Today was our first full day in Israel, it was packed with activities and felt like a week. I had to keep reminding myself it was only our first day.
Students were up bright and early this morning, a product of excitement and jet lag. Some slept quite well, others hardly slept at all. The day was pleasant and warmer than usual because of a wind was blowing out of the desert, bringing warmth and sand in the upper atmosphere.
After breakfast and packing all our gear on the bus, we drove to Independence Hall, where the State of Israel was declared on Friday, May 14th, 1948. Students learned about the history of Tel Aviv and sat in the room where independence was declared while listening to a powerful presentation about the event. Many of our Juniors were quite moved by being present in such a significant place.
We then walked to the house of Hayim Nahman Bialik, the Hebrew national poet, who made aliyah in 1924 and lived in this house for about 8 years. Bialik is critical to the revival of the Hebrew language, through his poetry, short stories and his magnum opus, the Sefer Agadah (or Book of Legends) where he took the corpus of rabbinic midrashim and retold them as a kind of secular Jewish mythology. Through reading, and singing some of his poems, touring his house, and discussing his work students captured a sense of the revival of Hebrew, the establishment of a vibrant Hebrew language culture in Israel, and the vision of the founders of the Jewish state.
We ate sandwiches in Gan Meir, a lovely park near Bialik's house and then boarded the bus for our trip to the Northern Galilee. On the way we stopped in the Emek Israel (Jezreel Valley) near Nahalal and spent about an hour picking kohlrabi with Leket. They are a food justice organization that harvests foods that would otherwise be wasted in the fields or thrown away at restaurants and uses them to feed Israelis who are struggling to feed their families. It was a great contrast to our morning of learning for students to literally "get their hands dirty," through some physical work, spend some time outside, and help hungry Israelis. I think it also gave our students an appreciation of the hard work it takes to put food on our plates.
After Leket we boarded our bus again and headed to our final destination, Kibbutz Baram, to meet with students at the Upper Galilee mechinah, a gap year program for high school graduates before they go into the IDF. They spent about an hour in ice-breakers and discussions to get to know each other and we ended our program with a barbeque dinner, before heading to Kibbutz Gonen and earning a good night's sleep... which I hope they will take.
Tomorrow we will spend the day with the mechinah students and our students are looking forward to it.