Finding Israel

December 2, 2016
This past August, thirty Gann juniors embarked on a journey to Israel, leaving the creature comforts of home, their parents, and familiar places behind. What began as a scramble to get to know new teachers and classes, peer travelers, and a new country—became a transformative experience.
"These students have a new place for Israel in their hearts. When we traveled back from Israel together, they couldn’t stop talking about how changed they feel, how much the trip was an amazing experience."
-Laila Goodman, Science Teacher, Madrichah Ruchanit (Spiritual Advisor)

This past August, thirty Gann juniors embarked on a journey to Israel, leaving the creature comforts of home, their parents, and familiar places behind. What began as a scramble to get to know new teachers and classes, peer travelers, and a new country—became a transformative experience.

The group recently returned in November after spending 12 weeks at Alexander Muss High school in the Tel Aviv suburb of Hod HaSharon, where they combined their traditional studies—math, English, history and more—with an immersion into Israeli culture.

Gann's travel and learning program exposes students to historical, biblical, and modern Israel through first-hand experiences and classroom study. The program supports the building of life-long connections to Israeli people, history, and culture.

Student traveler Jordan Cyker had this to say about classroom study, “I learned so much more about the history of the Jewish people in core class, and stories that I have never heard before. I was surprised by how much I didn’t know, even about stories that I have heard my whole life.”

The journey was also a tactile experience of outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, and field trips to sites throughout Israel. Students walked in the footsteps of ancient Israelites, traveled where Abraham traveled, visited the holy sites of Jerusalem, camped in the desert, experienced modern Tel Aviv, and swam in the Dead Sea. They got a feel for the Land and people, and learned about the history at the same time.

“Everybody was so friendly, you truly felt like everyone in Israel was your family. It was comforting walking down the streets, knowing anyone you passed by would have taken you in, it’s just part of the culture,” said Marissa Rosenzweig, Gann student.

These Gann Juniors also gained an understanding of the struggle and sacrifices that it took to build modern Israel, the agricultural, economic, and military challenges of the early pioneers, and the way that their fellow Jews turned a desert into a productive landscape. Students returned feeling more confident about discussing complex political issues such as the relationship between Israel and Palestine.

“I think about myself and my place in this world as a Jew differently than before this Israel trip. I have come to believe that as a Jew it is my job to stand up for Israel,” said Marissa Rosenzweig, Gann student.

“Because of this trip, I definitely feel like I have more of a voice. And I’m never going to forget how strong Israelis are. The history of Israel shows its ability to survive, it still stands strong today,” said
Jordan Cyker, Gann student

Marissa experienced an indelible moment, which is evocative of the connection that this group of student travelers made to Israel:  

“My favorite memory of the trip took place on Yom Kippur. We were staying in Jerusalem that night. After temple, we went to join many yeshiva students who were sitting in a circle leading songs. Two other friends and I decided to lay down, and we looked up to the sky, reflecting on all that we have accomplished and look forward to in life. It was a special moment that I will never forget.”

This spring 2017, for the first time, every Gann Academy sophomore will go on a MyIsrael trip. The ground-breaking, eight-week program builds on the successful foundation of our earlier program. Gann faculty customized the trip so that it integrates with Gann’s curriculum. It also builds on our partnership with Ironi Hey school in Haifa, whose 65 students will join the Gann sophomores in a range of activities.
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