NoVa day school gets Israeli visitors

Fifth-graders at Gesher Jewish Day School get creative with Dead Sea mud during a visit by  students from Israel. Photo by David Holzel
Fifth-graders at Gesher Jewish Day School get creative with Dead Sea mud during a visit by
students from Israel. Photo by David Holzel

The Israeli visitor to Gesher Jewish Day School’s fifth grade held up a photo of three abstract forms — a cylinder, a triangle and a square.

“Do you know what these buildings are in Israel?” she asked. “It’s one of the most
important things in the world.”

“The Dead Sea Scrolls?” someone called out.

“No,” said the visitor, 14-year-old Keren Bobman. It had been a bit of a trick
question. “It’s a mall” — part of the Azrieli complex in Tel Aviv.

Israel has consumer and recreational sides, as well as the army and Jerusalem. Bobman and 13 other eighth-graders from Hartuv Secondary School in Israel’s Mateh Yehudah region spent Feb. 21 trying to show all of it to students at the Fairfax Jewish day school.

The visit by students and teachers from the Washington Jewish community’s partner region, Mateh Yehudah, is part of a school-twinning program called Gesher-Chai (“living bridge”). This is the program’s fifth year, according to Graciela Granek, Gesher’s middle-school director.

“During the school year we program activities together, meet virtually via Skype and blog via Edmodo,” she said. “During Gesher’s eighth-grade trip to Israel, our students meet with Hartuv’s eighth grade there and spend a full day together.”

Gesher’s fifth-graders feel the bond with their partner class in Israel.

“We’re sending them letters, sending them gifts,” Jacquie Sherry said.

The class discovered that while technology can bring people closer, it cannot solve every logistical problem.

“They wanted to have a Chanukah party with us and we were going to Skype,” said fifth-grader Rome Kapen. “But the day they picked was Thanksgiving.”

For Gabriel Matricciani, the Israelis’ visit to his school was like winning at Jewish
geography. Gabriel and his classmates have partners in the fifth grade at Hartuv’s
middle school feeder. “My partner’s brother is in eighth grade and he’s here visiting,”
he said.

Bobman, who spent two years living in the United States, nevertheless was struck by cultural differences between Americans and Israelis.

“People are much more patient here,” she said, and went on to describe her delight in a trip to the supermarket. “They offer to pack grocery bags. They take bags to the car,” she said.

She liked those innovations. But at least one thing she saw on her visit was just
too much. “You can buy boiled eggs,” she noted. “What’s so hard about boiling water?”

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