This is the first in a series of live dispatches from our Write On For Israel students during their trip to Israel. Write On For Israel is a leadership training program for high school students. You can find out more about the program here, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for live updates throughout the trip.
To begin our first full day in Israel, we began bright and early with a bus ride to Mitzpeh Ofir, a lookout over the Golan Heights. While taking in the view, Dr. Tuvia Book, our core educator, taught the Write On class about the story of Eli Cohen, a clandestine officer who climbed the social classes of the Syrian government to assist Israel in gathering intelligence. His life and ultimate sacrifice showed the idea of greater service that is a core pillar of Israeli society.
Following the lookout, we headed to the 1500 year old Um El Kanatir Synagogue. This synagogue was destroyed by an earthquake in the Eighth century CE before being rebuilt using advanced technology and archeological skills in the 21st century. After touring the beautiful grounds and viewing a video detailing the new technology, the class broke into groups to discuss and debate questions that have been asked since rge times of the Mishnah. To conclude our session at the synagogue, the group gathered in a circle to sing “Acheinu”in appreciation of our past and hope for the future.
With some fortunate logistics, we were able to see live IDF tank drills as the soldiers trained for potential future conflicts.
After a short lunch in Katzrin, a local town, we joined with Yaakov Silwan from “slingshot” on the way to the Syrian border. From an outpost at Tel A-Saki, we were able to see into Syria as well as Jordan in the far distance. He discussed the Syrian Civil War and the numerous ripple effects in the region as a whole. One of the most relevant points Yaakov brought up was Operation Good Neighbor, where various private organizations as well as the IDF provided medical support as well as essential supplies to over 6,000 Syrians within a few years. This Operation really spoke to the essential idea in Judaism of loving your neighbor as yourself.
To conclude our day, we had the privilege of discussing with two Druze women about life in Israel as a minority group, the impacts of the recently passed Nation-State Bill and the balance between modernity and tradition. As we head into our last night at Hotel Kinar, The Write On Class of 2019 is looking forward to going to Givat Haviva and Jerusalem tomorrow.
This piece was written by: Jake Roy, Ben Weiss, Gabe Gerstel, Shoshana Lunzer, Tzippy Schein, Shoshana Solomon, Jacob Zuckerman, Rachel Harris and Arielle Rosenblatt.