Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Virtually in Israel

For the past week, the 6 younger grades of TDS have been on a virtual tour of Israel. The goal is to gain knowledge and a positive connection to the land of Israel. Every day they listen to the diary entry of Rachel, a young tourist, and have experiences similar to her. 
Here is a brief summary:
 On the first day, the students heard about Rachel's upcoming trip to Israel. Each class discussed travel, packing lists, pre-existing knowledge of Israel, and what they would like to do in Israel.
The next day they boarded the plane. We discussed the geography of Israel, enjoyed an in-flight move about the sites of Israel, and sampled flight refreshments. The students were very interested in ElAl airlines; how the Jewish people have their own airline to their own country. 
Rachel (and the students) spent Shabbat in Tzefat. On Monday we discussed and looked at pictures of the synagogues, ruins, and artists of Tzefat. 
Finally it was time for our trip to the Kotel! The fact that it was Rosh Chodesh was even more special. [Thank you Upper Girls for having already made a pretend Kotel.]
Praying, writing notes, giving Tzedaka, washing hands, and walking backwards were all appreciated in different ways by different students. It was a universally enjoyed experience.

The Pre-K davened Shacharit at the wall.

 Tiny Tots having a special moment.
 First graders writing notes for the wall.

In case students might be confused by the authenticity of the lunchroom wall, the Kotel Cam was playing throughout the day. Live footage of the real Kotel was enjoyed by anyone near the front of the school.
The students were justifiably amazed by watching the live-feed. 

The next day Rachel visited her family members around Israel. The students did this virtually with parent-teacher conference day. 

On Wednesday, Yom Hazikaron [Israel's Remembrance Day], Rabbi Margolese led an assembly where the students stopped for the siren and watched a video of the traffic stopping in Israel.

Rachel's diary spoke of her surprise at learning that members of her family had served in the Israeli army. She was touched by their stories and pictures. We looked at photos of soldiers and discussed the responsibility of protecting Israel. In honor of the soldiers, everyone made miniature parachutes for a toy soldier.

To further the understanding of the importance of the Israeli army, Shimon Shriki came to TDS. He spoke about when he served and how the IDF has changed over time. He stressed the mitzvah to protect the land and feeling of fulfillment from doing so. The students listened and asked amazing questions. 

Tomorrow is Yom Haaztmaut, Israel's Independence Day, marking 67 years since the establishment of the State of Israel. Now students will celebrate the day with greater appreciation for Israel. But it will not conclude our virtual trip. Students ask periodically when we will be returning to Seattle. My hope is that we won't. A part of us will always be actively connected to the Homeland, always thinking about being there.

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