Our Shabbat in Modi’in has come and gone all too quickly. Each of us spent Friday evening and all day Saturday with his/her host family. With the threat of rain by the Dead Sea, most ventured north to Zichron Ya’akov, Haifa, and beyond. Three of us visited family for the day. I had the good fortune to go with Aviva and her family to see Jerusalem Saturday night. We indulged in delicious ice cream at a cafe in Ein Keren, which I had not visited in over 40 years, once an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem and now a bustling center of Israeli bistros. From there we drove to Tayelet Armon HaNatziv – a promenade overlooking all of the city from the south to the east – truly “Yerushalayim shel malah” – the heavenly Jerusalem. We arrived home at midnight – an early evening.
Today, Sunday, the delegation visited the Asif School matched with French Road Elementary School. Hands down the faculty and children of this school are the happiest we have ever observed: each Sunday first thing grade 6 sings for 20 minutes or so together in the gym – Israeli songs – which they sang to us and then invited us to dance with them, each taking a hand of one of us. In the library Nava the principal welcomed us (and fed us) along with past delegates of Asif - Hani, Liat and Inbar. In the spirit of Purim, one of the grades marched into the library, encircling us and singing the “When the month of Adar arrives, we increase our joy” song. Grade 5 English class performed a Purim Spiel (Story of Esther) in English – hysterical, adorable, colorful, and with great pride! We enjoyed a tour of this colorful school where student projects cover every wall. At recess we found ourselves again mingling with mostly girls in the school courtyard dancing to “YMCA” and other American party songs. We left the school around 10 a.m. to many hugs and kisses.
Next stop – Adam v’Hava – the Ecological Farm on the outskirts of Modi’in to learn about this educational center which functions in its entirety as an example of Perma-culture, Sustainability, Recycling, etc. A highlight for this blogger was learning to make baskets from plastic supermarket bags and bracelets from slices of plastic bottles. Our guides, Ora and Gili, are passionate about their work and their modeling is evident in the 12 Americans (really 11 Americans and 1 Australian) youth (ages 18 – 30) who have just arrived to spend the next 6 months living and learning on the Farm, including a recent graduate from the New York Culinary Institute. An essential stop on our Farm tour was by Lou and Gene Spiro’s tree – that very small fig sapling in a container that they planted in 2006 (first delegation) in honor of their first grandchild. The fig tree is now about 15 feet high and just as wide, albeit not yet in bloom this year. We have a photo of the tree’s growth from each year of its planting. We all decided that Adam v’Hava was a terrific place to visit, but perhaps not to sojourn.
Next stop – a brand new school this year – Avnei Chayn (Stones of Grace) in the Kaiser neighborhood where Aviva’s former Vice Principal (also Aviva) is the principal. There we had lunch in the teachers’ room and enjoyed a workshop for the second year with Yael Gross, an educator from the Hartmann Institute who brilliantly wove a variety of texts from Camus to the Talmud to illustrate the power in the teaching and learning process and its long lasting effect on both teacher and student.
The Modi’in “Kanyon” (Mall) next provided both respite from brainwork and a destination for shopping (for some). After quick stop at our host families, we all met again at Ayala’s (from Netiv Zevulun School) home in a suburb of Modi’in for our final get together. In addition to the host adults, Hana and also Omri and Tzaki joined us - Chairs of P2G Steering Committee and Education Bridge respectively. We all shared personal narratives, our gratitude for the gift of this journey and all it symbolizes, and watched both the video production of last fall’s Israeli delegates and the charming video produced by 3 of our delegates this week featuring kippah topped Avi Alligator, Hillel Community Day School’s Kindergarten class mascot, and Avi’s trip through Israel this week. This year Aviva arranged for Bat Eilah, an Israeli singer/songleader to teach and lead us in song. Both Israelis and Americans participated with enthusiasm. Ilan Adar got to play the shofar as an extra bonus. Sated and embraced with genuine affection and attention by all, we parted for the evening. Laila tov.