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Israel Experiential Visit Student Reflections

Over a period of 10 days Grade 8-11 students visited Israel, experiencing first hand sites of significance from the days of the Prophets to the building of the State of Israel. Throughout the trip, students explored issues relating to Jewish history and Israel within an MYP context, as well as participated in a rewarding community service. Grade 11 students on the trip were Madrachim (Youth Leaders), part of their CAS component required by the IB Diploma Programme. Upon returning, students reflected on their Educational Visit experience, asking themselves what they gained from the trip, as well as what they were grateful for. 

Day 1

Excited students and parents gathered together at the airport in the late hours of motsei Shabbat-Saturday evening-as educational visits resumed once again at Carmel’s Elsa High School! The long overnight flight was quickly followed by a full day of activities. Students first travelled to Jaffa and learnt about the historical importance of this ancient port city. From here, they travelled to the Peres Centre for Innovation and Peace and learned about how Israeli technology is changing the world and how peace is still the priority for Israel. 

The highlight of the day was the visit to Beit Elazraki Children’s Home. Very tired students arrived and were welcomed by the Head of Home Mr Yehuda Kohn. The students shared a wonderful meal together with the children and this was followed by some very high energy dancing with big smiles replacing their tired faces. With the first day over, the students were glad to finally get to their rooms and get some well earned rest!

"The perspective I gained of the land of Israel was something you couldn’t get any other way, and the structure of the trip, going from the north all the way to the south really showed me the wonders of Israel and made me admire the nature and the beauty of my country." Aviad, Grade 9

Day 2

The storm arrived! The Carmel students slept well after their long previous day and even slept through any shock waves from the Turkey/Syrian earthquake! They were keen to get up and were all awake before any of the teachers needed to wake them. This was mostly aided by the torrential rain and pounding sea winds. After morning prayers and a morning activity, students made their way to the dining hall where they were treated to an amazing spread of hot and cold breakfast choices. Plenty of yummy food to set them up for the activities of the day! Sadly, the strong storm meant students couldn’t be outside as much as intended but we still pushed forward with the plans for the day. First up was a visit to Kibbutz Lavi. Here students were given a brief introduction to what a kibbutz is and then shown the amazing craftsmanship of the Synagogue furniture made there that is sent to Synagogues all over the world. Following this, they were taken to one of the original buildings of the kibbutz (built 1949) that has been converted into a living museum that retells the kindertransport story through the help of one of the kibbutz founders.

From here, students made their way further north into the Hula valley to visit one of the largest ecological sites in Israel, Agamon Ha’hula. Although students couldn’t perform the intended cycle exploration, they still managed to get out, braving the harsh elements, to witness some of the amazing birdlife in this important part of the migratory routes of many species of birds. Students were rewarded with an amazing rainbow during a brief rest from the hard driving rain. With another long day successfully completed, students returned to the hotel for a filling dinner and to complete their evening activities based on Tu Bi’Shvat.

"Although not all of us who went on this trip were religious, it was Shabbat and we all walked back to the hotel together. This also symbolizes how much we were able to learn from each other and the different cultures on this trip" Nili, Grade 9

Day 3

With another packed day ahead of them students had a 6:15am wake-up for tefillah and I.S. briefings at 6:40am and a big breakfast at 7:00am.  This meant we were able to leave at 8:00am to ensure we could fit in all of the day’s exciting scheduled activities. First up we travelled to the most northern point of Israel, the Finger of Galilee, to visit the Misgav Am Look Out.  Strategically situated just south of the border, overlooking the Lebanese village of Odaisseh, the Kibbutz Misgav Am houses an information centre for tourists and provided an excellent and humorous presentation on the realities of keeping Israel’s borders safe.  

Next, we travelled to the Canada Centre Sports Resort in the town of Metula to go ice skating in an Olympic-sized ice rink. After 90 minutes of fun, the students had worked up an appetite to enjoy a delicious lunch of famous local falafel. To finish off the day we travelled to Galita's Chocolate Farm to learn about the process of growing cocoa beans and the production of chocolate. Then in a fun workshop students used a variety of chocolates to create their own gourmet fantasies which were then individually packaged to enjoy later. Upon return to the hotel, the majority of our adventurers descended to the hotel dining room’s extensive and plentiful banquet to eat to their content, while others spent an evening with visiting family and friends. Before the end-of-day downtime, students discussed and completed their learning reflections.  Early lights out ensured students will get the most out of sleep before today’s late wake-up at 7:00 am.

Day 4

The students enjoyed a well-deserved, leisurely start to the day with a long breakfast and excursion departure at 9:30. First up we visited the Rosh HaNikra grottoes located on the Mediterranean Sea coast. Here some tunnels were naturally created in the chalk rock by the force of the waves, while others are the remains of the Haifa-Beirut railway line created by the British.  We did get to see some of the tunnels but a few branches of the labyrinthine network were closed due to precautions over rough tidal waters.  Never mind, as close by students were fortunate to see the fascinating, and photogenic Keshet Cave, a rainbow arch geographical feature set against a panoramic Mediterranean background. Students were treated to a delicious double burger lunch at Kibbutz Matzuva. Although it was cold the students filled their stomachs and quickly warmed up.

Next up was a visit to the old Druze town of Peki'in. Students learned the history of the old, austere synagogue, erected in 1873 on the foundations of several older synagogues, from a local musical guide.  To cap this off we were honoured to meet the hardy nonagenarian, Margalit Zinati (93), the last Jewish woman in Peki'in whose family has tended the synagogue for centuries. Then on to the old Roman established town of Tiberias where we took a boat to sail the Galilee sea and watch the sunset and dance to Israeli and International pop songs; an obvious highlight for many!  15 minutes after disembarkation students found themselves at a South American-style steakhouse restaurant to round off the day with another delicious meal - the two coaches were very quiet on the way home that’s for sure! Tonight is our last evening in Nahariya and beautiful northern Israel. The students might be sad if they weren’t due to visit the wonderful city of Jerusalem next!

Day 5

We checked out of ‘The North’ where we had all grown used to in the Galilee region, and travelled south.  Gone were the rolling, rock-strewn hills, clouds and rain; exchanged for the blue skies and dunes of Israel's central coast; enter the Herodian city of Caesarea, the southern jewel of the Roman Empire.  Starting in the Amphitheatre we were once again treated to a wealth of knowledge from our engaging and enthusiastic tour guide Ovadia Sofer. The students were walked through the rich 2,000-year history of this wealthy city with its architecture mapped out and its political intrigue unearthed.

A tasty lunch was eaten in a grassy park by the harbour before setting out for Holon, just south of Tel Aviv, where the Children's Museum is located.  However, this was not a museum as our students had imagined but a unique and progressive educational, interactive experience. The grades divided to immerse themselves in two worlds of communication that may very well change them forever. An Invitation to “Silence” is an adventure in which the participants express themselves in the “absence of voice, hearing and spoken language,” and Dialogue in the Dark, a journey which mirrors the daily life of visually impaired people as they negotiate the changing spaces around them.  At the end of each session, students were able to learn more during a Q&A from the museum guides who experience these situations naturally. (

Food again, but this time it’s dinner in the Machaneh Yehudah Market or ‘The Shuk’.  Although many of the students approached this dining experience with trepidation, within minutes they were swept up in the exhilarating experience of eating authentic street food in a bustling, atmospheric old city environment: unique and unforgettable yet again. And here we are once more, getting ready for lights out but this time in the City of David: Jerusalem.

Day 6

Waking up in Jerusalem to blue skies put us all in a good mood.  However, it was to be a serious morning and we set off early to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. We divided into two groups, grades 8 and 9, and 10 and 11.  Each group had a very experienced and interesting guide who pitched their delivery and stories in an age-appropriate manner to our students.  Education is key in how the museum approaches its communication with visitors and the guides involved the students and made them consider many aspects of the history spanning the mid-1920s to mid-1950s. It is important to note that both guides skipped the final exhibits of images and film as they deemed them unsuitable to younger visitors. We invite you to explore

After a hefty Shawarma, we climbed Mount Herzl where students laid pebbles on the tomb of Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism.  On the way down we walked through the National Civil Cemetery, the National Military Cemetery and the Memorial to Victims of Acts of Terror, paying our most solemn and deepest respects as we passed. We returned to our hotel and prepared to greet Shabbat.  After changing into suitable attire we were dropped off 10 minutes walk from the Kotel - the Western Wall.  This evening had a great impact on our students who prayed at the Wall and then sang and danced in union with all of the people who had gathered from the four corners of the Earth with the same purpose in their hearts. We strolled back to our hotel through streets quiet in traffic but boisterous with fellow worshippers. Not one student complained about the length of the hour-long walk but chatted affectionately with friends they had just made a bond with that will last a lifetime. A grand Shabbath dinner awaited us at the Jerusalem Gardens and after Mr. Eliav’s recital of the blessings the students didn’t need a second invitation to get stuck in!

"Something about the Western Wall is that when you walk toward it, there is an energy that words cannot describe." Preston, Grade 8

Day 7

This Shabbat was truly a well-earned day of rest. After a tremendous week packed with activities and new experiences, the students were extremely thankful to have a digital detox and time to just hang out.

Plenty of food, rest and fun activities before our guide Ovadia took us on an informative walking tour of some quaint old neighborhoods. The students were amazed to be walking through the quiet streets of Jerusalem devoid of cars, buses and trams and with very few people. We passed through the shuttered-up Machaneh Yehudah, the scene of Thursday night’s dinner and frenetic street life was now just a meeting place for a few lazy cats.  By chance a man passed us, singing aloud to his heart’s content, who appeared to be down on his luck.  He made the children laugh, though not unkindly.  Then to our amazement, Ovadia told us a story about how years earlier this man had gone out of his way to help him when he had first arrived in Jerusalem. Ovadia had seldom seen him in the intervening years, and unfortunately, every time the man was a little more dishevelled, but Ovadia had nothing but respect, fond memories and gratitude for him. The students reflected on how we can never know the story that each person carries and that we shouldn’t judge people without knowing their background.  In that moment not only did the children learn a little more awareness of their fellow citizens but also a greater respect for Ovadia’s experience, knowledge and humility.

Back at the hotel and after the prayers of Arvit and Havdallah, students were quite happy to get their hands on their devices.  And we were once again on the move - this time for an open-air spectacular sound and light show telling the story of King David, which was projected on the interior walls of the Tower of David Museum  - an experience which left the students speechless. Then free time to roam the Mamilla Avenue district before students returned to pizza at the hotel and packing up for the next morning’s departure and adventures anew.

Day 8

Students and staff have bid farewell to Jerusalem, for now, and we have made our way south to the area of Gush Etsion. At Kfar Etsion, the students learned about the growth of a community built on a shared ideology, prior to the declaration of a state of Israel. They learned through first hand stories about the joy that Holocaust survivors experienced in building a thriving community in the hills south of Jerusalem. But they also learned about the tragic failed defence of this area when it was overrun by local village militia and Jordanian soldiers in 1948. From here, Mr. Eliav led the less claustrophobic students through the tunnels used by the Bar Kochva uprising in 132. Staff also tried to squeeze themselves through the tight narrow spaces that the resistance fighters used to entrap and attack their enemy. 

The day drew to a close with a short camel ride into the desert hills, a welcome from a Bedouin leader, and a taste of traditional Bedouin food. The students prepared their tents and moved outside for some tasty treats on the fire. An early night was in order as the next day the students have a 4am wake up for a climb up Masada.

Day 9

At 4:00am students and staff hiked up the ancient fortified mountain of Masada, located at the southern district of Israel, to watch the sunrise. Jewish students were able to pray at the top of the mountain while the sun was still rising, while the international students enjoyed a moment of mindfulness in their peaceful surroundings. After the prayer, students and staff were given a tour of the ancient fortification and were introduced to the history of Masada, Herod's death and the annexation of Judea. Following this, students were led to the cable car down to Masada hostel for a yummy breakfast. Once everyone had filled their tummies, we travelled to the Dead Sea. Here students and staff enjoyed the glorious view and the bizarre viscous salt water of the Dead Sea. We then travelled to the Ein Gedi Reserve,  a short hop away, for a hike through rivers and waterfalls. After some lunch, everyone got back on the busses for the long drive back to Jerusalem to celebrate the regular trip’s last night. We rounded off the day with everyone having a relaxing time shopping in Ben Yehuda street.