel is the cornerstone of not just my Jewish identity, but my overall identity.

created at: 2012-04-23Over the past seventeen years (literally half of my life) I have been traveling to Israel, and was quite fortunate this Spring to go twice within a six-week period, once for the Boston-Haifa Steering Committee meetings and once with our Prozdor ninth graders on their annual trip.

The 9th graders returned on Sunday morning to Boston with the afterglow of a life-changing experiences radiating from their tired faces.

This trip was special for so many reasons. We were able to spend the end of Passover in Jerusalem, we went on a Gadna camping overnight with our friends from The Hebrew Reali School, we shared in the national commemoration of Yom HaShoah, and we even made a guest appearance on Radio Haifa (click here for the audio file of that program). The bonds forged between our students and the Reali students, and our students and the Land of Israel, will be bonds that last a lifetime; this trip was just the beginning.

But don’t take my word for it.

As we prepared to leave Reali on Saturday evening for the airport, our students had the chance to share some of their thoughts and feelings about the trip.

 “This trip and the places we went to showed me so much about the culture and customs of Israel…I could never possibly describe how truly connected to Israel I felt. It is one thing to sit in a classroom learning about Israel, but to have the chance to sit in the same places where thousands of Jews fought for the freedom and the amazing country we have now is truly unbelievable” (Shira)

“After the amazing experiences in Jerusalem, I didn’t think anything could surpass my ties to the Old City. Though after meeting the Reali students, I realized that the greatest bonds are made between people who can relate on all levels, rather than a connection with your Jewish roots. As we learned together at the Diaspora Museum, you do not have to be a part of Israel, but Israel has to be a part of you.  Meeting the Reali students enabled me to make Israel a part of my life, and we created memories that will last forever.  After sharing stories and exchanging laughs on the overnight in the Golan and hiking to a huge waterfall, we formed extraordinary friendships.  And after hearing the siren and remembering Holocaust victims on Thursday morning, we created an unspeakable tie originating from our Jewish ancestors. Connecting to Israeli students and experiencing the Holy Land alongside them was an unforgettable opportunity, and I am so grateful for the Reali students’ kindness and the friendships that I was able to make with each and every one of them.” (Jessica)