Trip brings connections to Israel


As a typical 8th grader, you’re lucky if your class has the opportunity to go on any trip, such as to Washington D.C. At Solomon Schechter Day School the 8th grade doesn’t get to go to D.C. to learn about America’s government and history. Instead, we had the special chance to learn about and experience our other country, Israel. This two week trip can be broken down into four parts: educational, social, physical, and spiritual.

It’s always been said that this trip is the culmination of our Jewish learning, but it’s also like a two week course on Jewish history. Rather than sitting in the classroom learning about the history of the Jews dating back thousands of years, we relived it. We rode camels and prayed at the Kotel, the same way our ancestors did thousands of years ago. To learn about the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, we went to Mount Ben Tal in the Golan Heights overlooking both Israel and Syria. We were standing where, 40 years before, Israelis were fighting for what is now home to many Jews. We also learned about important people such as David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Rabin, Golda Meir, and Theodore Herzl, by seeing their impacts on the modern country of Israel.

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It seems obvious that part of any school trip would be social, and ours was no different. Our class met and developed friendships with the students of the Schechter School of Memphis, Tennessee, as we experienced the history and culture of the land. Memories of this trip helped us bond and will always link us together. We also interacted with Israeli students in Megiddo, St. Louis’s sister city, Ethiopian children who recently made aliyah, and ordinary Israelis and tourists while on the streets of Israel.

At first, this trip appeared to be physical: walking the streets of Tzfat, swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, hiking through the Negev, riding camels, climbing Masada, floating in the Dead Sea, and venturing through Jerusalem. However, this trip was as much a spiritual journey as it was physical. Similar to the way we reached the top of Masada, we climbed to new spiritual heights as well. As I toured the Jewish homeland, I found myself growing closer to the Jewish People and to God, as did my classmates.

As this trip made clear, we’re not typical 8th graders but we are very fortunate. Thanks to the school, our teachers, and especially our parents, we had a truly memorable trip, full of new experiences, to end our years of learning at Solomon Schechter Day School. No matter if this was our first time setting foot in the Holy Land or we had been there too many times to count, this trip was unlike any other, because of the individuals who sat on that tour bus, journeying across Israel together.

Jodie Guller is a 2007 graduate of Solomon Schechter Day School of St. Louis.