gap year in israel

Jerusalem Weekly - April 15, 2021

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Shalom Parents!


Here in Israel it has been a packed week including both Memorial Day and Independence Day. Marking these days, the students felt the unification of the country during this special time. Here are some highlights from this week:

On Sunday evening at our apartment meetings, the Madrichim helped the students prepare for the emotional week ahead. We discussed what was going to be happening all over Israel and how Israelis turn the sadness into happiness, going from Yom HaZikaron to Yom Ha’Atzmaut. How we, each and every one of us, can make a difference, no matter how small, and what it means to truly be a part of the Israeli family we have become over the past few months

Monday evening, we offered bowling as an optional evening activity, and it was so much fun that the students already want to go bowling together again. It was really nice to see another neighborhood in Jerusalem and explore more parts of the city.

On Tuesday, we took the students to Mount Hadar and Nabi Samuel, also called al-Nabi Samuil, a village in the West Bank, four kilometers north of Jerusalem. This is the traditional location of the tomb of Samuel. Buildings on top of the hill were used throughout history as places of worship by Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The village mosque’s main structure, a former Crusader church, is still used for worship. There is also a Jewish Orthodox synagogue above Samuel’s tomb. Har Adar is an Israeli settlement in the Seam Zone, near Abu Ghosh and the Green Line.
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In honor of Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut, this week’s trip was in the footsteps of the Palmach and the importance of the Jerusalem corridor. We visited two important sites to learn about the heavy price of Independence. Nabi Samuel and Har Hadar were two of the intense battles to open and protect the road to Jerusalem to ease the siege of the city in the Spring of 1948. We also spoke about the current geo-political situation and conflict from the viewpoint atop the mountain where we could clearly see the security fence and identify Areas A, B, and C from the Oslo Accords. Our students were full of questions, wanting to deepen their understanding of the current climate based on historical information. Seeing the areas in question with their own eyes also helped them understand the complexity of the situation more deeply.
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Tuesday night, we went to the Jerusalem Cinématique alongside other vaccinated Masa participants from different programs to participate in a short activity and watch the Masa Yom HaZikaron Ceremony together. The ceremony took place in Latrun, which we visited earlier that day. We heard the stories of Alejandro Hoffman, Lori Gilbert Kaye, Julie Sarah Weiner, among others who were killed while serving in the IDF or in terror attacks. The ceremony concluded with the singing of HaTikvah with everyone who was there, as well as the thousands of others who were watching the ceremony online from different places around Israel and the world. Powerful and moving would be an understatement.
Yom hazikaron (memorial day)
On Wednesday morning, our staff prepared an activity in honor of Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day). Here are a few words from Tobie Bertisch: “Today is Yom HaZikaron, or Israel’s Memorial Day. We started our day gathered outside the office to listen to the siren that sounds through the whole country to honor those who have fallen. Everyone stopped what they were doing and just stood in silence. We then went upstairs for an activity to help us connect deeper with the meaning behind today. There were three rooms set up: one with pictures and stories of IDF soldiers who died in battle, one with songs and lyrics honoring people who have died and one with a video of stories of kids who died in battle. This activity resonated with me very strongly because it put individual names and stories behind the 23,928 people who died during their IDF service or from terrorist attacks. One of the most disturbing aspects to me was the fact that many of the stories were about kids who were barely older than I am. It pained me to imagine what their parents and siblings have to go through. Additionally, one of the songs was about orphans whose parents died in battle and there were kids in the video and singing the song which was very upsetting. Even though I don’t personally know anyone who was killed in war or in a terrorist attack, most Israelis do and you can feel the gravity of this day just by being in Israel.”
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Yom hazikaron (memorial day)
Yom hazikaron (memorial day)
Yom hazikaron (memorial day)
Yom hazikaron (memorial day)
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On Thursday, the whole country celebrated Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day). It is always a day of great celebration, with many Israelis going out to parks to have BBQ with their friends and families. Our students found their own ways to celebrate!
The past week was very emotional and full of real authentic Israeli life. You could really see how the students understood the depth of the days and how special it is to be a part of this country.


Have a great week,