Ann Arbor ninth-graders take part in exchange with students in Israel.
Teen2Teen Staff Writer
he Ann Arbor-Nahalal part-
nership has touched me in
many ways. I have many
friends who have gone on the same
2013 Partnership2Gether Ann Arbor/
Nahalal student exchange trip as I did in
February when they were in ninth grade.
My brother went on the trip when he
was 14 and had an amazing time. Earlier
this year, when the Israeli 10th-grade
delegation came to America, one of the
adult chaperones stayed at my house. All
of these factors made me so much more
excited when my turn came to be a part
of the delegation to Israel.
This trip was my fourth trip to Israel.
The past three times, I have gone with
my family to visit friends. This trip was
very different in many ways.
The night we arrived in Nahalal,
we had Shabbat dinner with our host
families. Even though I was practically a
zombie thanks to jet lag, the first dinner
was very fun.
Over the next few days, our group
went on a tour of Nahalal, took day trips
to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and visited
the elementary school on the moshay.
The trips to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were
very inspiring. I got to see the cities in
new ways, not muddled by what my par-
ents limited me to see.
We also were able to celebrate Purim
with kids our age in Nahalal at their
high school. I attended a Jewish elemen-
tary school so I have been to my fair
share of Purim parties, but the way they
celebrated this holiday was so different
than anything I had ever experienced!
Everyone was so carefree and everything
was so festive.
But that was not the only enlighten-
ing part of the day.
I kind of felt like
the celebration was
just like Halloween.
People were in some
was lucky enough to
take part in the Ann
costumes. I wasn't
exchange trip to Israel.
I was part of a group of
to be so into the
Miriam Hamermesh (left) and
ninth-graders to go to
holiday, but even the
Nahalal, a moshav in
northern Israel for about
decked out! Seeing
10 days in February. In the fall, ninth-
their strange customs and how different
they are from mine was so enriching.
graders from Nahalal come here.
Going into the trip, I wasn't quite sure
Of course, Purim was not the only
what to expect; I read about Nahalal and
place in which I noticed our cultural
looked at pictures of past delegations, but
differences. Their schools! It felt like the
didn't really know what the trip would be
entire country had such a lackadaisical
like for me.
way of schooling. I missed two days of
Arriving there and getting off the bus,
school for the plane flight to Israel and
I felt somewhat awkward at first with
I had a mountain of work to make up
a group of Ann Arbor kids that I didn't
when I got back. But the Israelis missed
know that well and an even more foreign
about every other day of school when we
group of Israeli kids.
were there and no one even cared.
Everything changed for the better. By
One of the Israelis who used to live in
the next day, we had already become
America told me that he found out when
friends and mixed with the Israelis so
he moved to Nahalal that it was actually
well. In the first few days, we went to
weird NOT to skip school. The whole
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. In Jerusalem, we
way they went about their education just
went to the Israel Defense Forces cem-
seemed so careless to me.
etery, the Old City where we went to the
But strange foreign customs aside, I
Western Wall and had an underground
had a very educational trip. I learned
tour, and Ben Yehuda Street.
things about the culture of Israel that
In Tel Aviv, we went to Independence
I probably wouldn't have learned had I
Hall to see where Israel became a country
just been a tourist with my family. The
trip was amazing, and I made many
and did an Amazing Race type scavenger
friendships with kids just like me in
hunt taking us all across downtown Tel
Aviv through Shuk HaCarmel and ending
This experience will be something
near the beach to watch the sunset.
Days that we spent closer to Nahalal
I treasure for the rest of my life, and
were equally fun. All of us enjoyed going
I can't wait until September when my
friends from Nahalal come on their trip
to the primary and high schools to cel-
ebrate Purim (party at 9 a.m.!), making
masks with children in a nearby city,
Miriam Hamermesh of Ann Arbor is a
going on picnics and so much more!
freshman at Pioneer High School.
Days were planned and fun, but some
of the best times were at night playing soc-
cer with the Israeli teens or teaching them
Another great memory is the last
night when we all had a sleepover at the
Machlevah (an old dairy that is now a gath-
ering spot to hang out) and made a music
video for the "Harlem Shake."
The last day there, we went to the Ann
Arbor-Nahalal park and planted trees,
symbolizing the connection between
these two amazing communities. I think
we all agreed how fast the trip went
—way too fast — but now we can look
forward to all of our great friends coming
here in the fall! ❑
Abigail Simon of Ann Arbor is a freshman at
Pioneer High School.
Maya Burgard, Abby Simon, Aiya
Bernstein and Yovel Manor in
Jerusalem's Old City
Abigail Hirshbein, Aiya Bernstein, Adira Cohen and Miriam Hamermesh celebrate
Purim at Nahalal High School.
Abby and her new friend exchange
masks at Youth Futures in Nazareth Illit.
Abby (center) and friends finish planting their tree at the Ann Arbor/Nahalal Park.
May 2 • 2013