Junior Journey: Struggles and Beauty in the Land of Israel

Shayna D., Class of 2018
"I really struggled with the idea that Israel's status as a Jewish state should mean that the country emulates Jewish values such as welcoming the stranger and seeing everyone in the image of G-d."
Hello from the Negev Desert!

We've had quite an incredible day. We started with a tour of southern Tel Aviv. One of the goals of this journey is to show us some aspects of Israel that we haven't seen before and wouldn't normally get to see on a group trip. This tour in the south of Tel Aviv definitely achieved this goal.

An expert on the issue of refugees in Israel toured us around. We learned about the complicated refugee situation in Israel. Since Israel is a stable country in the Middle East, it receives many refugees from Africa and other parts of the world that are both Jewish and not Jewish.

I really struggled with the idea that Israel's status as a Jewish state should mean that the country emulates Jewish values such as welcoming the stranger and seeing everyone in the image of G-d. Instead, those seeking asylum in Israel are not welcomed as they should be.

We heard from two men who both fled Darfur and have found a home in Tel Aviv. One spoke of being arrested and tortured in Sudan for speaking out against the government and the other spoke about moving to Tel Aviv at the age of 13 and learning how to live in his own in a new country. Their stories were really hard to imagine and we were all inspired by their fearlessness.

After our tour, we stopped for a box lunch in the rain on the way to the South. Many, including myself, got some very needed rest on the way. When I opened my eyes and looked out the window we were surrounded by sand dunes. I couldn't believe how quickly we had moved from city to desert. When the bus stopped on the side of the road, we were all grateful to be in the peace and beauty of the desert.

We started our hike and then stopped to hear some beautiful words from our tour guide Shaia. He read us a passage about Elijah the Prophet and his encounter with G-d. Elijah fled to the desert and found G-d in the silence of the desert. Whether we believed in G-d or not, at that moment we all felt something special and holy in the tranquility of nature. He also reminded us of the importance of listening, to each other, to our surroundings, and most importantly, to ourselves.

We continued the challenging hike but when we got to the top the view was well worth it. Neither pictures nor words can describe the beauty of the view and the moment of reaching the top as a collective. We had fun taking photos and exploring the area. We then continued to another viewing point and I experienced one of the most powerful moments of the trip so far. We were all given some time to sit by ourselves and watch the sun set behind the canyon.

On this journey we have been doing so many amazing things, which means I haven't had a lot of time to just be by myself and think. It was incredible to have this time and to, in a matter of minutes,  literally watch the sun disappear behind the mountain. We all listened to the silence and took in the beauty of the desert and this moment.

We then got back on the bus and stopped in Yeruham for a Moroccan dinner in a host home. The food was delicious and we learned about the amazing work that the people of Yeruham are doing. I was most interested by the high school robotics team in the city which made a toy car that kids with special needs can drive without bumping into anything. The woman who made the incredible food told us her story of being born in Morocco and then moving to Yeruham and raising a family. We left with full stomachs and full hearts.

We are now at the youth hostel at the base of Masada and we can't wait to climb and swim 
tomorrow. Good night, and happy birthday,Ms. DeLugach! 
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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 her or his Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.