Yom Yerushalayim Mission – Part 1
Our first stop on today’s part of the AMIT Yom Yerushalayim Mission was Mount Herzl, the national cemetery, where we discussed the meaning of the liberation of Jerusalem 50 years ago, during the Six-Day War, before visiting the graves of some of Israel’s historic leaders.
We then traveled to the AMIT Modi’in High School for boys, where we saw the school’s slogan – “Learning, Experiencing, Believing” – in action. We got a firsthand look at the prize-winning innovation designed by a group of ninth-graders, who took the top spot at a competition for young entrepreneurs sponsored by El Al Young Entrepreneurs Competition. Their picnic tablecloth that turns into a trash bag is printed with games for the kids to play while their parents grill up lunch, and is designed to fight the litter problem in Israel’s national parks and trails. Based on the sales after the visit—mission participants couldn’t resist picking some up to bring home—these are clearly a big hit.
After hearing from Rabbi Itamar Haikin, the school’s principal, we met a young oleh—appropriately enough named Amit—who moved to Israel from New York last summer and shared his story about his absorption into the school community. “I felt at home here from the first day,” said Amit. “Rav Haikin, my teachers, the other kids, they all made me feel like I was a part of things. I am really glad that I chose to study here, where I feel I belong.”
We also heard about a unique “craft and mindfulness” program, devised by Arnon, the school’s av bayit (superintendent), that helps kids with mild learning difficulties (as Arnon put it, “They have shpilkes in their tuches”). Once a week they have an hour-long session learning how to calm themselves and manage their anger through meditation, followed by a hands-on carpentry workshop. The program gives them tools that help them succeed with their studies and interpersonal skills. It is the direct result of Principal Haikin’s implementation of the AMIT methodology of encouraging the staff to share their passions—in this case meditation and carpentry—with the students.
Next up was a visit to the AMIT Pre-Military Junior College in Rehovot, where we enjoyed a BBQ lunch with recent graduates of this unique two-year post-high school program, which combines high-level technical studies toward a practical engineering certificate with serious Torah learning, army preparation and life-skills education. As Rav Tzuri Levy, director of the junior college, says, “We give our students the tools they need to succeed in life—professionally and personally. Our goal is that they can serve their country in a meaningful way, marry and create a family and support that family with dignity and Torah values.” The key is in the warmth and dedication with which the staff embraces the students. During the visit, we saw the students’ year-end electronics projects, heard about their difficult family circumstances and spoke with recent graduates serving in the Israel Air Force. Especially touching was watching two young men receive their diplomas.
On our way back to Jerusalem we stopped at Radar Hill, an outpost that fell to the Jordanians in May 1948 during the War of Independence and was recaptured on June 5, 1967 by the IDF’s famous Harel Brigade. The site features a moving memorial to the brigade’s fallen soldiers from the 1948 and 1967 wars, and amazing views of Jerusalem and the Judean Desert to the east and the Coastal Plain to the west.
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi joined us at our private dinner at Binyanei Hauma, where we then heard a moving talk from Leah and Simcha Goldin, parents of fallen IDF soldier Hadar Goldin, z”l, whose remains have been held by Hamas in Gaza since the 2014 war, about the struggle to recover their son’s body. We then joined with religious Zionists from around the world for the World Mizrahi Movement’s Celebrate Jerusalem gala, featuring Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and other dignitaries, and a live musical program.