Friday, February 3, 2012

KSA Israel Trip: Erev Shabbat in Jerusalem

Wow, did we all sleep last night.  I am sure most of us would agree that it was a good sleep, but after our travels not long enough!  That didn't stop us from getting up and going this morning.  We started with tefilah and then made our way into Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Museum.  On a trip that is generally light-hearted and fun, our morning at Yad Vashem is always a very powerful time that we experience together, as our kids are well prepared from their Humanities class as well as from the years at KSA in our learning about and observances of Yom HaShoah.

Today's visit was no different in the level of engagement of our kids, their interest in everything that that the museum had to offer and the opportunity to experience this as the 8th grade KSA kehillah, community.  The museum was packed and as we began our guided tour, we stayed together.  As we moved further in, some of our students asked to stay back, to take a bit longer in some areas and to listen to their own hearts and minds as to what was impacting them at the moment.  Before long, our group split into smaller groups and it was almost as if I was able to see the wheels turning and the hearts getting heavy.  Usually I can tell a lot by watching their faces, but this time it was not so easy to see what was going on beneath the surface.

Our visit to the main museum ended with the charge for the future, for accepting responsibility for sharing the stories with future generations and to bring forward the memories of those who died and those survivors who will die one day as well.

As the grandson of survivors, this is one of the most intensely emotional places I have been, outside of my tour of Poland.  Having been to this museum quite often, I spent some time reflecting on my various experiences.  For me, a visiting with a group of students like ours is the reason I can and must continue to visit and support Yad Vashem, as amidst the darkness of the past, walks the bright sunshine of the future.  Together we walked out of the main museum and the sun was shining as we walked to the Warsaw Ghetto Plaza.  

From there we made our way over to the Children's Memorial which had a tremendous impact on so many of our kids.  During the short walk through the dark room, you could hear a pin drop.  When we left, we gathered outside and wrote in our journals and then had a short debrief where the kids shared their thoughts.  Not that I was surprised, but the comments were so insightful and were so on target about some of the larger questions related to the Holocaust and human behavior around it and the enormity of the tragedy.  Many kids talked about the first-hand accounts having the greatest impact, as they had a face to go with the story and were blown away by what they learned about some of the choices kids their age had to make during the war, as well as what some parents felt they needed to do for their children.

And then, in true Israeli fashion, we transitioned from the seriousness of the Holocaust to lunch and shopping at Machane Yehuda, the large open market in Jerusalem.  For the quintessential Israeli experience, we gave groups of kids money to buy themselves lunch and we gave them an assignment, written in Hebrew, to buy something for the group to share for our Shabbat afternoon snack.  The market was packed and it was no easy feat to get up to each stand.  Hopefully everyone bought what they were supposed to, but I did hear something about a special apple from Swaziland that looked a lot like a turnip to me--it wasn't on the list, so I am not sure what will be with it!

As the stores began to close down, we returned to our hotel to prepare for Shabbat.  In a little while, we will gather together to light shabbat candles and begin our walk to shul. 

As we watch the beautiful sunset over the buildings of Jerusalem, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom and look forward to to writing again after our night on the town Moztei Shabbat.  In the meantime, please enjoy today's video.  

Shabbat Shalom,

Marc Medwed
Head of School


  1. Our first graders loved seeing the video of day 1 and can't wait to see the others. Here are some of their comments:
    *We saw many of our friends. Our wish for you is that you should all have a good Shabbat.
    *We were so proud when the eighth graders led us in Hatikvah at our assembly before they left for Israel. We really miss you.
    *When we saw the wall of the old city, it reminded me of the Kotel.
    *We wish you a great time in Israel.
    Shalom and love,
    Morah Miriam and Morah Heather's First Grade Class

  2. Loved the pictures of the crowds and kids at the lunch and shopping at Machaneh Yehuda! Gene and I both looked at each other and said..."we need to go". Thank you for sharing this blog and experiences, and thank you Rabbi David for the great video and music!!