by Petra Zucker
While students are at home studying for exams and playing sports, the seniors are having experiences beyond compare. After arriving in Israel on April 12, the seniors began their 10-day quarantine at the Fuchsberg Center in Jerusalem.
Over the course of quarantine, meals were delivered to the seniors at their doors and many spent their days catching up on Netflix shows, making bracelets, playing cards, working out and spending time with roommates. On most days, the seniors were allowed to spend an hour on a larger outdoor balcony. In addition to those activities, there were scheduled Zooms, mostly including Holocaust education or sessions to prepare them for the rest of the trip.
“One might assume that with such limited options for things to do, we would be going to sleep early,” senior Sophie Gustin said. “But on most nights my roommates and I stayed up late and hung out just like we would at any normal sleepover.”
Halfway through the quarantine process, Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut took place, two significant holidays in Israel. Instead of being able to observe them communally, the seniors had to remain indoors.
“It was different, obviously, because we were still in quarantine, but I still definitely felt a change in the atmosphere,” Block said. “Even though we were sort of watching everything from our balconies, we were still playing music and dancing and having fun with our friends. It was definitely a lot of fun, but of course I wish we could have been out in the streets of Jerusalem partying.”
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, 57.5 percent of Israelis had received their first dose of the vaccine and 53.5 percent had also received the second dose as of April 19. Due to the high vaccination rate and the removal of the mask mandate, Israel has returned to what most would consider normal.
At midnight on April 21, the seniors were finally freed from their 10-day quarantine period and were able to enter into the new normal of Israel.
Since their release, the seniors have climbed Masada, explored the waterfalls of Ein Gedi, toured Shuk Machane Yehudah, swam in the beach of Ashdod, hiked Tel Azekah, crawled in underground Khirbet Midras, joined an art seminar and had an educational concert with a member of the popular Israeli band HaDag Nachash.
“Being released from quarantine was a very exciting and widely anticipated moment,” Gustin said. “Quarantine made me realize just how much I took the little things in life for granted. Walking to the grocery store suddenly became an exhilarating activity. Praying in a grade-wide minyan took on a deep new meaning.
“Above all, I was most eager to spend time with friends and form new connections after many days of isolation.”