City of David, Bat Kotel
Here, at the intersection of learning and life, our students create their own Jewish identities. The culmination of the Bernard Zell education is our Tiyul, when 8th-graders take a 10 day special journey to Israel, where their years of learning come together in a life-changing experience they'll never forget.
Tiyul 2022 Blog / Day 8: May 4, 2022 | West Bank, Geopolitical Bus Tour, Mount Herzl and Yom HaAtzmaut
West Bank Experience/Geopolitical Bus Tour
Wednesday morning, we put on our serious faces as we crossed from the Israeli side of the border, into a “gray area” between Israel and the West Bank. The reason I describe it as a “gray area” is because there are humongous walls on all sides, leaving us in an area that’s a little weird. After we walked and learned about the tension in this area, we went into the tomb of Rachel, one of the holiest sites for Jews, where we were separated by men and women. We saw extremely religious Jews praying at Rachel’s tomb, where we learned religious Jews go to pray for something special and want to make sure their prayer is heard. While we were here, we learned about the conflict between the Arabs and the Israelis, about the history that happened to lead up to the situation that takes place in Jerusalem, and about the people who protect the Israeli citizens and do their best to keep everyone safe. We also heard from a resident of the Gush, in the West Bank, that what we see on the news doesn’t accurately reflect the positive relationships and friendships Arabs and Jews have with each other. In this area, they live peacefully and is a good reminder to talk to others about their story.
Yom HaZikaron/Yom Ha’atzmaut
As Yom HaZikaron came to a close, we visited Mount Herzl and learned about various people buried at the landmark cemetery. We saw graves of many politicians like Yitzchak Rabin and Shimon Peres, and other war heroes like Chana Senesh. After the powerful discussions, we headed back to the hotel and witnessed the mood change across Israel as we got ready and prepared for Yom HaAtzmaut. As we went outside and the sun started to set, we could instantly see the people’s faces light up as we ran down the street with LED headbands and Israeli flags. When the sun set, Ben Yehuda Street became livelier by the hour. We started out the night in Jerusalem by attacking each other with silly string and spray foam and eating delicious gelato, popcorn, crepes and more. As the night went on, we made our way to the stage where there was music playing and we danced with our friends. At the end of the night, we headed back to our hotel rooms both exhausted from all the fun that night but also energized due to the mood of our surroundings. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that night was a night we will never forget.
Today we went to the President’s house in Jerusalem, a once in a lifetime experience. When we arrived, we were checked by security, which we almost didn’t notice because we were more focused on the experience of simply being there. After greeting our guide, we went into a large room and prepared to take photos with the President. He was formally announced to enter the room and the environment quickly changed, everything felt more official. He greeted everyone and was very friendly and welcoming. Then he called me to take a photo together, because my grandfather is a friend of his. I shook his hand and went back to my spot to take the photo with everyone else. When he left, we watched a video about the former presidents of Israel to understand their leadership roles in the country. They kind of described them as the Queen of England. Then we went outside and looked at the different trees that were all planted by different countries’ leaders, including former Presidents of the United States. We then went into the President’s synagogue and looked at the small torah scroll that belonged to one of the grandfathers of former President Ben Tzvi’s wife. It was a very cool experience and something very special.
Last night my grade and I went to the Latrun ceremony for Yom HaZikaron. As we walked in, I took note of the large crowd that was filling up the entire venue. We even had to sit on the grass in the back because all of the seats were filled. I looked around and saw everyone in white shirts and I quickly felt a sense of community rush over me. The ceremony started with the siren and then we heard the stories of the fallen soldiers. All were extremely powerful. However, it was definitely difficult at times, especially when we watched the photo montages of those who had been killed. As someone who knows people who have served in the IDF, it hit close to home, but all of my friends were there and we were able to comfort each other. This experience showed me an inside look at the tragic reality of war in Israel. I felt extreme gratitude to those who have risked their lives for Israel. This part of the trip is something I know I will never forget and I am glad we were able to witness the ceremony in person.
Yesterday early in the morning, my grade and I started our hike up Masada. We hiked up the Roman siege ramp that the Romans used to get all of their siege weapons up to Masada. While we were there, we learned about the different palaces King Harrod built on Masada, and that anything above the blue line on the walls indicates what was rebuilt and reconstructed. We visited the synagogue built on Masada. This synagogue is believed to be one of the first synagogues to be built in the world. Here we were told of the story of the last Israelites camped out on Masada. We learned the horrible story on Masada where all of the Israelites opted to kill their families and themselves. There was another story we were told where some of the Israelites fought back against the Romans, which is backed by archeological evidence. In the dirt and rocks there we Israelite and Roman arrowheads found showing that the Israelites fought back against the Romans. Finally, we started the hike down on the snake path where we could see the remains of Roman walls and siege camps placed around the mountain and part of the Dead Sea, which we would swim in later that day. I loved learning the history about how Masada has been preserved for so many years.