July 18 We Are Family

During our closing session last night, one of the teens remarked that she understood what I meant when I said that our Israel adventure will be over in a blink of an eye.  Here we are, our final full day in Israel. How did time pass so quickly?

At our opening session during our first day in Israel, Amnon Weigler, owner of the tour company Y2I uses, encouraged teens to open their memory banks and fill them with experiences they will have during their stay in Israel. Then, throughout their lifetimes, Amnon explained that teens should pull from their memory banks those experiences, and the feelings the experiences elicit, to enrich their lives. Teens heeded Amnon’s advice, and they are returning home richer, fuller, and changed in some way.

We had an incredible program the night we returned from our desert experience.  It was Tisha B’Av, a day of mourning, marking the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  It is a solemn time, a day of fasting, so everything was closed. However, Hadassah and Tzlilah Bau, daughters of Joseph and Cyla Bau, were our guest presenters.  Teens had the opportunity to see Joseph’s unique art, to hear his incredible story of survival of the Holocaust, and to be inspired by his life’s lessons.  Be sure to ask your kids about the Bau sisters and Joseph Bau.

We began our day on Wednesday with a walking tour of beautiful Jaffa (Yafo), the ancient port on the Mediterranean Sea. Jaffa is the setting for many biblical stories, and to be there was pretty cool for the kids. What was also impressive is that you can stand by the shore in Jaffa, a place that is thousands of years old, and look down the shoreline, and see the modern city of Tel Aviv, complete with skyscrapers and symbols of modernity.  The contrast is awesome.  Israel, a place where the past is present, and the present moves forward.

This is what I love about Israel. The past is very much part of daily life. The past is not forgotten or merely looked upon as a site to visit.  It is the foundation upon which this gorgeous country is built, the very foundation that sustains it. The past is woven into the fabric and psyche of Israeli society, influencing Israel’s future. The past is a testament to our collective history, where have we have been and what we can accomplish. Like no other place on earth, Israel is the manifestation of the Jewish will to survive and to flourish.

From Jaffa we continued on to Tel Aviv, including an emotional visit to Independence Hall, the very place where Israel was declared a State in 1948.  What a story!!  We heard the actual recording of the moment of declaration, followed by Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem.  Having Israeli teens with us made the moment even more special.  For them, this was an exceptionally proud and patriotic moment, reflected by tears they shed. This was one of those times for our memory banks.

We ended our day at a most special party in our honor.  Families of the Israeli teens who are with us in Y2I hosted a dinner for us. Singing, dancing, food, a visit from the mayor and deputy mayor of Petah Tikvah and other dignitaries came to meet us as well. Our kids loved meeting their Israeli friends’ families, and they were embraced by mamas and papas, and brothers and sisters, and grandparents too.  The feeling of FAMILY was particularly strong for our kids, and many talked about this last night at our closing session.

Yesterday we visited Atlit, the British camp, where refugees from the Holocaust were detained when they were sent from wherever they survived to here.  Another amazing site to see, and inspirational story to hear.  I recommend Anita Diamant’s Day after Night if you want to read a fascinating story of courage, survival, and determination.

Then it was on to the Druze village of Ossafiya for a traditional home-cooked Druze feast.  Absolutely delicious!  It was fascinating to learn about the secret Druze religion, and how Druze are loyal to the country in which they live, in this case, Israel.

And then…the moment the kids did not want to come…departure of the Israeli teens.  Before they left, we gave them plenty of time to debrief the mifgash experience in small groups.  What incredible discussions took place.  This was a time for teens to sit and really dialogue, discovering ways that Americans can support Israelis and vice versa. It was a time to cement the bonds that formed, and to make commitments to love and support our Family.  This circle time also gave our kids an opportunity to breathe, reflect and begin to process Y2I’s impact on them.  Counselors took a back seat and let teens talk amongst themselves.  But, tears flowed from our eyes as we listened to the positive impact of Y2I on their lives. This experience has impacted Israeli teens as much as it has your children, and for teens to hear from each other was a very powerful experience.

Then it was a long, emotional, and wonderful good-bye, which was more like “until we see each other again…”

We concluded our night with more time for teens to talk. And talk they did.  I am so proud of them. They shared their feelings, how they have changed, and what Israel means to them. With a hearty round of applause, they thanked Bob Lappin and the entire North Shore Jewish community for giving them this priceless and life changing experience. Ask them about the pin they got that will remind them to “remember”, and ask them what it is they remember.

Just when I didn’t think the day could get any better, it did.  Our hotel has some Holocaust survivors here on their annual vacation.  Your beautiful children went into the lobby, introduced themselves, and sat to listen to their stories. This moment could not have been better planned.  It was particularly emotional for some of our kids, since they never met a survivor.  Realizing that soon all survivors will be gone, teens latched on to this moment, and for sure, added this one to their memory banks.

Today we conclude our Israel adventure with a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the Holocaust, and to Mt. Herzl, the final resting place for those who gave their lives to defend our homeland Israel. It will be a somber day, but one that is full of hope and inspiration.  After all, we are in Israel, and we are seeing firsthand what people lived and died for.

Our farewell dinner will be a festive one, and then off we go, to the airport, for our journey home.

Wow, what an incredible time I have had with Y2I 2013. I love your kids! I hope you see the growth they have made.  Some changes will be pretty evident and some may take a while for you to see. Teens may want to share right away, and others may need some time to process this experience.  They are tired, and need some sleep. But, they are also excited and will probably want to run right out to see their friends, many of them new, to continue the Y2I feeling.

Emails have been sent to teens reminding them to complete the evaluation and write the essay.  Please remind them to do so early next week. We are looking forward to their feedback.

I hope to see everyone at the special Y2I Welcome Home Event on Sunday, August 25, 2 p.m. at Temple B’nai Abraham in Beverly. Bring the family!!  It will be fabulous!

Thank you for the extraordinary opportunity to take your children to Israel.  On behalf of Y2I 2013, with love from Israel,

Debbie Coltin

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