cohort of Write On for Israel completed an intensive fact-finding mission to Israel last week where the 24 rising high school seniors met with thought leaders in many facets of Israeli life, as well as with Jewish and Arab teens. Through visits to communities throughout the country, as well as a town in the West Bank, they had an opportunity to hear many perspectives on life and prospects for the future in the tumultuous region.
"I have been fortunate to experience a plethora of different stories from a wide range of people during our time here, said Maya Scholder, who attends Rochelle Zell Jewish High School. "Every single person has their own story to tell, and I have found it immensely inspiring to hear others' stories as they have helped me shape my own narrative."
The trip comes at the midway point of the two-year WOFI program. Fellows already have completed a year of intensive study about Israel's history and current challenges, in addition to developing advocacy skills and leadership training that will serve them well when they get to college. In the coming year, they will continue to hone their skills through hands-on projects and an advocacy trip to Washington, DC.
The program challenges participants to think critically about their previous notions of Israel, and to consider multiple perspectives as they find their own truth.
For Max Marino, who attends Highland Park High School, the meetings and experiences on the trip have prompted him to deepen his thinking.
"Before the trip, I had a very set idea of what I thought about Israel but now, after seeing and hearing so many people and stories, my opinions are less concrete," he said. "I will have to grapple and analyze the many things we have learned to truly make sense of my views."
Zachary Salberg, who attends New Trier High School, called the trip "an amazing opportunity" that has been a highlight of his life and said, "I'm so glad that I went on this trip to learn about Israel so I can advocate and become closer and more connected to my homeland."
Write On for Israel is a program of JUF's Israel Education Center. A limited number of spots are available in the new cohort of Write On Fellows, for students who will be juniors in the fall. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.