Senior Capstone Trip Blog

Sami Himmelfarb '21 & Ainsley Lerner '21

Though arriving in Israel is always very exciting for JDS seniors, this was the first year our arrival was deemed a notable historic event. After weeks of anxiously awaiting a departure date and extra covid precautions, we were finally given the news that the JNF succeeded in chartering a flight and securing student visas for all AMHSI students. Even while Israel was on lockdown, AMHSI and JNF staff tirelessly fought for us. Throughout our long day of travel, we remained in high spirits because everyone in the airport was acutely aware that our departure was a monumental event. There were photographers and reporters in the airport, and when we landed in Israel, everyone rejoiced and sang Hebrew songs. Members of Knesset came aboard the plane to welcome us. Even before stepping off the plane, we already were developing an understanding of the hope and resiliency that Israel and its citizens represent. 

Despite having to quarantine for ten days, AMHSI wasted no time in showing us the rich history and culture of Israel. Our wonderful teachers Danny and Rueven led interactive conversations about the effect of geopolitics on Israeli culture and Avraham’s calling to find himself and settle in Canaan. This sparked conversations among our peers that lasted throughout the day. Our madrichim teach us about the Israeli food we’re going to eat and encourage us to learn new words in Hebrew. On Yom HaShoah, we dressed in white and listened to the siren that can be heard everywhere across the country. It was so powerful to be united in a moment where all of Israel stops to honor the lives lost in the Jewish homeland. Later we participated in an activity that placed us in the shoes of Jews in Nazi-occupied territory and helped us better understand and empathize with the impossible day to day choices they were forced to make. 

Time in quarantine has also allowed new connections with our peers to flourish. Our madrichim facilitate fun icebreakers and competitions where we have forged new friendships and strengthened existing ones. On Shabbat, we dressed up, prayed, ate together, and discussed our excitement for everything to come. We are enjoying the time unplugged, especially after having to live our lives virtually for the past year. In our free time, we enjoy playing card games, volleyball, football, and just hanging out and chatting in the sun. With all that we’ve learned and the relationships we’ve created, we are so excited to come out of quarantine and fully immerse ourselves in all the land has to offer. Shoutout to Jack Weitzner for some of the group photos.



  • 2021
Ben Topol '20

We spent a beautiful shabbat in Jerusalem. After a meaningful Kabbalat Shabbat at the Kotel, spent singing and dancing with other random Jews, we went back to the hotel to have dinner and get some well deserved sleep after Masada day. On Shabbat morning, we split up between a Conservative and Orthodox synagogue for services. I went to the Conservative synagogue, and it was so powerful to see Conservative Jews from all around the world gathered in Jerusalem. In the afternoon, we chilled in the hotel, took a graffiti tour in Machane Yehuda, and played frisbee in the park. Havdalah was an amazing way to end a great Shabbat, and we finished the evening in Jerusalem by having DOTS (Dinner on the streets).

Sunday, we woke up bright and early to go to the Israel Museum. We explored the Dead Sea Scrolls and the way that Jerusalem looked in the time of the second temple. This was a super powerful experience for me, because it proved that the same texts that we read today were also read thousands of years ago by other Jews. We then explored the other Ktalim (spoiler alert: the western wall is not the only one still standing), and walked up the same stairs that Jews walked up hundreds of years ago.

On Monday, in an AMHSI first, we got the opportunity to explore the Christian side of Jerusalem. We began on the mount of olives, visiting two different churches. We then walked down and toured the Via Dolorosa and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was so cool to be able to see a different religion's claim to Jerusalem. We then got the chance to explore Machane Yehuda. We finished off the day with watching Israeli election returns. 

Tuesday, we visited the Bar Kochba caves. We learned about Rabbi Akiva, Bar Kochba, and the revolts. My group got the amazing and powerful experience of singing songs in the darkness of one of the caves. We then went to an old Roman Amphitheater, where we were treated to an Accafellas performance. After that performance, we discussed the struggle of Jews throughout history. We finished off the day by celebrating Jake Rabinowitz's birthday. 

Wednesday, we began by praying on the ruins of a fourth century synagogue. We then walked to Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi's grave, past the town where he had presided over the Sanhedrin. We saw some odd Jewish graves and discussed how Jewish "red lines" were different back then, and what our personal "red lines" were. We then travelled to Tsfat, where we discussed the Shulchan Aruch and Kabbalah. After time to explore, we finished the day on Kibbutz Gazit.

Thursday was a hiking day. We hiked down Har Tabor to Nahal Tabor, where we were given the opportunity to swim. We then hiked back up the hill, accompanied by beautiful green plants and purple flowers. We went to a training kibbutz by the Kinneret to learn about the second aliyah and early kibbutzniks. We then discussed Rachel the Poetess and how we wanted to change the world.

  • 2020
Hadara Bilsky and Micah Gritz '20

This vlog of highlights from the Class of 2020's first week in Israel is brought to us by Hadara Bilsky and Micah Gritz. 


  • 2020