Thursday, March 15, 2007

Israeli High School Students Talk about Their "Journey Through Israel" and Upcoming Military Service

While traveling with the Jewish Federation of Lehigh Valley in Israel this week, we visited several Israeli schools. One highlight yesterday was talking to some outstanding 11th graders in the more remote region of Yoav, south of Tel Aviv. This school at Tsafit is rated one of the ten best in the country because of high academic acheivement and student participation in community services.
There, 11th graders discussed the "life changing" experience of their "Journey Through Israel" last November. Traveling first into the desert near the Dead Sea and then for a week to other important historical and cultural sites in the founding of Israel, these students explained how they were strengthened in both their individual and Jewish identities.
Calling it a "very strong, intense experience," these students talked about the realities of coming of age in Israel today.

With a little over a year before graduation, each and every one of them---male and female alike---will go into the military for a minimum of two years after high school.
At one site on the Journey, they saw the graves of two 18 and 23 year-old brothers killed together in a military operation. It had a sobering effect on each one of them:
"That's the exact age difference between my brother and me," one student said.
"We're going to be in the military soon and any one of us could be next," one said. "Our survival here depends on 18-20 year olds with big guns."
And it's true. With six million Jews in Israel and 250 million Muslims in surrounding countries in the Middle East---many who want to wipe their country off the map--the realities of war and defending their country in order to survive individually and nationally are becoming crystal to these students.
High school students grow up fast in this kind of environment. They were a delight to talk with yesterday.
And not a spoiled, over-indulged one in the bunch. They said they were most grateful to have an opportunity to have an audience of American supporters. And they emphasized how much our support means to them.
The pleasure was all ours. A highlight of our trip, truly.

No comments: