The Power of Visiting Israel: Delegations of Responsibility

Posted on 05/10/2024 @ 06:00 AM

Tags: CAJE Spotlight, Jewish Schools & Educational Services

Last month, The Jewish Education Project - in collaboration with the iCenter and The Jewish Agency - hosted a nationwide trip to Israel for Jewish educators.


Appropriately called Mishlachot Areyvut / Delegations of Responsibility, the objective of this trip was twofold: to bear witness to the atrocities of October 7th and its aftermath, and to begin discussions about the future of Jewish education in a post-October 7th world.


Yehudis Smith, CAJE’s Director of Early Childhood and Congregational Education, and Temple Judea’s Director of Education, Seth Lewis Levin, had the great honor to represent Miami in a cohort of 25 Jewish educators from around the country.


The Jewish educator experience of Mishlachot Areyvut was focused on 3 areas:


  1. Jewish educators were given the opportunity to meet with and hear diverse Israeli voices representative of those directly impacted by the events and aftermath of October 7th.
  2. Jewish educators were exposed to educational frameworks and potential partners in Israel whose work impacts Jewish and Israel education in North America.
  3. Jewish educators were given meaningful opportunities to process their experiences with peers and colleagues and began conversations about transformative Israel education.


The trip spanned only a few days of intense, meaningful, life-changing experiences.

“CAJE’s support for the Jewish Education Project Mishlachat Areyvut Program transformed my approach to teaching and learning about Israel for ages 2-100.”


- Seth Lewis Levin, Director of Education at Temple Judea

Day 1: Bearing Witness || We educators traveled to the Gaza envelope, where we walked through the remains of Kibbutz Kfar Azza. This experience was led by a resident of the kibbutz and a firsthand survivor of the terrorist attack who shared his experiences of that fateful day and stories of this once vibrant and beautiful place.


This solemn day continued with a visit to the Nova festival site, where we paid respect to the many victims who perished there. Bombs could be heard going off nearby in Gaza, while Elay Karvani, a survivor of the music festival massacre, told his first-hand horrific story of hiding for over 7 hours, waiting for rescue.


The first day ended with a tour of Ofakim, a predominantly Mizrachi southern Israeli town that was attacked by terrorists on October 7th and left to defend itself. The tour included a stop by Rachel Edri’s house - the famous story of the woman who fed the terrorist intruders chocolate chip cookies.

Day 2: The Day After || Day two brought new learning experiences as we met with evacuees of Kibbutz Nir Am who have been living in a Tel Aviv hotel since the attacks. Survivors shared their stories of what it is to live as displaced people, unsure of their future. There, we had the opportunity to visit makeshift preschool classrooms set up for the young children of these displaced families and meet the community educators and volunteers.


Educators boarded a bus to Jerusalem, where we toured the Mount Herzl National Cemetery and paid homage to fallen soldiers from the War of Independence in 1948, concluding with a visit to the fresh graves of soldiers who have fallen in battle in Gaza in the months since October 7th. We heard stories from what is known as “Black Shabbat” and spent a few moments of silence in tribute to these heroes.


The day continued at the Shalva Centerwhere we educators met Liat Fridman, the mother of Shachar Fridman, an IDF soldier who lost his life in battle in November of 2023. She shared her son’s last words from the letter he wrote to his family before entering Gaza:


“Be good people in your own way. Don’t let society dictate to you what makes you good people, just try as hard as you can, and even when you fall, know that that’s the road to success. Love yourselves and the world. When you radiate happiness, a circle of joy will slowly form that will create a better world.” - Staff Sgt. Shachar Fridman


Day two ended at FeelBeit, a cultural center on the border of East and West Jerusalem, which is run “by a group of Israelis and Palestinians who create art and music to bridge divides in Jerusalem… everything we present is rooted in love for the diverse people of this place. We are driven by a conviction that when all else breaks down, art and music must break through.” (

Day 3: Reflections || On the program's final day, Maya Yehezkel - graffiti artist and tour guide - took us on a dynamic tour through Tel Aviv’s graffiti walls. “If you truly want to understand a society,” she explained, “go to the streets. It’s not the newspaper; it’s the guts of the people. Every graffiti is attached to a wall that’s attached to a building that’s attached to a city.” The educators explored how the images and words tell the story of October 7th and beyond.


This soul-stirring trip ended with a trip to the Headquarters of the Hostages and Missing Families and Hostage Square in Tel Aviv. At the Headquarters, the educators met with volunteers, many of whom had given up their jobs to work around the clock towards their primary goal: to gain the release of every single hostage in Gaza. The Headquarters has within it medical, legal, resilience, media, and fundraising departments. It is not government-run but relies completely on donations. There, we met with Itzik Horn, father to Eitan and Yair - both hostages still in Gaza.


At Hostage Square, we viewed artistic installments and banners highlighting the hostages' plight. One of the art installments is an empty Shabbat table holding empty seats for the missing hostages. Another impactful artistic piece is a 25-meter mock Hamas tunnel simulating a dimly lit passage through which people can walk. The names of the hostages and messages from their families line the walls of the tunnel, and the sounds of distant gunshots are played through speakers inside the tunnel. 

The trip concluded with processing sessions among the educators focusing on their shared experiences. There are ongoing virtual discussions through which the educators from this cohort can continue to share processes, ideas, and Israel education programming with each other.


To learn more about Israel education initiatives, contact Yehudis Smith at