Wrapping up 2017 Y2I

Our farewell with the Israelis was really something special. Together we viewed and discussed Beneath the Helmet, From High School to the Homefront, which beautifully showed what Israeli teens do immediately following graduation from high school, as they prepare for their national duty in the Israeli Defense Forces. American teens explained to the Israelis what they are doing in preparation for their post-high school years. Very different experiences for sure. But, as many of the teens pointed out, other than their post-high school years, American and Israeli teens have so much in common:  music, clothes, interests and more.  This really surprised everyone.  Wonderful discussions took place in small counselor groups following the movie, allowing teens time and space to discuss issues around Jewish identity in both countries, hopes for peace, and the concerning rise in anti-semitic incidents American teens are experiencing at their schools and in their social circles.  They could have talked all night. Tears, hugs and tons of emotions—all positive signs of deep connections that were made with each other.

Yesterday was an important and intense day.  The morning included a presentation by Joe Hyams CEO of Honest Reporting, which is an organization dedicated to correcting media bias against Israel. Joe explained to us how damaging media bias is against Israel.  He demonstrated what we can do about it simply by using social media to share our Israel stories with others and by calling out lies about Israel using social media.  I encourage you to read more about the work of Honest Reporting, and as Joe says, invest some “time tzedakah”, even just minutes a day, sharing the truth about Israel.

We spent the afternoon visiting Yad Vashem, Israel’s Memorial to the Holocaust.  I wish I had a more appropriate word than “visiting”. One does not just “visit” Yad Vashem, as it is a place that commemorates one of humanity’s darkest hours at the expense of our People, our Family. Deeply moving, Yad Vashem allows individuals to bear witness to the Holocaust so that people did not perish in vain.  “To remember, lizkor, is a mitzvah in Judaism.  Y2I fulfilled the mitzvah of remembering by our visit to Yad Vashem.   We save this visit until the end of the trip by design.  It’s not until teens experience Israel, and what Israel means as a safe-haven for Jews, can they truly understand the need for a Jewish homeland.

We are blessed to be Jews in America. America is good to the Jews, and Jews are good to America.  Sadly, this is not the case around the world.  European Jewry, particularly France’s Jews, are leaving for Israel.  Thank God there is Israel, a place they are welcome to call home.

The end of our trip is quickly approaching.  Today we will visit Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, and learn more about some of Israel’s great leaders. Leaders of Israel and soldiers who died in service to the country are buried on Mt. Herzl.  This will be another important and intense experience.

Shabbat is looking mighty good this week! We will welcome Shabbat with song and prayer led by a group from Tel Aviv. Our service will be creative and interactive, igniting the ruach, spirit, of our group. We’re looking forward to taking an extra-long breath and relaxing a bit, though we will be busy wrapping up our time in Israel.

A few end-of-trip activities and small group discussions will help to transition to departure time.  The Y2I counselors have been an amazing, passionate and fun group, who all took very good care of your children.  Over these last two days, counselors will help teens process what we have experienced, and provide opportunities for teens to share. I thank the 2017 Y2I counselors for all the hard work they put into making 2017 Y2I a safe and rewarding experience for your children.  A special thank you to Rachel Ellis and Korey Cohan for their leadership during the trip around Israel advocacy for the teens.

It’s been an amazing and successful 2017 Y2I!  We all look forward to seeing each other again, as well as parents, and community members at our 2017 Y2I Welcome Home Event on Sunday, August 27, 2 p.m. at Temple B’nai Abraham in Beverly.  You will hear more from teens about their life-changing Israel adventure.

Until then, I wish everyone a beautiful Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom, with love from 2017 Y2I

Debbie Coltin

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