Growing up is Israel one spends a lot of time learning one's story of origin - where did we come from, why we came here, how we got here, with perhaps the most emphasis being on the adversities our ancestors faced and their determination which led us to where we are today. In fact, young Israelis spends so much time learning about their history, that they barely have time to look into other people's stories, even though those might be of great value for them. Visiting New England for a week, and having new American friends, we thought it proper for our Israeli students to acquaint themselves with some aspects of local American history, and thus took the group for a day at Plimoth Plantation.
Without really knowing what they were getting into, literally, we ran past the herds of 4th graders and into the colonial village and homesite, where the teens interacted with "pilgrims" and Native Americans, asking them questions, hearing their stories, and observing their intriguing ways of living, seemingly peacefully one next to the other. Even though the majority of the content was, well, foreign, to our teens, the liveliness of this museum, the authentic surroundings, and of course - the perfect weather, made for a truly enjoyable educational experience.
Following a nutritious lunch, we resumed our program with a truly unique and memorable workshop. Our very talented educator, who learned about our group and understood her regular plan wouldn't exactly fly with them, made some very interesting adjustments and tied together the pilgrimage of the Mayflower, the Mayflower Compact, and William Bradford's affinity of the Bible and Hebrew, with the journey our teens are currently on. As lofty as it sounds, the discussions were very down to earth, personal, and meaningful. For the icing on the cake (or cornbread), our teens got to write with a real quill, and (some) of them weren't even bad at it.
Fast forward about three hours, during which absolutely nothing educational happened (aside from practicing the arithmetic skills of converting dollars to shekels), we regrouped, together with our American friends, at Temple Israel for a Facing History and Ourselves workshop. Shira and Stacey led the group through a series of group exercises aimed at exposing biases, stigmas, and underlying truths about the way we perceive and interact with each other, especially those who are different from us. Even though the session took place late in a very long day, the participation, respect, depth, and openness that our teens demonstrated was nothing short of admirable.
Tomorrow the teens will meet with Israelis who are serving their gap year in the Boston area (shinshinim), tour the JCC with Mr. Mark Sokol, visit the magnificent Walden Pond, and engage in the education programs at three of our partner temples. But, at least they'll be home for dinner! (Well, at least most of them).
In Their Own Words
"It was very interesting to hear about all the beginnings of Massachusetts, and how people just decided to establish a new life and leave the past behind them, and sail across the ocean for more than two months, and to see the differences between the home site and colonial village." -Inna
"Today was very interesting and I was happy to learn how everything began in America. It was an unusual and realistic experience." -May
"I truly enjoyed Plimoth today. It was a very different experience from the other museums we visited because we got to see the objects and not just read our hear about them. I bet much enjoyed seeing how things really looked like in the past." -Maya
"It was a very interesting day with are real unique experience. I found out interesting to learn about their lives, the relationship between them, and so on. The Facing History workshop was intriguing as it brought things we ask know and think about up to the surface. I also find out interesting to learn others people's opinions." -Ori