After their arrival to Poland, FJA Seniors visited the Okapova cemetery and learned about the incredible Jewish community living in Warsaw before WW2. They travelled to the Warsaw Ghetto, visiting the last remaining part of the ghetto wall. They were also able to see Umshlagplatz, the old train platform where a monument now stands.
The next day, seniors visited the Majdanek concentration camp. The students read poems written by survivors and said Kaddish for the victims. Seeing the Majdanek camp was incomprehensible on a large scale and heartbreaking on a human scale.
“I wonder how so many people could take part in such a horrible thing and how so many others could watch them do it.”
“I like wearing the Israeli flags at the camp. It was a big [message] to the Nazis.”
“I have read about it and studied it, but I couldn’t comprehend how big it was. How industrial.”
“I wonder just how it happened and if it could ever happen again.”
“There are too many good people in the world to let that happen again. We have to have faith in one another.”
“I thought of my family when we entered the separation area. And what if I had to leave my father or my brother. Even what if we—my friends—were being separated there and would never see each other again?”
“I think that it was terrible and the worst of times, but I also think that there is hope. I think that there is good in the face of that evil and it gives me hope. There is hope that we are here.”
“I don’t know what to feel. I don’t want to force it but I don’t know how to think about it. I’m not sure when I will understand it or if I will.”
The following day, FJA seniors visited Zbilatowska Gora, where thousands were murdered in the forest. Students read a poem about the forest and the trees that watched, and were asked to go to the trees and write notes to themselves, their future selves, and perhaps their future children.
Students also visited remains of the old synagogue in Tarnow. Once 50% of the population and the deputy mayor were Jewish, now there are none.
After a wonderful Shabbat in Krakow, walking all over the city and spending time with the Jewish community there, the seniors ended their day with havdalah at the JCC in Krakow.
They ended their time in Poland with an emotional journey that took them to Aushwitz to learn, experience and celebrate life.
Stay tuned for the next part of their trip in Israel!
After landing in Tel Aviv in the early morning hours of Memorial Day, FJA seniors traveled up the coast to see the Roman ruins at Caesarea. They had breakfast at a kibbutz in the Carmel Mountains and then toured Atlit, the detention camp where the British held Jews in pre-state Israel. They spent the rest of their first day on speedboat rides along the coast and spent the evening enjoying Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda Street.
Students spent their Tuesday in the Old City of Jerusalem, exploring parts of the modern city.
After navigating the narrow alleyways and even the underground cisterns of the Old City, they enjoyed the culinary flavors of the Machane Yehudah market.
On Wednesday, the seniors had a great morning hike, volunteered at Pantry Packers, went to a mall for lunch, visited Mt. Herzl to see the memorials, and had a fantastic sunset Jeep ride through the desert.
The next day, they took a tour of Zichron Yaakov, visited the Beth-El community, and went to the city of Akko to learn its history and to visit the former British Akko prison and the Tunisian Synagogue. The temperature during their trip has been very hot, so they also made a pit stop at a mall for some much needed air conditioning. In the evening, the students got together with Israeli youth in Detroit's partnership region for dinner and a fun activity.
A busy and hot day the day before was followed by a busy morning/early afternoon for the seniors. They began the day with a hike down the Arbel Cliffs, a visit to Tsfat, and some rafting on a tributary off the Jordan River. They then returned to the hotel to get ready for Shabbat, which included pre-Shabbat dancing and celebrations.
The students return home this Wednesday. Stay tuned to hear more about the final leg of their journey!
During their Shabbat in Israel, FJA seniors celebrated Shabbat at services and then had Kiddush at Kibbutz residents' homes. They were also given a tour of the Kibbutz. In the evening, they participated in a group activity and Havdallah. Once Shabbat concluded, the students headed to Tiberias for a musical boat ride on the Kineret, had ice cream and shopped at the Tiberias Promenade.
On Sunday, the seniors went on the Jilabun waterfall hike and visited an olive oil factory where they tested out the face scrubs. They made sure to head to bed early to prepare to hike up Masada at sunrise the next day.
Early the next morning, seniors made their way up Masada for a sunrise hike using the snake path. They were also able to relax and enjoy floating in the Dead Sea. In the afternoon and evening, they explored Tel Aviv and had some free time.
On their final day in Israel, the students visited the Delek Group headquarters and learned how Israel gas fields have changed regional geopolitics. From there, some students went to the Etzel (Irgun) Museum, and students who studied under Morah Malli for the past 4 years joined her in sitting Shiva for the passing of her mother. She wasn’t expecting FJA students to visit, but they surprised her by doing so. Afterwards, the group reunited for shopping and lunch at Shuk HaCarmel. They then toured Yafo and at the end of the day had dinner and a closing session in Tel Aviv.
The seniors are now home an amazing, eye opening trip. Next stop, graduation!