Shortly before graduation, the Davis Academy eighth-grade class returned from two May weeks in Israel of exploring not only historic and cultural sites and the country’s natural beauty, but also their own connection to and impressions about our Jewish homeland.
“The Israel Trip comes at the end of the Davis journey,” Rabbi Micah Lapidus wrote on his blog (davisacademymenschlichkeit.blogspot.com). “That means that the chaperones and all the teachers at Davis don’t always get to see the long-term effect of the trip and of The Davis Academy experience more generally. And we’re okay with that because we have participated in the tilling of the field, the planting of the seeds, and the watering of the garden.”
Two new Davis graduates share their thoughts below about the Israel trip.
On our trip I learned that the Israeli people seem to live life with more ruach (spirit) than most Americans. The Israeli people are high intensity and full throttle. Israeli drivers exemplify this aggressive approach to life. Even though this bold attitude can be frightening at first, I learned that most Israelis are truly nice people and have an unbounded love of life and freedom. I saw many of these characteristics in the students from the Nili School in Zichron Ya’akov, who were our pen pals at Davis throughout the year.
While we were visiting an Israel Defense Forces memorial site in Latrun, it occurred to me that mandatory service in the IDF requires such an approach to life. I realized that in addition to protecting the holy state, the IDF brings all Israelis closer and creates a community of support when tragedy happens. The IDF also teaches discipline, and most important, I believe, the IDF teaches soldiers to cherish life and live every day as if it is your last. Understanding that death could happen at any moment makes life more intense.
While in Israel, I discovered that Judaism is not just reciting prayers or studying Torah; it is also being part of a special kehillah (community). The Torah brought Jews together, but the Jewish community is so special because only one out of every 516 people on Earth is Jewish. I believe the rareness of Jews creates an automatic bond when Jews come together. I experienced this at the Kotel when my classmates and I joined in prayer and danced with Jews from over the world and even IDF soldiers. Even though we had never met before, I felt the safest and most comfortable I have during my life around them and the rest of my Jewish kehillah.
On May 7, 2015, I landed in Israel and heard the words “Welcome home!”
In my life, I have already developed two homelands. For 14 years, my homeland has been Atlanta, and recently I discovered a second homeland in Israel. Throughout my years at the Davis Academy, I thought I had learned everything there was to know about Israel. Finally, about three weeks ago, it was time to experience Israel. While boarding the plane, I was not sure what to expect and was actually quite nervous. But the moment I arrived in Tel Aviv, I immediately felt as if I was home.
My classmates and I had been dreaming about what Israel would be like for many years, and we had been counting down the days to departure for the entire school year. About three days into the trip, I had already fallen in love with Israel. Everything about Israel was different from home: the smells, the food, the people and even the cats.
However, I was surprised by how much I had in common with people I met in Israel. I finally met my pen pal from the Nili School and discovered that she was just like me, even though she goes to synagogue every Shabbat and speaks a different language. Everything was so different but yet so familiar, all at the same time. Although it was a place I had never visited before, Israel felt like home.