Wednesday, January 19, 2011

JSU South Florida Goes Israel To See Young Judaea’s Year Course – Day 4

Planting tree's on an army base on Tu B'shvat with Young Judaea teenagers
One of the great things that Year Course does is that it takes students on a number of experiences that the average tourist will never be able to do on their own. Some of these programs are not easy to plan and because of their nature could change on a moment’s notice. This morning we traveled to an army base to meet with Year Course students who were participating in a ceremony with border patrol soldiers. Among those that had gathered at the ceremony were families who had lost loved ones in battle. It was good to see the students interacting with the Israeli families at the event and learning about the soldiers that had been lost. Most Jewish American teenagers have no concept of war or what it means to engage an enemy in order to protect your country. When they meet with the soldiers they see that they are human and often the same sage. All of the preconceived notions and misconceptions that they have seen on the news automatically disappear as they see that this is not a brutal army but rather a very human army. An army that is here to protect its citizens and at the same time engages an enemy with compassion and concern.

Since tomorrow is Tu B’shvat we also planted tree’s with the soldiers on the army base. Afterwards they performed a weapons demonstration and also showed us how they use different tactics in a number of different combat scenarios. They even demonstrated how they use different types of camouflage to blend into their environment. There were soldiers stationed on a hill right in front of us and I couldn’t tell a soldier from a rock or a soldier from a bush. One by one they stood up and we were all amazed by the demonstration. Afterwards we met up with Adam Jenshil, the Director of Year course for a lunch in Jerusalem at Burgers Bar. Once again we got to share our experiences with him and its great to know that we are all on the same page.

This afternoon we went to meet with Rabbi Yossela Ote, the Rosh Yeshiva of Shalem, the orthodox component of the Year Course and who also overseas Shevet, a less formal Jewish Educational program that is open to students of all backgrounds. He explained the challenges that he has faced since joining the program, but that he wants to strengthen the formal learning that takes place. He explained that Shalem had evolved over the last decade and there are a lot of misconceptions about the program. As a graduate of Gush, he takes his job very seriously and is only concerned for the students’ physical and spiritual wellbeing. He travels to American Yeshivas to meet with principals to explain that Shalem is the perfect choice for an Orthodox student who cannot sit in a Beit Midrash all day. Shalem allows students to spend four hours engaged in serious learning but then provides ample time and plenty of opportunities to volunteer in the local community.

Finally, we went to two of the students apartments to see how they live in their respective communities and we also attended one of the classes along with the students. Another amazing day with the folks at Year Course! Stay tuned for the final day…

Year Course participants watch the soldiers demonstate their gear.

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