Students have life-changing experiences in Israel!
Over the years, students at Carver Middle School in Tulsa and Amal Nofarim School in Tiberias, Israel have engaged in a partnership that has included learning about each other through letter exchanges, music, dance, and a concurrent unit of study on the Holocaust, which has always culminated with a live video conference between the two schools.
For the first time ever in this 17 year relationship, this year marks a new direction for the partnership as the two schools had their very first student and teacher exchange. Generous gifts from the Jewish Federation, the Oklahoma Israel Exchange, the Charles and Lynne Schusterman Family Foundation, the Tulsa Global Alliance, and the Carver Foundation made the exchange possible. The entire exchange was well planned with the committed work of many individuals and especially Partnership2Gether and Sovev Kinneret Partnership.
Going to Israel really changed my life and how I look at things. Two of my favorite activities were kayaking and going to Purim. When we went kayaking it was a beautiful day at the Sea of Galilee. The water was surprisingly sweet and cool. Did you know that the kayaks we used are easier to handle than most. After we kayaked (despite the "no swimming" sign) we got into the water. We had also found these big foam rectangles to float on and we had lots of fun pushing each other off of them and paddling them around. Getting ready for Purim at Noah's house was cool too. I was the Cheshire Cat, Mia (my friend and room mate) was Sushi, and Noah was a rock star. I would tell everyone's costumes but that would take too long. At the Purim party we all had fun dancing and eating food. The different music had no effect on our ability to dance. The whole trip was super cool and I hope that the next delegation that goes will have as much fun as I did!
- Leah Wanamaker
My two favorite memories from Israel were going to the Purim Ball and kayaking in the Sea of Galilee. For the Purim Ball, Cynthia (one of the other Americans) and I got our makeup done by a friend of our host family. I was a cat and Cynthia was a genie. One of the Israeli girls' friends did our hair for us. We had a great time getting ready and it was really fun. We went to the school for the party and we danced and sang and had lots of fun. On the Sabbath, we went to the Sea of Galilee and we kayaked around and went up the Jordan River. Then we played and splashed around in the water for a while. We had a picnic, then went back into the water. The water was really cold but it was really fun. Overall, I had an amazing time in Israel and it was a life changing experience to be able to experience other cultures and to meet so many different people.
One of my favorite experiences while in Israel is our journey to the Golan Heights in Northern Israel. We rode in Jeeps up to the Heights, and saw many remnants of the War. It is so much more educational and entertaining to see history preserved. This effect was heightened because the areas of interest were not transported to a museum or photographed, they were right in front of our eyes, unaffected by the innovation of the 21st Century. Also, we got to go inside an abandoned Israeli military bunker, which is just as cool as it sounds (if not cooler). There¹s nothing quite like navigating a war bunker with no lighting that hasn¹t been inhabited in over forty years. When I went to the Golan Heights, my lessons and packets came to life, as did my interest in the material.
I very much enjoyed swimming, kayaking, and just roughhousing in the Sea of Galilee. Although not scheduled, this event was much fun and is one of my fondest memories of my time in Israel. Since the event took place during Shabbat, our day was not busy and we were not stressed. Because of this, it was a casual yet incredible bonding experience not only with the Israeli delegation, but with my American peers as well. Through this experience (and many others), I learned that although our cultures are different, we are one and the same.
Israel Education for a Tulsa Teacher:
I want to express my deepest appreciation for allowing me the opportunity to visit Israel in March, 2016, as a member of the Carver Middle School Exchange with Nofarim. The experiences I had were memorable. The one thing I have shared with my family, friends, and colleagues is how the trip was vacation-like. Never once during the trip did we feel threatened or endangered. Instead, the trip was full of historical sites, delicious food, friendliness, fun, walking, breathtaking sites, humor, heartfelt mission, and so much more.
Several things come to mind when I think of the Israel trip. One was how organized the trip was. Lori Abramson had the days filled with various and worthwhile activities. In Jerusalem, she selected a good tour guide, Margee, who shared a lot of information with humor and facts. What was interesting is that all the guides (at least 3 or 4) and Lori were originally born and lived in the United States. But, as adults, they moved to Israel. They love living in Israel. Not only did we see present day Jerusalem, but it was amazing to know we walked the same steps of the narrow streets and alleys as those who preceded us from ancient times. While in Jerusalem, we visited the Wailing Wall. I was touched by the somberness and meaningful experience. I observed the women on the female side who did not take this experience lightly. They were serious and in their moment of solitude you could see they were not thinking of the day’s activities. Some even had tears in their eyes. Some brought their children with them to experience the moment. The messages of prayer I wrote to several people made me contemplate and reflect as I placed the cards in the wall.
One crucial and important objective of this exchange is for the students to bond and develop friendships. Well, the students did bond. First, they did this in Tulsa. When the Carver group arrived in Israel, the Israeli students were enthusiastically waiting for us at the airport. Not only did both the Carver and Nofarim students bond, they said the relationships are for a lifetime. Several students from Carver and Nofarim asked me on the second to last full day a question. The question is: When are we going to visit each other again? I said there were no plans for any future organized group trip to visit each other. They quickly said this was “unfair.” I said to please explain this. The students said that all the adults hoped that they would become friends while in Tulsa. They did. Then, all the adults and organizations hoped the students would continue the friendships while in Israel. This did happen. Now, they said, you don’t expect or plan to have any more trips to continue these friendships? We want to see each other. I said, probably not. They were extremely disappointed and not happy. But, some of the Carver students said they will try to plan for a senior trip in high school to visit their friends in Israel. I thought what an accomplishment that one of the major objectives was met. The seeds of friendship and opening the door to global understanding are being met.
I observed the importance of family and service. While in Jerusalem, I shared a room with one of the teachers. She talked of her family. She has 8 children and her brother has 13 children. Even though they live in two separate cities, the two families spend time together, especially for Shabbat and other holidays. In Tiberias, I stayed with the principal of Nofarim. Her family is very important. Her oldest son is in the military. Currently, he is stationed in Haifa. Every Friday, he returns home for Shabbat. The principal’s husband said he is proud of his son. However, he has one worry. It is when his son and the other soldiers, who are in their military uniforms, are waiting at the bus stop to return to Haifa. He said any suicide bomber or terrorist could attack a group of soldiers. Their second son will graduate from high school in a week. Then, proudly he will join the military. He wants to become a fighter pilot. My final days were spent with another teacher. All three of her sons have served in the military.
Another meaningful experience was visiting the Poriya Hospital. We purchased toys for the children patients. But, while we were at the hospital, the pediatric doctor and nurses explained how the toys would be used. We learned that Syrian children who do not have medical care are brought to the Israeli border. The children are left at the border. The Israeli soldiers pick the children up and take them to Poriya Hospital. The children are medically taken care of by the hospital staff. When the children recover and regain their health, they are given a toy or two. Then the soldiers take the children back to the border. The parents pick them up. The doctor said they have seen as many as 400 patients in just the past few years. Now, do we hear any of this goodwill in the news?
The Carver teachers have shared with Dr. Woolridge, Carver principal, the importance of continuing the relationship with Nofarim. The teachers know what we need to do at Carver to make our students aware about Israel and activities to strengthen this bond. Plus, the Nofarim teachers want to continue this relationship. As you walk through the hallways of Nofarim school you can see posters, postcards, and pictures of Tulsa as well as Oklahoma. We must continue this relationship that was begun almost twenty years ago by Debbie Givens (Tulsa) and another teacher from Nofarim.
As a result of this first trip exchange to Israel, already I have had four students and parents to approach me and ask what they need to do to go on the next trip. There is excitement and a desire to visit Israel.
Once again, I sincerely appreciate the funding and support the Oklahoma Israel Exchange Organization has provided to allow Carver students and teachers to travel to Israel. Your sponsorship is helping to plant seeds of friendship, understanding, history, and awareness among individuals who represent the two countries. Your organization is helping to bridge individuals to be closer and not so distant. Thank You!!!
If you have comments or questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
Sincerely, Patty M. Jorgenson
Carver 7th Grade Geography Teacher
From the Teacher/Leader:
On behalf of the Carver Middle School Nofarim Exchange staff and students, I would like to thank our benefactors for their generous support of the Sovev Kinneret Partnership for the Carver –Nofarim Exchange. Your gifts made it possible for three teachers to travel with six students to Israel in March in order to help us maintain and enhance our ongoing relationship between Carver Middle School in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Amal Nofarim Middle School in Tiberius, Israel. During our visit both students and teachers became ambassadors of intercultural understanding and gained global perspectives that have created a stronger cultural bond, which we are sharing with other teachers and with students in our classrooms. As a result, we have watched this experience ignite a fire in our students. They want to know more about Israel and Israelis, and many students now want to participate in the exchange program. This visit provided an opportunity for our group to have authentic first-hand experience with Israeli culture, history, and religions. As teachers, we are thrilled with the tremendous learning that occurred during our visit. There is no greater education than experience, and our students and teachers had the experience of a lifetime. Our kids have even designated a Carver-Nofarim holiday for themselves in December, declaring it “Delegation Day. “ They plan to have a group Skype session with their Israeli hosts on that day and hope to have a reunion in their senior year of high school.
Thank you for investing in our teachers and students at Carver Middle School. Your gifts will help us to continue to develop our relationship with a strong foundation.
Sincerely, Jeanne Hart