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Greater New York

The opportunity of having Israel as my classroom has been truly amazing.

The opportunity of having Israel as my classroom has been truly amazing. Learning history in the place that it actually happened is something I never thought I would be able to do. When I learn about history at the site it took place, I not only feel connected to the story, but Judaism as a whole as well.

We recently had a tiyul to Masada and had class on top of the mountain. This tiyul challenged me because the last time I climbed Masada, it was too hot to climb and I took the short way up. I was not expecting hiking up to be as difficult as it was, but I am proud of myself for completing it. If I had learned the story of Masada in a typical classroom, it honestly would have blended in with all of the other tragedies that have come from the persecution of the Jews. However, overlooking the desert and beautiful sunrise on top of Masada made me realize what the Jews must have felt when they were surrounded by Roman soldiers. There was truly no place to go and no favorable options. I could really feel their fear as I stood in the middle of the vast desert. If I had learned about the story in a classroom, I would have condoned the suicide saying it was the easy way out, but I now understand it was what the Jews had to do in order to die freely.

The most important thing that I took away from Masada was the connection of modern Israel to Masada. Israel is surrounded by its enemies just like Masada was. The story of Masada signifies the importance of Jews and people in general all over the world supporting Israel. I have always felt strongly about Jews supporting Israel, whether they live here or not because it is our homeland. My teacher had my classmates and I pick up a rock from Masada to bring home to America. The idea behind this activity is either ourselves or someone of our choice will bring the rock back to Masada. This shows our support for Israel by returning. This activity was meaningful to me because it signifies the strength we have as Jews if we work together to support the State of Israel. I hope to give the stone to my brother because although he has already been to Israel, I am sad he couldn't join me on this program and hope he can return as soon as possible.

On our tiyul to the caves, we learned about the Bar Kochba Revolt. Guerilla warfare was a military strategy used by Bar Kochba and his forces in this revolt. Basements were turned into underground tunnels for the rebels to hide in and attack the Roman forces from. It was beneficial to actually crawl through the tunnels and see what Bar Kochba, his forces and their families went through living in the tunnels for three years. I am not claustrophobic, but clawing through the tunnels was still very difficult for me just because most the time was spent on my hands and knees or even my stomach trying to maneuver through small spaces. I can't imagine living in the dark and tiny caves for years, as it was difficult to be in there for less than an hour.  I would have never understood the challenges of the Bar Kochba Revolt to the level that I do now without physically crawling through the tunnels.

Using Israel and all of the different landscapes as my classroom has allowed me to really understand the history I am learning about. I think one of the main reasons the Jewish History class I am taking is by far my favorite class, despite history being my least favorite subject in school, is I am using Israel as my classroom. I actually understand and feel connected to the material I am learning.