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July 13th, 2011 11:03 pm
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For 10 days, 57 Teach For America corps members will explore Israel’s education and social justice systems, gain exposure to top Israeli leaders and thinkers, and uncover and recommit to the values that drive their passion for public service. Follow along on their REALITY Israel Experience!

After a great day of preparation and welcome to the REALITY community from past trip participants, we arrived in Israel this morning.

Despite the long flight, we wasted no time getting started. Straight from the airport we went to a nature reserve between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv called Naot Kedumim where we … herded sheep! Set against a stunning landscape, ripe with Biblical and modern-day Israeli history, our 60+ participants and staff learned about leadership through the art of herding sheep and goats.

Such an activity sparked much dialogue and self-reflection, which gave everyone the chance to learn more about ourselves and our challenges and assets in the process.

From there we headed to Israel’s fun-filled “White City” of Tel Aviv, our base for the next couple of days.

Since our hotel is right on the Mediterranean, more than a few people enjoyed the beach before we headed out to a lovely meal at Liliyot, a chi-chi restaurant with a social conscience. Since its founding in 1999, Liliyot has assisted youth at risk by giving them hands-on career skills in catering and the opportunity to re-integrate into society.

We ended the evening with a personal lecture delivered by one of Israel’s most well-known journalists, Yair Lapid. A widely read columnist for an Israeli daily newspaper and a host of a popular television newsmagazine show, Lapid spoke about what it means for him to be an Israeli. He traced when he became a Jew—and ultimately his “Israeli-ness”—to 1945, the year his father was miraculously saved from a massacre against Budapest’s Jews.

Years later, Yair visited Budapest with his father, the late Tommy Lapid, a former deputy Prime Minister in Israel.

“Not only was this the place where I was saved,” his father said to him, “but it was the place where you were born.” Yair continued the thought. “We were both statistical errors. He was not supposed to be there and I was not supposed to be born.” With Israel, he always has a place to go—a place to call home.

With that moving introduction, Lapid went on to speak further about the reality of life in Israel today and the way Israel—and the Jews—are perceived throughout the Arab world.

Not surprisingly, the group had many probing questions for him, which covered the spectrum from the Arab Spring to what teachers can tell their students about a land they had never heard of and will most likely never visit.

Stay tuned for another update in a couple of days.

In the meantime, enjoy the photos!

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