Memories and Friendships

IST: An amazing experience in Israel

Zigzagging though the Old City, singing, dancing and blindfolding friends who had never seen the Kotel was an amazing start to IST.

Jonathan Cass (left) with cousin and madrich Adam Marks at the Kotel.
Jonathan Cass (left) with cousin and madrich Adam Marks at the Kotel.

Zigzagging though the Old City, singing, dancing and blindfolding friends who had never seen the Kotel was an amazing start to IST.

At Yad Vashem, we learned about the horrors of the Holocaust and the history of our people prior to WW2. We visited Mt Herzl and heard from Israeli marathon champion Beatie Deutsch about the obstacles she overcame during her training.

We visited Chan Sha’ar Hagai, an independent war memorial for the military truck drivers who supplied food, weaponry and first aid during the War of Independence, and explored Machane Yehuda during the pre-Shabbat rush.

Our second week included donkey riding and bread-making at Kfar Kedem, a walking tour of Tzfat, and a talk about Kabbalah. We cruised the Kinneret and visited Israel’s renowned chocolate factory, De Karina. This was followed by the beautiful Jilabun hike, and a musical workshop at Katzrin Talmudic Park, where we learnt about the people who lived there before an earthquake destroyed the town.

A bike tour around the Agamon Hachula pools was followed by the Nachal Ayun hike, ending in a beautiful waterfall.

On Friday, we prayed shacharit at the Ein Kshatot archeological site. Saturday was filled with training, determination, and team bonding as we prepared for the soccer game and cheerleading contest between our two groups (Netzach v Lehava). To conclude our week, we visited the Atlit refugee camp that housed European Jewish refugees after WW2, then toured Caesarea, learning about King Herod and his empire.

During Week three, we visited the ANU Museum of the Jewish People and the sport museum, which focused mainly on Maccabiah – a special moment for me, as I’d participated in the 2022 games.

We toured Jaffa and the flea market then went to The Blind Museum where we experienced walking through markets, purchasing food, and taking public transport without the ability to see. We visited Shuk Hacarmel, where our senses were tantalised with the aroma of fresh herbs and spices, beautifully displayed foods and jewellery, and music blaring and shopkeepers bargaining.

We engaged in agricultural work at Sde Boker and visited Ben Gurion’s grave, which overlooks the Negev, symbolic of his dream to see the desert flourish. Riding camels exceeded all our expectations.

Later, we visited the Qumran caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were found in 1947. We heard from guest speaker Neil Lazarus about the media and how to advocate for Israel.

Week four started at 4:30am to see the sunrise on Masada and tour the fortress. We walked down and floated in the Dead Sea before bussing to Ein Gedi to explore the national park.

We studied at Ohr Sameach and visited the Israel Museum to see one of the full Dead Sea scrolls. We studied at the Gush Etzion Yeshiva and the Oratya Yeshiva in the Old City.

At the weekend, we climbed the Tel Saki Mountain overlooking Syria, and heard about one family’s involvement during the Yom Kippur War.

We visited archeological site Emek Tzurim where we sifted through sand, and on Y2i Day, we heard from an IDF soldier who won a Paralympic Gold Medal in tennis, after a helicopter crash left him paralysed. We bonded with students from other Jewish schools while watching the World Cup Final together, before enjoying a Chanukah party.

The following week, we travelled to Sderot and learned about the Gaza-Israel conflict. We toured Netiv Haasara, the moshav next to the border, meeting residents and leaving with an appreciation of the hardships they face.

We visited the ANZAC Museum to learn about the role of the ANZAC soldiers and the charge of Beer Sheva during WWI.

An activity with professional Israeli basketballer Tamir Goodman, the “Jewish Jordan”, was a fun interlude before visiting the Kfar Etzion sound and light show, touring Gush Etzion and the IDF cemetery to pay our respects to the soldiers who died fighting for our Jewish homeland. Terrorist attack survivor Kay Wilson shared her personal experiences of overcoming significant trauma, and we visited ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim in Jerusalem.

A passionate tisch on our final Shabbat brought our Year group closer. After Shabbat, we enjoyed the IST talent show. The next morning, we went to Magen David Adom for a CPR training course then to the Beit Halochem sport centre – a ZDVO funded charity providing sanctuary for injured soldiers and victims of terror. Our last day was very emotional, filled with singing and meaningful prayer at the Kotel. The IST program was an amazing experience and a journey connecting us to Israel and each other. On behalf of the whole group, I would like to thank our madrichim, the teachers who accompanied us, Y2i and The Moriah Foundation, and all who organised this fantastic tour. IST was a unique experience that helped shape my Jewish identity and develop my love for Israel. I have no doubt that the memories and friendships we made will remain with us forever.

Jonathan Cass is a student at Moriah College.


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