Of the many events and celebrations we participate in at HDS, our celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day) is among my favorites. On that fun-filled afternoon, the entire student body is divided into multi-age groups, and the groups move from room to room to experience a variety of Israel-themed activities. For over a decade now, Morah Bev has planned these activities—generating new ideas, tinkering with old ones, and gathering supplies for this all-Israel, all-school party. The students love the hands-on experiences in each classroom, which enable them to learn about the cornerstones of Israeli society and the staples of its culture. It’s an easy way to make connections between their lives as American children and that place some refer to as the “homeland” of the Jewish people.
Our Gansters particularly enjoyed squeezing orange juice, while large numbers of first and second graders preferred the “army training” station. And of course most everyone enjoyed the cupcakes! How are these related to Israel? Well, it’s a birthday after all! How can anyone resist a yummy blue and white cupcake with a little Israeli flag in the frosting?!
For me, however, the best part of the day takes place at 8:15 am, when the Gansters perform at the schoolwide assembly and conclude their presentation by singing Hatikvah—the Israeli national anthem. In fact, as I think of it now, it occurs to me that this is one of the highlights of the entire year for me as a teacher at HDS. I have the immense responsibility and privilege to be one of the first people to introduce my beloved Israel to my beloved Gansters. For some of them, I am the first Israeli they’ve ever met. It is my mission to develop in my students a sense of familiarity with and belonging to that faraway land. My goal is give them enough of a taste so that they’ll be glad to learn more about Israel down the line. That’s a lot to do, and I take it very seriously.
Teaching young students the words of the Israeli national anthem is an important part of this effort for me. It is a way of giving back to the community I call home. It ties so many things together about my past, my present, and our future, and it is a source of immense pride and comfort.