Experiential, inspiring, welcoming and home are all words that describe the Israel Experience – 2015 of the Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy (LYA) of Longmeadow, MA.
Twenty LYA students in 7th-8th grades recently toured Israel on a packed 10-day trip. LYA was joined by 18 students from Southern Connecticut Hebrew Academy (SCHA) of Orange, CT, with their chaperones.
On the way to the airport, LYA stopped at the Ohel to begin the trip with the Rebbe’s brochos. They also prayed at the grave of LYA’s beloved dean Rabbi Dovid Edelman a”h, who passed away just a few weeks before.
The group spent six days in Jerusalem while touring the central part of Israel, and four days in the north. The group landed at 8 a.m. and arrived at Kever Rochel, their first stop, before noon. LYA staff Rabbi Chaim and Rochel Leah Kosofsky, and Yocheved Adelman, chaperoned the trip. SCHA chaperones were Rabbi Yossi and Rochel Baila Yaffe and Bassie Dietsch.
This was LYA’s ninth trip since 1999. LYA has planned all but the first trip with Mickey Katzburg of www.myisraelconnection.com. Traveling with SCHA allowed the group to separate the boys and girls for the tours.
The students visited over 40 sites during the ten days. Highlights of the trip included praying at the Kotel and touring the tunnels beneath the current surface, on the original road of the era of the Beis Hamikdosh.
“The most spiritual event for me was spending Shabbat at the Kotel and putting my note in the wall,” remarked LYA 8th-grader Gabriella Brackman.
Students woke up at 5 a.m. one day to visit Chevron and daven Shacharis at Me-aras Hamachpela. Students enjoyed swimming in the Dead Sea and visiting Herod’s extensive palace atop Masada. Some of the original paint still exists. It is quite possible Herod’s decorators used similar designs in the Beis Hamikdosh
“Visiting holy places that we are learning about in school was most meaningful for me,” remarked LYA 7th-grader Devorah Leah Kulek. “We actually saw the bamah built by Yeravam in Tel Dan that we are now learning about in school!”
“Israel’s history goes back thousands of years,” Rochel Leah Kosofsky, trip coordinator, told the children on the last day of their trip. “With your visit you have joined the story of Israel and the Jewish people.”
One favorite activity was a visit to “Dialogue with Darkness”, a blind museum in Holon. Visitors are in a pitch-black museum where they have to rely on their senses of touch and hearing to learn about their environment. Blind tour guides lead the group through the museum. At the end, they sit down for a frank discussion with their blind tour guide.
The students waded through the Hizkiyah water tunnel, an ancient marvel of engineering in the City of David. During the first Beis Hamikdosh, Jerusalem was threatened by the Assyrian army. King Hizkiyah of Judah was worried that a siege would cut off the city from its water supply in the Kidron Valley outside the city’s walls. His workers dug a tunnel 1,750 feet through rock, with a grade of 12 inches between the ends, connecting the Gihon Spring with the pool of Siloam. The students trooped single-file through the dark tunnel, the cold water reaching at times above their knees.