Page 10 – Ottawa Jewish Bulletin – June 16, 2008
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Hillel Academy Grade 8 students visit Israel for ‘time of their lives’ By Josh Taylor and Rabbi Jeremiah Unterman Eleven Grade 8 students from Hillel Academy returned from a trip to Israel last month buoyed by what they described as the “time of their lives.” It was with great excitement that Jordan Brandt, David Dunkelman, Jacob Landau, Jordan Linton, Jordan Arnon-McGregor, Hadar Maoz, Liad Neumann, Michael Rogov, Joshua Taylor, Ben Trachtenberg and Gabriel Wolofsky participated in the school’s first-ever Grade 8 trip to Israel. We toured Israel from Metulla, in the Upper Galilee near the Lebanese border, to Sde Boker, the kibbutz in the middle of the Negev famous for being home to David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. The students were accompanied on the trip by Rabbi Jeremiah Unterman, Hillel’s director of education, and Hillel teacher Tal Gilboa, as well as a guide and a medic/guard. As student Josh Taylor commented, “It was better than we ever expected. I never would have thought that some of my greatest memories from my childhood would come with teachers in them.” Gilboa said, “It was a thrill and a privilege to share my passion for Israel with the students.” The trip was partially sponsored by grants from a private donor and by Partnership 2000 (P2K) – the project of partnering Jewish communities in North America with Israeli communities. Ottawa is partnered with communities in the Upper Galilee and
Hillel Academy Grade 8 students on Mount Scopus above Jerusalem. With them are teacher Tal Gilboa (upper left), Rabbi Jeremiah Unterman (upper right) and their Israeli guard and guide (lower left).
Hillel Academy is twinned with the HaNadiv School in Metulla, which the students visited. During our time in Israel, we explored Jerusalem, rode camels, slept in a Bedouin tent, climbed Masada, swam under waterfalls in Ein Gedi, floated in the Dead Sea and hiked in the Golan. But, our greatest experience of all was staying with Israeli families in Kiryat Shmona during Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Each of the 11 Hillel students was paired with an Israeli student, whose family they lived with for three days (as part of the P2K grant). Said Taylor, “I can’t even put into words how much fun we had with them. They were all exactly like us. We played soccer, basketball, just hung out and walked around ex-
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ploring the city. Most importantly, we ate! We have created incredible relationships with our new Israeli friends, and we hope to grow our bonds throughout our lives.” Michael Rogov added, “The hosts were so friendly that it felt like I could stay the rest of my life with them.” Rabbi Unterman was impressed with how well the Canadian and Israeli students got along with each other. “Not only did each pair become friends, but the two groups bonded together,” he observed. “The Internet is being flooded by e-mails between the children.” The mifgash (get-together) with the Israeli kids opened the eyes of the Hillel kids. “Although they are so much like us, they have more hardships to deal with,” said Jordan Brandt. “It was a sobering fact that two of the Israeli students lost brothers during the last Lebanon War.” Another significant highlight was our visit to the Western (Wailing) Wall, where we prayed on Friday night. “If there is one place you have to visit in Israel, it has
to be the Wailing Wall,” said Rogov. “It will humble you to a point of speechlessness.” The trip made a great impression on all of the students. “From the time I got off the plane in Israel, it felt like home,” said Rogov. “It was great to experience this trip with my friends,” said Brandt. “Someday, I’ll tell my children about this trip with my friends, the way my Mom told me about her trip to Israel with her friends when she was my age.” Rabbi Unterman hopes the Israel trip will become the annual pinnacle of the Hillel experience. The students agree. “I would definitely recommend it for next year’s Grade 8 students,” says Brandt. “Because the educational stuff was done with our friends, it made it so much fun. It was the best possible trip with my classmates.” Taylor chimed in, “For all the upcoming Grade 8 students of Hillel Academy, this is an opportunity of a lifetime that cannot be wasted. “Even though I’ve already visited Israel once before, after this trip I definitely feel closer to our homeland.”