David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir were among the Israeli luminaries who packed the library inside Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville week to celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary. The fifth-graders who impersonated the famous Israelis were presenting projects to their parents, speaking about their characters in front of posters they created with photos and facts written in Hebrew and English.
Teacher Oshrat Korkos said she hoped that by getting into costume and character, the students could learn from each other about Israel’s key figures.
“Do you know there’s an airport named after me?” Ben-Gurion said in character to a parent who passed by.
Sitting attentively in a chair, wearing a white dress shirt and a kippah, was 11-year-old Ranaan Bernan, in the role of Israel’s first prime minister.
“I think it’s a great time for all of the Jews, and it’s also a sad time, because many Jews lost their lives fighting for independence,” he said.
Georgia Lindenauer, 10, wore a strand of pearls to imitate one of Meir’s signature accessories. Georgia said she was surprised to learn that Israel had had a female prime minister who had also lived in the United States. She said she looked at Meir as a role model after completing the project.
“She had confidence, and she stuck to what she thought was correct,” Georgia said of Meir. “There are mixed opinions about her, but to me she’s a good person I look up to.”
Another student who found a female role model was Dalia Margulies, who dressed as Hannah Senesh — a Jewish paratrooper who helped save Hungarian Jews from deportation to Auschwitz. Senesh was captured, tried for treason and executed at the age of 23.
Dalia, 11, proudly wore a green military uniform and gave salutes as parents stopped by to greet her.
“I think she’s pretty important since she helped keep Hungarian Jews out of death camps,” Dalia said.
Dalia and other students picked their roles by drawing names out of a bag, Korkos said. Some, like Senesh, predated Israel’s founding in 1948.
“I thought of the really old Haganah people. We’re talking about Sarah Aahronsohn, who was a spy for the British but helped save Jews. So we’re talking about even before Israel was established.”
Korkos also included several cultural icons, such as the actress Gal Gadot, and singer Shoshana Damari, whose family came to pre-state Israel from Yemen on foot. Korkos said she hopes that by showing her students a variety of Israelis who have made a name for themselves, they have a better understanding of the cast of characters involved in making the Jewish state what it is today.