Basically, you take classes Sunday-Friday mornings and learn in a classroom everything that there is to know about Israeli and Jewish history, studying from Biblical times to the present day struggles of the modern state of Israel. Included in this would be 1 or 2 days a week having a tiyul (fieldtrip) where we’d visit sights of importance to what we were learning. So we visited all the sites that “tourists” visit but also so many more places that were so important to us because we visited them knowing all of the history behind them. There was even a guy on our trip who had previously gone on a tourist visit to Israel and told us at one point that sites we visited at more significance to him now because on his first trip they’d just get off the bus visiting places as they fell in geographic convenience and didn’t really know what the place meant. I remember on that day feeling really happy that I’d made the decision to visit Israel in this way.
Below is a picture from one of our fieldtrips, when we learning about Jews moving to Palestine around the time of World War 2. Basically the English were still in command of the land and didn't open it up to Jews to move there to escape the war, so they snuck in. So Jews in Palestine would run out into the water when a ship of Jews trying to enter Israel was approaching, switch clothing with them, and then carry them to land. This was their way of trying to confuse the English as to which people were legally allowed to be there or not (and it worked for a while). This is a picture of the group similating how Jews in Palestine carried those trying to enter to shore, and we had this lesson on the very beaches that they used 60 years ago.
You might be asking what I did about my regular school since I got to Israel in February. Basically, you have 1-on-1 tutoring in up to 3 classes from your regular high school and some high schools gave students credit for things like history and English to accord for the core class we were taking in Israel. Also, you live in a dorm, much like college. I was in Friedman dorm with all of the other USY High kids (the students in the other 2 dorms didn’t enroll through USY and were traditionally less observant). The dorm was two floors and had two common areas and a kitchenette area, as well as a madrich and a madricha (a male and a female RA). Each room had three or four people living in it, and it had a bedroom and a room with desks. We did have curfew and a time by which the door to the dorm was locked and alarmed, but we had a lot of freedom. In the afternoons we could go into Hod Hasharon and shop or have lunch, things like that. It was really cool to feel like you were part of a town, because you were living there, not just visiting for a few days.
My trip to Israel really changed me as a person and it made Israel a large part of my heart. It has been almost 5 years since I have been to Israel and I still think about memories of my trip, and I still wish I could go back to support the country that means so much to me. And I think that maybe for my next trip I’ll be a little more laid back, and go as an educated tourist.
Sidenote: what else would you like to hear about?? Please leave a comment to tell me what my next post should be about. THANKS!!