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The door is always open and the light is always on.
The Yad b'Yad School in Jerusalem has the look of most Israeli public schools. A little bit frayed around the edges, overcrowded, and noisy. Looking around at the furniture and the classroom accoutrements, the school, like most, lacks anything that might typically be called state of the art. But Yad B'Yad is not typical Israeli anything. Yad B'Yad brings together thousands of Jewish and Arab kids in six schools and communities throughout Israel, including this one we visited in Jerusalem.
We're at this particular school because I somehow imagine that it's worth our time and attention. Despite a Middle Eastern landscape that gets greyer by the day, I get to show our kids - and to remind myself! - that there's a place that seeks to shed light and banish darkness. That there's a place where Arab and Israeli kids can describe their lives and their differences and their similarities without fear. This truth becomes even more poignant when Noa, our school guide, explains that public scho...
After a great night in our first class hotel, we headed outside the old city to get a scenic view of the Temple Mount. Then we headed to Yad B'Yad, a school dedicated to connecting Israeli and Palestinian students by putting ten of each in every class. We toured the school and met the students that go there and in the process, learned a valuable lesson of coexistence. After spending lunch in a Jerusalem market, we went to Yad Vashem. The museum, along with our tour guide Noam, gave a powerful and emotional view into a dark part of Jewish and world history. The day served as a reminder of why the Jewish people need Israel and how far we still have to go to reach peace.
We started the day going to the Alon School that we partner with and meeting the 5th grade students. We did an art project together about how to make a giving community. Their English was amazing and we had so much fun together. We brought them Valentine's candy and they loved it.
Then we toured the German colony in Haifa. Although the tour guide wasn't very exciting we saw lots of beautiful sights. We went to theGrand Canyon mall together and had a lot of fun seeing the different Israeli stores. Then later we went to dinner at an Israeli restaurant with all the Israelis. Last, we went bowling and enjoyed our last full day with the Alliance students.
Today, we had free time with our host families for most of the day. We all did different things for the day, but I visited the ancient City of Acre (or Akko). With the Enbal's, we arrived in the mid-morning and wandered throughout the streets and local market, with a combination of Arab and Jewish merchants. The waterfront gave us an amazing view of the Bay of Haifa, allowing us to see Haifa from afar. We then took a tour of the buried city founded by crusaders hundreds of years ago. It is still being excavated but much of it can be seen today. It gave me a great understanding of Israel's rich and diverse history. We returned to the Enbal's home for dinner and rest, and left for Romi's house for a party later in the evening. After a few hours of chatting, eating, dancing, and singing, we were all exhausted and returned home to await tomorrow.
Everyone had an amazing first full day full of beautiful views, long hikes and lots of fun. Our morning started when we all woke up to breakfast at our host family's houses. From there we met again at the Alliance school for a tour and team building activities. After, a bus picked us up and brought us to Tzipori where a guide taught us about how the ancient city had been occupied by all kinds of different people who contributed to the architecture and art of the ruins we saw. We got back on the bus and ventured to Mount Arbel. The bus ride was filled with laughing, chatting, and singing, along with our tour guide pointing out significant and historical sites along the way. We arrived to a beautiful view and got ready for our "easy hike" (we basically climbed down the side of a mountain). We stopped for a picnic with a beautiful view over looking smaller hills and mountains in the distance. Our journey continued with a tiring climb up and down many stairs until we arriv...
As the bus pulled in at Terminal E of Logan Airport, most had not yet settled on the fact that they were on their way to the Holy Land. We stood in line to be interrogated and get bags checked, and then passed through security and sat down at the Vineyard Grille for dinner. Afterwards, we boarded our flight, and after rearranging out seats, we prepared for the ten hour flight. As the plane accelerated down the runway, we all looked at each other with excitement and felt the swooping sensation as the plane lifted into the air. On the flight, some dozed off, while some watched movies, and others conversed with their friends. Even as the plane touched down in Tel Aviv many hours later, most still could not fathom that they were in Israel. We then proceeded to exchange money and board the Puzzle Israel bus that would transport us through a traffic jam stretching from Tel Aviv to Haifa. As the bus pulled up to the curb, our Israeli friends crowded the door and we were reunited after a long...
Today we sent our Israel travelers on their way! Our late session of grades 3-5 heard about the trip from them, found out what year they would be going in 10th grade, and blessed them before they got on the bus to go to the airport. Here are some thoughts from our 5th graders…
Are you excited to go on this trip when you are in 10th grade?
Of course I am excited to go to Israel, why would I not be?
What are you most looking forward to when you go on the trip?
I really want to see the Western Wall in person and not just in pictures like Rabbi Stern said.
I want to float on the Dead Sea.
I so want to do a donkey ride!
I’m excited about the adventure and new surroundings and seeing the sites.
I want to see how Israeli people live their everyday lives.
What do you want to ask the 10th graders when they get back?
Did you get used to the time difference? Were you tired?
Did you like the food? What kind of food did you eat?
I'm happy to report that we are all here with all baggage.... which is a great thing. We arrived on time to the airport in Tel Aviv and were met by a Puzzle Israel representative named Tamar. She took us to our touring bus, helped us load the bags, introduced us to our driver Tzachi, and we got on the road to go to Haifa. Because we arrived at the afternoon rush hour, it took us about 2 hours to get to Haifa. But no worries, Tamar brought plenty of special Israeli snacks for us including dates, halvah, fresh fruit and even pastry. Most people fell asleep more