[By Angela Balasanian]
This past summer, two La Cañada High School English teachers, Mrs. Moore and Mr. Padilla, took a once in a lifetime trip to the state of Israel. In the short ten day journey, they traveled to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Beersheva, Masada, and many other cities. The two teachers were joined by twenty other high school teachers from the Los Angeles Area, who they first met a month before at a workshop at the American Jewish University in Brandeis, California, through the support of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles.
This trip was not only meant to be a vacation, but also an educational experience of the Jewish culture; the teachers attended lectures by educators, families, students, and business leaders who gave deep insights about the culture, beliefs, and history of Judaica. Many of the lectures and historic visits will be used in the World Religions Unit when many sophomores study the sacred texts of the Old and New Testament.
Mr. Padilla had already explored Israel as a student at Stanford and stated, “I was then more submerged in Arabic culture and language in East Jerusalem, and thus I came away with minimal exposure to the reality of the new nation of Israel emerging.”
On the trip, the group of teachers encountered many exciting adventures. They took a jeep tour through the Golan Heights and visited a former Syrian bunker, where one of the jeeps nearly ran over a grenade in the road! They also traveled on camels in the desert and even floated in the Dead Sea!
Mrs. Moore stated, “Every single day was an adventure of a lifetime. Our lives were changed.”
The food was great everywhere they went, especially food from the Sea of Galilee and the Shuk marketplace in Jerusalem. The Shuk marketplace, also known as Mahane Yehuda market, has over 250 vendors which sell everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to falafels and sweet baklava. They also attended a Shabbat dinner in Tel Aviv, which has made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest such dinner to be held.
Although the trip was filled with laughter, tears were shed because of Israel’s sorrowful history. At the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, they revisited the gruesome times of the Holocaust where nearly 2 million children's lives were lost.
Mrs. Moore stated that this trip changed her life significantly. Her favorite part of the trip was when they first saw the Sea of Galilee.
She commented, “Seeing all the Biblical sites and picturing the countless stories taking place centuries ago in those holy locations made every single day unique and special.”
The main aspect of this trip that touched many of the teachers was the positive feedback they received from the Israelites. Their optimistic outlook, regardless of how negative the situation, is inspirational to many who visit the country. Although the country has experienced and is still in a constant struggle, the positive attitude of its people is what many would say is so incredible.
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