The Nov. 18 terrorist attack at a Jerusalem synagogue cast a shadow over the send-off that Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy gave to its upper school students as they left on an 11-day trip to Israel.
“We consider this a mission of solidarity,” trip sponsor Dennis Berman told the 1,100 students, parents and staff in the Rockville school’s auditorium a day after the attack. “Someone asked me, ‘Are you still going?’ Of course we’re still going.”
Parents and students described a mixture of excitement, concern and defiance about visiting Israel after two Palestinians murdered four Jewish worshippers and a Druze border policeman with knives, axes and a gun inside a synagogue in the west Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof.
“You’d expect the kids to be scared, and obviously we’re touched and hurt by what happened,” said senior Leora Troi. “It’s important to be there for [the Israelis]. If we’re scared and we don’t go, we’re giving up.”
“I’m definitely nervous,” said parent Karen Wasserman, as the 193 students began boarding buses for the airport. “It’s an anxious time.”
She said the group would probably be less nervous once they are in Israel. “Seeing the reality on the ground is usually not as stressful as seeing it from afar.”
Nearby, Wasserman’s daughter Reena, a junior, stood with friends Karen Shapiro and Arianna Stone, both juniors, and senior Amit Gerstein. Asked how they felt at that moment, they delivered a group run-on answer: “It’s surreal … I remember being in preschool and seeing the sendoff ceremony. We’re in shock that it’s actually happening … I feel Israel is my home. It’s important to go now.”
Devorah Grayson was saying goodbye to her daughter, Elisheva, a ninth-grader. “She has been psyched about this since before school started,” Grayson said. “If you’re going to be in Israel this is the time to be there because security is heightened and to show the Arabs that we won’t stay away.”