Denise Deveaux teaches Fine Arts and World History at Northwood Academy High School in Summerville, SC. She was selected to represent Charleston, SC in the 2017 Partnership 2Gether Educator Delegation*. Below is her reflection on the week she spent in Israel as part of a cohort of teachers from across the Southeastern United States and the Hadera-Eiron region in Israel.
My Unforgettable Journey
Upon my arrival at the Tel-Aviv airport, I felt such a warm welcome from Yael, the Education Consortium Director. We had a dinner and met our host families. Michal, my host was a perfect match. We stayed up chatting and getting to know one another until early morning.
The next morning we were divided up and visited several schools. I went to visit an elementary school, Alonium School in Pardess Hanna in Karkur, which is a suburban area in Hadera. The students were assembled in the gymnasium and they welcomed me with reciting poetry and sang songs. They also presented a beautiful dance. Additionally, they thanked their teachers as a part of Israel Teacher’s Day. They even gave me a gift of Hanukkah candles and candy. Following the assembly, the entire school celebrated Hanukkah. The students were very welcoming and quite curious about me. The students were very engaged in the Hanukkah celebration. The major difference I saw was the freedom the students were given in making choices as to which activity they chose to participate. The two sixth grade girls that gave me a tour were very bright and were interested in our schools in the U.S. We then visited the Ecological Greenhouse in Kibbutz Ein-Shemer which was an innovative educational center. How I wish we had such a place here for our students! We met together to discuss the Jewish Peoplehood Day activity in which we would participate at the schools the next day. We had Kabbalat Shabbat with the Israeli teachers and community at the Jewish Center. Later that evening, I shared in Hanukkah with my host family. It was so wonderful to share this time with them. I never once felt like an outsider.
On Saturday, I was able to spend the whole day with my host and her family. We visited a Holocaust museum at an area Kibbutz and then visited Nazareth. We then ate dinner at a wonderful Italian restaurant near their home. It was such a great time together with the family.
On Sunday, I visited the Hadera-Beit Eliezer High School. These students were celebrating Jewish Peoplehood Day as well as Hanukkah. I spent an hour speaking with one of the history teachers and we exchanged ideas on teaching the Holocaust. I then sat on a panel with fifteen students and they asked me questions about U.S. education and Jewish identity. They were quite surprised that I was not Jewish. I learned that all students must serve three years in the IDF upon graduation. I imagine this is quite a right of passage into adulthood. The students definitely showed their pride in serving their country. We then ate lunch at Mei Ami and headed to Neve Michael Children’s Village, a home for children in crisis. The facility was so well-organized and really put the needs of the children as a priority. We spent the evening celebrating Hanukkah with our host families. I enjoyed this tremendously because I really got to know Michal and her family. I even learned how to cook latkes!
On Monday, we had to say a very tearful good-bye to our host families. We headed on to Jerusalem where we first visited the Herzl Museum and learned about his efforts to lead the fight in declaring Israel a sovereign state. We toured the Jewish Quarter in the Old City and celebrated Hanukkah at the Western Wall.
On Tuesday, I visited a middle school class and we did an art activity to celebrate Jewish Peoplehood Day. It was interesting to hear the students describe their artwork and how they identified themselves as religious or secular Jews. Many of the students shared that their grandparents were religious but that their parents were not. I was surprised by that. We then had a presentation by a scholar name Avraham Infield. He explained that the Five-Legged Table was essential to unifying the Jewish nation. I found this very intriguing. We then visited the Market in Jerusalem which held some of the most beautiful fruits and vegetables. We visited the Friends of Zion Museum - a brand new interactive museum dedicated to Christians that helped Jews throughout history. This was especially meaningful to me. That evening, we toured the Western Wall Tunnels - this is such a testament to our forefathers abilities.
On Wednesday, we visited Yad Vashem - we had a tour guide who lost both parents in the Shoah. This was particularly of interest to me as a Holocaust educator. We headed to Tel-Aviv - which I define as the New York City of Israel! We visited Independence Hall and learned about the adoption of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. We toured Neve Tzedek - which is a bustling village. We had a lecture that evening with Rachel Korazim, at which she presented Israeli education curriculum and spoke about teaching Israeli history outside of Israel.
On our final day, we visited Bina Tel Aviv - the Jewish Movement for Social Change. This was especially interesting to see how the Bina work with the many refugees Israel has taken in from Sudan, Darfur, Rwanda, and Syria. These workers that help with the refugees are mostly volunteers and have such a heart for people. We then visited the Carmel Market which also had all sorts of foods as well as tourist items. What a place to test all of the senses! Our final tour was of BeitHatfutsot - the museum of the Jewish People. This museum strives to strengthen Jewish identity in Israel and around the world.
This trip was truly an experience of a lifetime. Throughout the entire journey, I felt at home among all of the friends I made. The Israelis as well as the American Jewish teachers explained many customs and traditions with me and I soaked up all that they offered me. They never once made me feel uncomfortable or different and embraced me in every way. I am planning to begin my partnership with Michal’s seventh grade and my sixth grade students this week. We will begin with introductory letters and then our students will make powerpoint presentations about our schools. From there, we will begin to share projects across the curriculum.
I want to thank each one of you on the Board for allowing me to represent Charleston on the Hadera Education2gether Consortium. I am dedicated to continuing to work on the partnership and would be honored to work with other teachers here in Charleston to get them to join the partnership. Our journey has just begun.
*About Partnership 2Gether:
Partnership 2Gether is an initiative of the Jewish Agency for Israel that creates living bridges between Israeli and American communities. Charleston belongs to the Southeastern consortium, made up of 10 cities and the Hadera-Eiron region in Israel. Any time someone from Charleston goes to Israel, they can be hosted in the Hadera-Eiron region (25 miles North of Tel Aviv). Our partners there will provide customized programmatic opportunities and site visits - anything from sightseeing to witnessing the impact that Charleston has made through campaign dollars.
Partnership 2Gether also provides a variety of cultural exchange opportunities, including opportunities for educators, young professionals, and lay-leadership to connect with peers across the ocean.
To learn more, contact RebeccaL@jewishcharleston.org