Alana Kaufman’s Speech
Presented at the Denver Israel Rally.
July 14, 2014
“And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
On Tuesday night July 8th at 9:45 p.m. four days after marking the 238th anniversary of America’s independence our Israel Study Tour – IST, comprised of 71 rising Colorado high school seniors and 7 staff members attended a play at “Nalaga’at” Theatre, located in the Jaffa port in Tel Aviv. Eleven deaf-blind actors took us on a magical tour in the districts of their inner world; the world of darkness, silence and…bread. As the process of bread making unfolds on stage – the dough is being kneaded, raised and baked – a unique encounter occurs between actors and audience. Together they re-enact vivid or distant memories recall forgotten dreams and joyful moments and ‘touch’ the spark of Creation present in every one of us. The actors take the spectators into those magical moments between reality and fantasy and always eventually return to the basic meaning of bread as a symbol of our longing for a home.
As the play came to an end a loud voice came over the intercom announcing a nearby missile attack. The warning siren could not be heard as the theater doubles as a bomb shelter. Instructions were given to duck and cover our heads. We diligently followed the orders.
As we took cover, our Israeli brothers sat amused in their seats, as this was routine for them. After a minute or so we slowly came up from our perceived protective positions. An Israeli woman sitting behind us began singing a Jewish melody. Our group quickly joined in and the panic that had startled most of us only moments before faded away.
As we exited the theatre we watched the night sky. In the far distance many of us witnessed the “rockets red glare” but these were not the festive fireworks we are accustomed to in America. This was just one of the hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza at us and other innocent civilian men, women and children throughout Israel. We watched as the incoming missile was intercepted by the Iron Dome and thankfully saw the “bombs bursting in air”.
My friends and I returned from Israel some 27 hours ago.
That is life in Israel today.
That is life in Israel everyday.
Five weeks ago we departed Denver for Krakow and Warsaw, Poland. In four days we toured the death camps of the Holocaust and learned of the depths of world persecution on the Jewish people, on our people. During this time I began to connect to my Judaism in ways I had never imagined and it made me proud to be Jewish.
The first month of our trip flew by with jam-packed days of fun activities, hiking and bonding as a group. During this time my connection to the Land of Israel kept growing. I was making new friends and creating new bonds with Israel.
As the final week of IST approached we knew our journey was coming to an end and we were all excited to complete our trip with a few days in Tel Aviv followed by a tour of the Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, with the intent to tie our trip together and bring it full circle from Poland and then conclude with our final Shabbat in Jerusalem at the Kotel. Instead our trip ended up taking a detour.
The events that had started prior to our arrival in Israel with the kidnapping of three Israeli boys escalated when their murdered bodies were found 18 days later. The number of bombs launched by Hamas into Israel escalated. For our safety our schedule was quickly changed to take us north, far north to Peqiin, a city close to the Lebanese border, where it was thought that bombs would be more distance and safety insured. We were all a bit disappointed, we felt almost cheated of missing our last week of fun-filled activities and spiritual connections, not to mention last minute shopping.
However, the experiences we went through that last week brought our group closer then ever. Based on conversations with loved ones we felt that it was difficult for others to relate to our emotions because what we were going through and what people in the States were seeing were very different. Although some of us were frightened by the news, we always felt safe, especially with the support from the Jewish community in Israel and in Denver.
The journey of IST 2014 was unlike anything any of us had ever imagined. We truly got to experience first hand the true way of life in Israel. While the media portrayed our trip as a group fleeing from rockets stuck in the middle of another Middle East conflict, we were actually discovering ourselves and learning about one another. We got to see a side to Israel many don’t know or understand.
As young, impressionable teenagers our focus was on socializing and experiencing, the Land our people call home. We left Denver as easy go lucky teens and returned yesterday as more mature, worldly and diligent individuals.
I along with my fellow ISTers have grown physically, emotionally and spiritually in ways that are unexplainable. Thanks to CAJE, IST 2014 was a once and a lifetime opportunity that connected us to Israel, a place where we, even in times of conflict, felt safe and at home.”
IST 2014 dates announced: June 8th – July 13th, 2014!!
The Colorado Israel Study tour is one of the premiere Israel teen trips in the U.S. and is the only yearly, community-based Israel trip left in the U.S. The program began in 1972 and has sent more than 2,400 students to Israel.
IST is sponsored by the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education, JEWISHcolorado, the Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council, and area synagogues.
The trip comprises a two-year intensive educational program that is divided into three parts: Trip Prep during the 11th-grade year, Travel during the summer between 11th and 12th grade, and Post-Trip Integration and Community Activism.
If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please contact …
Director of IST