Why Coexistence in Israel is important (Jewish Heritage Trip Edition)


Tali Gortenburg, Assistant Editor-in-Chief

Image by Cody Welton.


During late March, terror attacks occurred in Israel on an almost daily basis. It seemed everyday that the new terror attack would be displayed brightly upon phone screens, leaving viewers frightened and surprised.

Amidst all this, Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy’s (HBHA) 2022 Jewish Heritage Trip embarked, unafraid. On this trip, holy sites were visited, different cultures learned about, and priceless memories and friendships made along with a lesson not to be forgotten: Coexistence in Israel is a necessity and something to be cherished and celebrated.

Shir-el Rudnick, a twelfth grader who went on the trip, mentioned The Orchard of Abraham’s Children kindergarten as being particularly meaningful for her. The kindergarten is open to all, regardless of their religion or culture and is attended by Jewish, Muslim, and Christian children. “We got to talk to the founder and listen to his story about how he used to hate Jews, and how he actually ended up marrying a Jewish woman,” said Rudnick. “They wanted their kids to not have any prejudices and biases against Arabs or Jews so they wanted to have a school where they could both learn together.”

The Jewish Heritage Trip is attended by HBHA’s junior and senior classes every other year. Image by Cody Weton.

Rudnick expresses why she believes this kindergarten and similar institutions are indispensable, “People wonder why there is such hatred of people from both sides, and I don’t think it’s only from wanting land. It’s just about how people grew up.” She then talks about the importance of being taught at a young age that everyone is equal, and that if one fails to be taught this, there will be prejudices and biases against the other side. 

Other HBHA students, too, seem to agree with Rudnick, “It’s a Jewish state right now, but there is still history there for Muslims and Arabs that shouldn’t be destroyed and that should be, I think, celebrated,” says Daniel Thomas, an eleventh grader who also went on the trip. 

As well as lessons learned and beliefs strengthened, Thomas focuses on some once-in-a-lifetime experiences that could not be made anywhere but in Israel. He talks about going in tunnels under the Western Wall that bring you as close to the Holy of Holies as possible, and how amazing that experience was for him. Of these rare opportunities, he mentions as well Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial center.

Thomas also talks about feeling a certain sense of pride being in Israel. He mentions in particular the Six Day War (June 1967), in which Israel was attacked by many of its neighbors at once. The war, as is noted by the name, was won in only six days and by Israel. 

HBHA juniors and seniors met Israeli students from all over Israel during the trip. Image by Cody Welton.

He marvels at how after coming out of the great genocide of the Holocaust, we were able to “come out with not only a state but with a sense of identity in that state and with a sense of pride in that state that may be even greater than what it was previously.”

Although there were many, the trip was not filled only with meaningful experiences to the exclusion of fun and leisure. As an example, the students had various opportunities to talk with Israeli kids their own age. Evelyn Brand, an HBHA eleventh grader, says that she especially enjoyed the time she spent talking with kids from one of the kibbutzim where they had stayed. 

“I think one of my favorite memories in Gvulot was when two of the kibbutz kids showed me one of their secret hideouts,” Brand says. “It was nice being there and we talked about universal teenager experiences like crushes, struggles with parents, and school drama. I liked how even though we live in completely different places and have different lives we were still able to bond about what being a teenager is like” she said.

In conclusion, the 2022 Jewish Heritage Trip proved to be an indispensible experience. Rudnick says, “I made memories that I will never forget throughout my life.”