April 30, 2009 Visit to Jerusalem

So, it’s like this.

I teach a grade 8 English class, in Ma’ale Habsor.  It’s a bunch of lively (lively) kids and we’ve been in touch with a class of 8th graders from Albany, New York, studying in Bet Shraga Hebrew Academy. This is part of the Living Bridge, Partnership 2000,  project connecting young people from Israel and and the Northern U.S. and Mexico. We’ve got ourselves a Facebook site and we’ve exchanged holiday greeting cards, and we knew we’d meet. Yesterday was the day.

On the bus

On the bus

We bused into the Old City of Jerusalem to meet them, and teachers and students from the Kellman Brown Academy, Cherry Hill, N.J.,  at the Western Wall mid-day.img_4179 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We gathered in a shady position to get ourselves in the picture.

First position

First position

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Western Wall, women's side

Western Wall, women's side

Then we headed towards the Cotel, the Western Wall, to put in prayer notes, joining people from all over the world in this ritual.Women’s side of the WallWe re-grouped and began making one another’s acquaintance.

introductions via the 'clock'

introductions via the 'clock'

We began to tour the Old City.img_4195
Albany, New Jersey, Negev kids

Albany, New Jersey, Negev kids

End of the day, we ate some outrageously gooey cake and exchanged signatures and final hugs.
mika offers a handmade hamsa

mika offers a handmade hamsa

last gestures of friendship, signing a canvas

last gestures of friendship, signing a canvas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The group guide, Ran, had us bid goodbye by hugging 3 people we hadn’t previously known to say a personal goodbye. And so we separated. Bet Shraga people were off to the airport, New Jersey people were off to their next stop and we were off to our bus to make our way home to the Eshkol region.

It was stimulating! (Jerusalem always is) It was full of dramatic impressions. The kids connected and I learned how it’s impossible to adhere to a previously scripted programme.  Ran, the Jerusalem guide, John, the American group’s guide, Eyal, our Living Bridge Co-ordinator and the other teachers, Rabbi Aaron, and I were switching plans and timing, according to reality.
It was good!
Now it’s time to build on new connections. Geography is nothing without learning face-to-face about others.
As Gloria Steinem says (paraphrased) : “Internet is great but parents don’t bond with their children by e-mail”. And so it’s true. Technology makes for faster preliminaries and in-betweens, but nothing can replace person to person.
Ariel and Tal

Ariel and Tal

Rabbi Aaron Kaplan

Rabbi Aaron Kaplan

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at last! Update – School, GA visit, beloved friend’s loss, Red Alert “Tzeva Adom”

Yes, Let My People Know is still here. It’s been a week.

Commiserating with a friend.

A beloved friend suffered the tragic loss of her husband to suicide. How to comfort a friend under such A & dogshorrific life-blows? There’s no answer except to love her and try to stay in one piece, oneself.  Being an exceptionally loving human being, she was surrounded by many friends. We all extend our love and support. How to go on? We find the strength and we do it. Together.

Monday, November 17. This week saw the return of “Tzeva Adom” (Red Alert) during school hours. The English staff were able to scurry into our shelter within 5 seconds. We stood there counting and heard a loud Boom and then a slightly softer one. We knew it had landed close by. Sure enough, it hit the kibbutz beside Ma’ale Habsor. News stories have interviewed elderly residents who had no protective shelter to run to. Still the kibbutzim are unprotected. The school children are luckier. They have shelters near their classrooms.

Survival Techniques

During our 8th grade english lesson, we were again sent off to wait through a period of uncertainty. Most students have their survival equipment on hand: cell-phone music and earphones, games to be played, gossip to be shared. One girl in my shelter had her crocheting on hand. She’s making a scarf! (lovely spring lilac shade)

A few students in the younger grades were shaken up, but the older kids seem to be able to digest this reality and go on with a semblance of normality. Those students in the soccer field had no option but to flatten out on the ground, according to instructions by the Security Office.

Visit from the GA (General Assembly of the Jewish Agency)

One visitor from the U.S. had a taste of this reality. Marcy from the G.A. (General Assembly) of the Jewish Agency came to promote the Living Bridge Project. We met at Ma’ale Habsor along with Tal Kalmer, co-ordinator, Vered Tal, Principal of Ma’ale Habsor, Anat Rozen, co-ordinator of the connection with Mexico for Ma’ale Habsor, and myself, Ma’ale Habsor co-ordinator of the connection with Bet Shraga, Albany.

We shared greetings and news. The bridge with 8th grade students in Albany is being built through a private Facebook site, on which we post greetings, questions, photos and video clips. Ma’ale Habsor kids sent New Year’s Greeting Cards to Bet Shraga kids. Marcy brought us a bulging envelope of Chanukah greeting cards from kids at Bet Shraga. We had to hurry to make some cards to send back with her, but sure enough, Marcy received an envelope from us with cards to the kids in Albany. There’s nothing like a colourful hand-written card to build excitement in a roomful of kids!

May this project grow.

May you all have a good week, a peaceful week.

Early Chanukah Greetings – Light! and more Light!

Chanukah Collage in Progress, Randa Dubnick

Chanukah Collage in Progress, Randa Dubnick