By Stacey Dresner
LONGMEADOW – The middle-schoolers of Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy in Longmeadow recently returned from a life-changing trip to Israel.
The group of eight 7th and 8th graders and chaperones Rabbi Chaim and Rochel Leah Kosofsky left for Israel on Feb. 10 and returned on Feb. 20. In between they visited sites around Israel. On the first day, the visited Hebron to visit Me’arat Hamachpaila – the burial place of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs, as well as Rachel’s Tomb, where they prayed and wrapped a red piece of yarn around her burial site.
The next day they visited Ein Gedi in the Judean desert, the Dead Sea and Masada. On Wednesday, they explored the City of David, its water tunnels, the southern wall excavations, and the Old City’s Jewish Quarter.
“My favorite part was going to the water tunnels in the City of David, because you went in and you got wet and it was fun,” said Bryna Kosofsky, 13. “King Hezekiah was worried about a siege around the Old City [by the Assyrians] so he built tunnels from outside the city to inside to bring water into Yerushalem. It is really cool because today it still works.”
While visiting the water tunnels they also walked upon a recently excavated ancient road that connected the City of David to the southern wall excavation. “The beauty of Israel is that is always ever-expanding,” said Mrs. Kosofsky.
Shira Ben Naim, 13, also enjoyed getting wet in the water tunnels, but a more special time was spent visiting family members in Israel. She was visited by her grandparents, great-grandmother and other relatives, who traveled from the town of Netivot in southern Israel.
‘One of my favorite parts of the trip was going to Dead Sea and seeing that you could actually float,” said Bryna Etal Kosofsky, 12.
On Thursday, the students performed community service at Leket Yisroel, Israel’s National Food Bank.
The group picked oranges which were delivered to Leket’s warehouses and by the end of the day istributed to families in need.
“It was a fun experience. We were able to go through the different rows of trees and see oranges of different colors. It was nice to know we were helping others,” said Aviana Schwartz, 13.
On Friday they spent Kabbalat Shabbat at the Kotel followed by Shabbat dinner. “One of my favorite parts of going to Israel was davening at the Kotel on Friday night. Seeing all of the people singing and dancing was very special,” said Esti Garfield, 13.
The students were treated to the sight of a large group of Israeli soldiers who came into the Kotel singing the song, “Kul Ha’olam Kulo” which includes the line “the main thing is not fear.”
“They sang the song so loud they kind of drowned out the rest of the dasvening. But it was so inspiring to see them and to be at the Kotel. All we wanted to do was watch them sing. It was beautiful,” Mrs. Kosofsky said.
Zelda Meyer, 14, said she loved spending Shabbat at the Kotel. “It was amazing to see the energy there. It is like every Friday night there is like Simcha Torah here.”
The group spent Shabbat davening at Chabad of Rechavia and strolling through the Old City before spending the night at the Sephardic Educational Center in Jerusalem.
On Sunday, they crawled through the Bar Kochva caves and then headed north to Rosh Hanikra on the northwest corner of Israel and Lebanon. The next day brought a hike at Gilabun, overlooking the Jordan Valley, and a visit to Tzfat, the city known as the home of Jewish mysticism.
Before departing for the airport on their last day, they went to Teverya, one of the four holy cities of Israel, visited the graves of Rambam and Rabban Yochanan be Zakkai., and experienced Kfar Kedem, re-living a day in the life of a Galilean village from 2,000 years ago.
The students kept journals while they were in Israel and they blogged on the LYA website and shared photos and information on facebook, allowing the folks back home to feel like they were a part of the trip.
“It was really nice because everyone here [in Longmeadow] was not only enjoying the trip, but commenting on it. With technology it is amazing how fast the information can get out there. It was a nice way of bringing the trip back here,” Mrs. Kosofsky said.