In early January, a group of twelve Central students traveled to Israel for a month to live and learn in Ulpanat Lachish, in the south of Israel, as a part of Central’s Ba’aretz program. While there, these students will have the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in Israeli culture. Those traveling include sophomores Amy Morris, Reema Gampel, and Serah Tolchin, as well as juniors Aviva Kessock, Tiferet Tuchman, Debra Burger, Keira Kahn, Gitty Kahn, Leora Strass, Meira Schuck, Talia Frankel, and Abby Keehn.

They were be hosted by Israeli families, attended school with Israeli students, and had unforgettable travel experiences – including a glimpse into the inner workings of political life in Israel. “My favorite part of the trip was our trip to the Knesset,” said sophomore Serah Tolchin. “We learned so much about the Israeli government, and even got to talk to a member of the Knesset, Ohad Tal. We were given a tour and a chance to observe beautiful art and the Plenum Hall, the room where the Knesset votes. It was so interesting and informative.” Journeys have also included trips to significant cultural sites. Sophomore Reema Gampel described her experience visiting the Old City of Jerusalem: “My most meaningful experience so far was seeing the walls of the Old City,” she said. “This is my first time in Israel, and actually seeing the same walls that protected our Jewish ancestors was very emotional and inspiring.” Junior Gitty Kahn described the experience of learning more about the special community hosting Central, Lachish: “We have had the incredible opportunity to learn about the history of Lachish through the Museum of Gush Katif in Nitzan,” she said. “Lachish is a newer development that was built up after the expulsion of Gush Katif. In 2005, the Knesset voted to evict the Jewish residents of Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip as a way to promote peace with the surrounding Arabs. Lachish is full of families originally from Gush Katif, and so many of our new Israeli friends are the result of this expulsion. Learning this background behind Lachish has helped us understand our friends and their lives here, while also allowing us to appreciate their hospitality when they were not always treated with that same respect and care.” Sophomore Amy Morris also commented on the warmth with which Central’s students were welcomed: “I was blown away by the הכנסת אורחים here. When we first landed in Israel, the girls from the Ulpana greeted us at the airport before we even got to Lachish. You can really sense their excitement to have us there. It doesn’t compare to anything I’ve seen in America or anywhere else. It’s so special.” Thanks to the administration and students at Ulpanat Lachish for welcoming Central’s travelers with open arms, as well as to the Central administration, which made this year’s Ba’aretz program possible. Special thanks, as well, to the student madricha in Israel, Revaya Aronoff, and the special student host in Israel, Chanie Loew. Central looks forward to hosting four Ulpanat Lachish students here in mid-Febraury!