The students accompanied their hosts to the Alliance School in the morning where they were invited to sit in on classes and get to know a little bit more about the school and their educational program. Even though they were only at the Alliance School for a couple of hours, our Temple Beth Avodah students enjoyed the experience and were warmly welcomed by everyone -- teachers and students and administrators. Following that, we left by bus for a beautiful village called Ein Hod. Ein Hod is just about a half-hour outside of Haifa in a picturesque and quiet area. What is special about Ein Hod is that since 1952, it has served as an artists' colony where some of Israel's most talented and world-renown artists live and work. Ein Hod is a place of magnificent natural beauty that is complemented by paintings, sculptures, ceramics, jewelry and Judaic pieces both indoors and outdoors. It is an inviting village where artists choose to live and work together: they share gallery space, a museum, workshops and lives based on the foundation of artistic collaboration and creativity. I would encourage you to visit their official website to learn more about this special village: http://www.ein-hod.org/en/about.asp.
We had the opportunity to do a mosaic project with one of the most well-known artistic families -- three generations -- who have lived in Ein Hod for more than 60 years. Alon Yarkoni taught us about the art of traditional mosaic-making, and then each student from Boston and Haifa created his or her own unique mosaic based on drawings and designs from ancient Persia. Alon's workshop is located on a hillside in Ein Hod -- with orange and lemon tress on the property. He conducts workshops and classes on a magnificent porch overlooking the entire area -- where one is able to see all the way down to the Mediterranean Sea. Everyone enjoyed the views and the creative experiences that we shared together --first in Boston with Bette Ann Libby and now in Haifa.
Following our visit to Ein Hod, we got back on the bus for a few moments and visited another special village called Yemin Orde. Yemin Orde is a children's village in which some of Israel's most challenged "teens at risk" live and learn together. Supported by the State of Israel and private donors -- from Boston, in particular -- Yemin Orde provides more than a "boarding school" for these kids; Yemin Orde is home. Like Ein Hod, Yemin Orde has been in existence since the early 1950s as one of Israel's many homes for children who are orphans, children whose parents are unable to care for them, new immigrants, etc. Currently, about 70% of the 400 teens who live at Yemin Orde are from Ethiopian descent. While we were at Yemin Orde, we heard the story of one woman, Racheli, whose family escaped from Ethiopia in the 1980s when she was only 5 years old. She remembers walking from Ethiopia to Sudan on her father's shoulders and then staying in a Sudanese refugee camp for over a year before being airlifted to Israel as part of a secret mission carried out by the State of Israel to bring Ethiopian Jews to the Jewish State. Once Racheli and her family arrived in Israel, she remembers questioning how it was possible that Jews could be white as well as black! Yemin Orde is an inspirational place where the synagogue/sanctuary serves as the center of not only religious life but also communal life. It is a model for the Jewish values associated with the privilege and challenge of raising children -- all of them -- with a sense of security, love and dignity.
We took the bus back to Haifa where we were hosted by educators from Haifa-Boston and participated in an interactive lesson about Jewish identity. Using props and prompts to speak about the meaning of Judaism to each of us, the students from Boston and Alliance articulated similarities and differences between and among them in the ways in which they interpret and practice Judaism. It was fascinating to listen to these 16 year old students speak about their families, their cities, their homes and their Jewish identities in language that clearly demonstrates that they have been deeply influenced by their parents, grandparents, schools, synagogues and experiences. Then we participated in a communications seminar that will result in the production of a "documentary film" of sorts through which the students will continue their connection into the future. The students returned to their host families for their final night in Haifa.