This is my 16th trip to Israel with our 8th grade class, and I have probably seen Masada more than most Israelis! Unlike many other school directors who lead their trips for the first couple of years and then turn over the responsibilities to other staff members, I lead every excursion. How do I keep my enthusiasm and motivation to do this year after year? I do it by endeavoring to make each trip unique and challenging and a richer experience for each class that accompanies me.
Once again, this year’s trip will be different than the last. On this visit our students will reunite with many people whom they’ve either met here at Abrams or who once walked the same halls as the current students do. We are privileged to have graduated alumni who made Aliyah or have chosen to study in Israel, and this year some of those alumni will meet with the current students as we travel through Israel.
Jill Meltzer will meet us in Tel Aviv- she is an alumna who made Aliyah and is currently serving in the Israeli Army. It is amazing to me that this former student is now a grown woman serving in the Army, and I am proud that the seeds of Zionism were planted here at Abrams Hebrew Academy. Sarah Couzens will meet us at the “Shuk,” the Israeli marketplace in Jerusalem, where she has promised to show the 8th graders the “ins-and-outs” of Israeli shopping. Ben Chevlin, who is an intern at the Begin Center, will give the students a guided tour through the Center and relate the history of the institution. Ross Abramson will speak at graduation.
During this past year at AHA we have hosted people and held events that prepared the 8th grade class for their trip this spring. People from the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind visited the school with a soldier and his guide dog, and we will visit the Guide Dog Center while we are in Israel. Nafti Gross, a medic in the Magen David Adom, visited the school with other Israeli soldiers this year, and he will also speak at graduation and share his experiences as a medic. Finally, students from Mor High School in Ra’anana, who spent the morning with AHA 8th grade students in Yardley, will host us at their school in Ra’anana.
As you can see, ours is not your typical trip. We build a bridge from W. College Avenue to Israel by involving our students with alumni, special guests, and programs that familiarize them with the people of Israel before they ever step foot on the land. We are not just tourists visiting another country- we are truly part of the Israel experience. This is what energizes and excites me every year when it is time for our annual graduation trip.
My next communication with you will be from Israel- I am blessed to be able to do this year after year.
Rabbi Ira Budow