Junior Journey: Shabbat in Tel Aviv

Rabbi Dean Kertesz
After an active and very demanding first five days in Israel the JCHS junior class welcomed in Shabbat on the roof of our hotel on Friday evening at dusk. The students had a organized a lovely pluralistic Kabbalat Shabbat, which began with a guided meditation led by Yael Homa, then a few students sharing reflections on their experiences over the past week, Jacob Stadtner shared a d'var Torah, based on the week's Torah portion Shemini, that asked students to think about how they look at Israel, is it a series of challenges or is it a vision, or a combination of the two? We ended our ritual with a nigun that brought all the students together as we sang the wordless melody.
Students then went to an Orthodox service, a Reform service (conveniently located in our hotel) or spent quiet time together. We came back together for a great Shabbat dinner then played some board games or relaxed together before bed. Shabbat morning was a late start for most, and a well deserved opportunity to sleep in late. About a third of the students went with Rabbi Wolgel and Ms. Gluck to an Orthodox service. Another third participated in an excercise tefillah with our guide Shaia, and another third had a discussion about this week's Torah portion facilitated by Rabbi Kertesz.
Following tefillah, at around 11 AM we heard from Issam Sa'ad, a  Palestinian peace activist who grew up in a refugee camp in Gaza in the 1980's hating Israelis, through a few different personal experiences with Israeli's, a woman in Tel Aviv who helped him go to school and an army officer who got him out of a tough spot, he came to realize that Israelis are just people, both good and bad and decided that one of the biggest obstacles to understanding was the lack of contact between Jews and Palestinians. He worked to facilitate regular meetings between the two peoples until Hamas came to power in 2006. He then had to flee to the West Bank as he was marked for assassination by Hamas. He continues his work today facilitating an annual summer camp for Israeli and Palestinian teenagers. HIs story was moving, eye opening and challenging.
After our speaker we had lunch, and because the weather was windy, cold and rainy we lazed around the hotel for the rest of the afternoon. Students welcome the opportunity to just "chill." After Havdalah we walked to Jaffa for ice cream and a chance to see the town.
All in all a restful Shabbat. Just what our students needed. Today we are off to learn about the challenge of asylum seekers and how Tel Aviv is educating their children and the start-up nation: Israeli hi-tech.
Jewish Community High School of the Bay
1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: 415.345.9777
The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) is a unique college preparatory high school committed to integrating deep learning, universal wisdom, and Jewish values. We empower each student to embrace their Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.