August 2008

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TRY 2008 in front of the Knesset's famous bronze menorah.
Teen Voice

Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim (T.R.Y.)
Jerusalem High School.

-- Gabrielle Loeb

The day they had all been counting down to on their calendars finally arrived: January 27, 2008.

58 high school students all wait in line nervously and excitedly to check in their overweight luggage. After a ten-hour flight, they all arrive: at first, some are still strangers; others have spent countless summers together at one of the seven Ramah camps. Although from different locations in the United States (and Canada!), of different ages, and from different Jewish denominations and cultural backgrounds, somehow after four months, these 58 high school students will form one collective family: TRY.

Harvesting lettuce for Table to Table, an Israeli organization which obtains food for non-profit organizations throoughtout Israel.

Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim, a four-month high school program based in Jerusalem run by Ramah, allows young Jews to experience Israel not simply as tourists, but as “Israelis.” TRYers visit all the classic tourist sites in Israel, including Massada, Ein Gedi,  the Dead Sea, Eilat, Tel Aviv, and of course the Kotel. In addition, they get to spend a week at Kibbutz Keturah in the Negev, a week in Gadna (army simulation), a week in the Golan, and another week hiking across Israel on Yam El Yam. Yet by living in Jerusalem for four months, they also get to know what the country is truly like, with both its beauties and imperfections. Having lived in Jerusalem for four months, they also know where to get the best falafel, how to bargain in a shuk, and where to go on a free night. When May arrived and along came tourists, TRYers complained about the annoying Americans who crowded the streets, lengthened the lines in stores, and held the lines up because they did not know how to ask for what they wanted. In other words, the program had transformed these North American tourists who now identified themselves as Israelis who “live in Jerusalem.”

Betsalel's ICC (Israel Core Course) class at the Kotel on the last day. All the TRYers wore their new electric blue TRY '08 T-shirts, and shed tears as they said their last goodbyes to Jerusalem before heading to the Ben Gurion airport.

Unlike other Israel programs, TRY has an Israel Core Course (ICC) for 18 hours a week during which students visit all of Israel and learn about it where everything took place chronologically -- from pre-Abrahamic polytheism through the present day State of Israel (even discussing the future of Israel with numerous political speakers with very diverse views). Through this course, TRY again turns tourists into students, with very knowledgeable ICC teachers who guide students through 2000 years of history with “all of Israel as a classroom.” By the time the ICC final arrives, students are very familiar with the map of Israel as well as every era in Jewish and Israeli history.

TRY on Gadna - a one week introduction to military training run by the Israeli Defense Force.

Besides the ICC course, students must also keep up with the curricula from their schools back in North America. TRY works with each student’s individual academic schedule to meet each student’s needs with incredible teachers and engaging classes. Classes may have as many as 20 students or as few as a single student -- depending on each student’s academic requirements. Classes are on campus, so students can go to the supermarket next door or nap during their free time between classes. Just like Israelis, TRYers do have school on Sundays, although the busyness this adds to the week only enhances the unique, relaxing experience of Shabbat and holidays in Israel.

Although TRY 2008 ended on June 2, with 58 teenagers devastated that the four months had gone by so quickly, TRY has not truly ended. TRYers forever carry with them the connection with Israel, love of Judaism, unforgettable memories, and unbreakable bonds they created over the course of this amazing experience of a lifetime. For more information about TRY, contact Judy Greene.

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