ISRAEL – Experiential, inspiring, welcoming and home are all words that describe the Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy (LYA) Israel Experience 2015. Twenty LYA students in 7th-8th grades recently toured Israel on a packed 10-day trip.
The group stayed six days in Jerusalem while touring the central part of Israel, and four days in the north. The group landed at 8 a.m, and arrived at their first site before noon. LYA staff Rochel Leah Kosofsky, Rabbi Chaim Kosofsky, and Yocheved Adelman chaperoned the trip. This was LYA’s ninth biannual trip.
The students visited over 40 sites during the ten days. Highlights of the trip included praying at the Kotel (Western Wall), and touring the tunnels beneath the current surface, on the original road of 2,000 years ago.
“The most spiritual time for me was spending Shabbat at the Kotel and putting my note in the wall,” remarked 8th-grader Gabriella Brackman.
Students woke up at 5 a.m. to visit Hebron and pray the morning prayers at the tombs of their Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs. Students enjoyed swimming in the Dead Sea and viewing the mountains of Moab from atop Masada.
“Walking as close as I could to holy places was most spiritual for me,” remarked 7th grader Devorah Leah Kulek on the last day of her trip.
“Israel’s history goes back thousands of years,” staff member Rochel Leah Kosofsky told the children on the last day of their trip. “With your visit you have joined the story of Israel.”
One favorite activity was a visit to “Dialogue with Darkness,” a blind museum. Visitors are in a pitch-black museum where they have to rely on their senses of touch and hearing to learn about their environment. Blind tour guides lead the group through the museum. At the end, they sit down for a frank discussion with their blind tour guide.
The students waded through the Hezekiah water tunnel, an ancient marvel of engineering in the City of David. In the 7th century before the Common Era, Jerusalem was threatened by the Assyrian army. King Hezekiah of Judah was worried that a siege would cut off the city from its water supply in the Kidron Valley outside the city’s walls. His workers dug a tunnel 1,750 feet through rock, with a grade of 12 inches between the ends, connecting the Gihon Spring with the pool of Siloam. The students trooped single-file through the dark tunnel, the cold water reaching at times above their knees.
Moshe Gesin, a 7th grader at LYA, said, “I feel as though I just lived through 4,000 years of Jewish history in 10 days.”
The students hiked in a desert oasis in Ein Gedi overlooking the Dead Sea, and up north in the Banias, where they enjoyed breathtaking waterfalls. The New Englanders felt at home in Israel as there was snow on the ground in the Golan Heights while LYA students were visiting.
“The most rewarding part of my trip was the nightly discussions with the students about their experiences and watching them grow as they discovered the land and its effect on them,” said staff member Yocheved Adelman.
While in Israel, the LYA students kept an extensive journal. Now that the students have returned, they are writing about their trip in English and Hebrew. They shared a power-point of the trip with LYA families at a recent event held at the school.
A blog was set up on the school’s website for the families and community to share the experience. The blog can be viewed on www.LYA.org.