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.