LONGMEADOW – Yoni Gesin, an 8th-grader at Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy said visiting Israel last month was “inspiring and meaningful.”
“The most meaningful part was visiting all the places we study about in school in real life, and of course praying at the Kotel (Western Wall), which was once part of the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple)!!”
Praying at the Kotel was one of the first stops on the trip to Israel made by Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy’s (LYA) 7th and 8th graders. The students began their trip by placing notes with prayers for more than 100 people from the local community in the cracks of the Western Wall.
Each day of the trip, students traveled back in time. In some places they relived ancient history, while in other places they experienced more recent history. Overlooking the valley where the Patriarch Abraham entered Israel, they went back in time 4,000 years. At the Valley of Tears, in the Golan Heights, where soldiers of Troop 77 held back an overwhelming force of Syrian tanks, they went back to 1973 and the Yom Kippur War. The students spent 10 busy days in Israel rising at 6 a.m. in order to fit over 40 sites and activities into their schedule.
“The entire experience allowed us to live what we learn in school,” said 7th grader Batya Wolvovsky. “Walking around Masada, one of the places we learned about in school this year was amazing. It was exciting to see the way the Jews lived a Jewish life on the mountaintop, especially since we studied this piece of history in the classroom.”
In Jerusalem, the students visited Ammunition Hill, the site of a bitter, but strategic battle of the Six-Day War in 1967. Taking control of Ammunition Hill was essential to capturing the Old City of Jerusalem.
“Friday night, as I walked down the steps to the Kotel to pray with thousands of Jews in the place where our Holy Temple stood for close to 1,000 years, I was struck by what I learned earlier that day at Ammunition Hill,” said 8th-grade student Shterna Kulek. “The soldiers who gave their lives during the Six-Day War allowed for me, 50 years later, to pray at the Kotel and experience one of the most beautiful Friday nights in my life.”
“A goal of the LYA Israel Experience is to allow the students to connect to God, the land of Israel and strengthen their Judaism,” explained Rochel Leah Kosofsky, chaperone and Israel Trip coordinator. “Whether walking through the Kotel tunnels, praying at the Cave of the Patriarchs, riding donkeys at Kfar Kedem, standing at the border of Israel and Lebanon at Rosh Hanikra, or even just shopping in the shuk and eating falafel, our students truly bonded with Israel and generations of Jewish people.”
This was LYA’s 10th Israel Experience. While in Israel, chaperones Rabbi Chaim Kosofsky and Bracha Kosofsky sent pictures and comments to parents in real time via whattsapp. At night, the chaperones posted a blog with more pictures explaining the day’s events and experiences. The blog can read at www.LYA.org. “The community supports this trip through our fundraisers. We show our appreciation to the community by sharing the trip on our blog and by Facebook,” Rochel Leah Kosofsky said.
“Israel is such an amazing and beautiful place with so many historical sites,” said Efrayim Gesin. “I am so glad to have had the opportunity to build this connection to the land.”