In an extraordinary culmination of four years of growth at Ilan High School, Ilan seniors spent a week in Israel, touring the land, visiting holy sites, and sharing poignant moments with their classmates and mentors. Watching the girls joy and wonder while exploring the land of our heritage, the incredible sensitivity they displayed for each other, their passion for hesed, and their heartfelt sincerity as they prayed at the graves of great rabbis was deeply inspiring.

As part of their final writing assignment, the students kept journals documenting their encounters and emotions during this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here are a few glimpses of their thoughts and feelings:

On Friday we went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. We took a comprehensive Honors seminar in Holocaust studies with Mrs. Chechik, but the reality of what we learned actually hit me when we went to the childrens memorial. There were six candles burning with countless mirrors all around which created over a million reflections. These reflections represented the children who were murdered. I looked at how much light each candle gave and I thought of how much light/life each extinguished soul could have given. It made me realize the importance of each soul, each individual in this world and how much impact I can have on so many.
Ariel Stoner

We were hiking in the mountains next to Masada. We were laughing and trying to avoid the rocks scattered on the desert floor. As we walked deeper into the canyons, we watched the sun sink low behind the mountains. We walked in silence once night fell, alone with our thoughts, when all of a sudden there was an echo of music coming from around the next crevice in the mountain. There was a private party just for us! We had a delicious barbecue, danced, and sang some classic Ilan-style kumzitz (sing-along).

When it dawned on us that our trip to Israel was almost over, tears rolled down our cheeks and laughter filled our hearts, because we knew that no matter what path we take, the bonds and memories we made during the past four years, are bonds that will last forever.
Tova Cohen

The Emek Zurim Archeological Dig was an awesome experience. We had the opportunity to sift through rock and debris to find ancient items. It was an amazing chance to touch the history of our forefathers.
Renee Sasson

I was involved in a hesed program at Ilan where we would pick up food from the stores on Norwood Avenue, package it, and deliver it to the hospitals in the area to ensure sick people and their families had food for Shabbat. This hesed program originated from Lotties Kitchen at Yad Eliezer in Israel, so going to Lotties Kitchen on our senior trip was an amazing experience. It was moving to know that a member of our community started a program that now reaches so many Jews all over Israel. Here we are, giving back to a land and people who have given us so much.
Laura Tebele

The Emek Zurim Archeological Dig was an awesome experience. We had the opportunity to sift through rock and debris to find ancient items. It was an amazing chance to touch the history of our forefathers.
Renee Sasson

On Saturday Night there was a rush of Jews, from all over the world, heading towards the Kotel to celebrate Yom Yerushalayim. We saw crowds of Jews singing songs of hope and vocalizing the need for the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash. There were echoes of love for Israel and joy at Jerusalems unification  throughout the night. It was powerful to see Jews from mall different places sharing in the joy of our people and our homeland. In Israel we all share one thing that makes us a family. Israel does that for us as a nation Ilan does that for us as a community.  It didnt matter where we came from before, the girls I spent the last four years with are my family and I am so sad that my Ilan experience is coming to an end.
Evelyn Missry

I felt closure on the last day when we went to the Kotel. My father taught me that whenever you are  inspired by a moment, the best way to hold onto it is with a tangible object. This way whenever you see the object, the intensity of the moment will come back. On this trip I bought a siddur (prayer book). I went to the Kotel, held my siddur against the wall, and prayed one of the most wonderful prayers of my life. It was filled with anticipation of my future. Whenever I use my siddur at home, I remember the intensity of that moment, the inspiration from our trip, and my growth at Ilan over the past four years. I clutch my siddur and I start my prayers with the hope that this feeling will stay with me forever.
Jacqueline Cohen

Visiting the water tunnels in the City of David was a great moment that I will always remember. We walked through what was the main water source of the Beit Hamikdash. I was a little afraid to go in, but all my friends convinced me that it would be okay. Several girls forgot to bring flashlightsand of course I was one of them. We were not able to see much. Holding on to my teachers and friends hands quelled my fears and helped me through the walk in the dark tunnel. I finished and came out with a huge smile. In many ways, the walk in the water tunnel was a powerful metaphor for my experience at Ilan. I have the courage to undertake any challenge, even to head into places that are unknown, because I have the light of my teachers guidance and support of my friends to help me through.
Shelley Laniado

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