First, a follow up on yesterday - I was surprisingly contacted this morning by the staff from the Walden Pond visitor center, who apparently were forwarded yesterday's blog post. They were deeply impressed by some of the photos posted, and asked to be put in touch with the photographers. I connected them with the Israeli teens who took those photos, and I am proud to say that from now on large prints of them will be shown at the autumn exhibit at the park's visitor center. That - and not the fact our teens took pictures of photos already showing at the exhibit, trimmed the images, and sent them to me as their own - is the reason why you will see some familiar images if you happen to visit the park. Glad we're all clear on that and can move on to today.
Thursday morning held a promise to provide the Israeli teens with one of their most anticipated activities - visiting an American high school. With expectations shaped by a thousand Hollywood films, our Israelis hopped on the yellow school bus with their American hosts (an experience for itself, if not for the fact we've been traveling in one all week), straight into the glamorous worlds of Lincoln-Sudbury, Wachusett, Maynard, Acton-Boxborough, Concord-Carlisle, Nashoba, and Wayland regional and local high schools. Since yours truly did not attend any of these schools with them, these following impressions are based solely on agonizing questioning conducted once the kids were picked up from their respected schools-for-a-day.
The most notable impression is that no matter if a child returns from their own school, or from spending a day in a school run in a different language, in a new country with a uniquely different culture, the answer to the question how was school today remains the same - it was fine. Quite amazing, actually. In fact, attempts of digging a little deeper did not yield profound results either. Or perhaps they did. Perhaps the fact the what drew the teens' attention were more technical and cosmetic differences, actually means that we are more alike than we tend to think. Maybe the fact that an Israeli student from Haifa can be planted in a classroom in Sudbury and just be able to go about their day is a reminder of our shared values and traditions as Americans and Israelis. Or maybe it's just a reminder to how much our education systems didn't change since we were both subjects to English kings and queens.
One thing that was heartwarming to hear was how interested other students were in our guests. How many of them were put in the spotlight by teachers, and were asked many and varied questions about themselves and about Israel. Some of our teens reported feeling like true rock stars, telling stories about Israel, being asked for their instagram, and even have quizzes and homework assignments canceled because of them. In today's reality, it is also a relief to say that not one of them encountered any sort of a hostile interactions.
From school, the group drove down to Waltham to do a mitzvah. Not just a mitzvah in a sense of a good deed, they actually participated in fulfilling a biblical commandment, and one of the better ones too. Teaming up with the Boston Area Gleaners, our teens helped sort, clean, and pack vegetables that were collected by the the organization, based on the ancient imperative of leaving a portion of one's seasonal crops to the needed. Even though we showed up a little late and spent our first 20 minutes at the farm eating pizza, and to the astonishment of our farm gleaning guides - we were able to get through the entire four containers that were assigned to us. This activity also proved to be a very refreshing mental break from the constant thinking and processing that's been going on pretty much non-stop since the teens arrived in America.
Continuing our local synagogue tour, our teens went on to split between Beth El and B'nai Torah's educational programs, where they lead different activities revolving around Israeli culture and Hebrew, such as a wonderful matching game when the kids had to identify a picture of a famous site in Israel, and match with its Hebrew name. Just like yesterday, our teens were delighted to interact with these younger students and answer all the questions they had about Israel.
Tomorrow, somehow, is already Friday, which means we will be having breakfast with the clergy at Beth El, visit the Cohen Center and the Pre-college Programs Center at Brandeis University, go for a dip at Mayyim Hayyim, and of course, enjoy a HiBuR-wide Shabbat service and dinner at Beth Elohim.
In Their Own Words
"Today was both fun and enriching. I got a chance to visit and observe an American school, and see all the differences between us and them. To be honest I felt like I was in a movie. After school we helped sort vegetables for families who can't afford food, and it felt good knowing we did something for someone else on this trip." -Shoval
"Today we introduced our American hosts to some Israeli foods. They loved it, and it really made us feel at home." -May
"In the evening, we made our host family an Israeli dinner - Shakshukah, Tahini, and more, and it was really great seeing them get all excited about this food." -Maya
"I loved seeing how much the little kids at the temple know about Jewish holidays and about Israel, even though they don't live there." -Ori
"At B'nai Torah, we had a really interesting conversation with Rabbi Eiduson about Judaism, and about the differences between Israeli and American Jews." - Mika
"Today we went to our host's schools and it was pretty weird. Kids were different teachers were different basically every thing was different. After school we went to gleaning food it was pretty fun knowing that the food is going to people who actually need it. Then on the way to the temple we sang some songs and I think Shoni got mad at us but it was fun. All in all it was a day of realizing that our countries are different and the same, in their different ways." -Rotem
"In the evening we went to Josh's house, where I go to talk to some people I didn't really talk to before. I really enjoyed it." -Alon