On Thursday, April 15, preschool students at Temple Beth Sholom Early Childhood Center in Roslyn Heights honored Israel’s 73rd birthday, also known as Israel Independence Day, with a day of celebration highlighted by a mock trip to Israel. As families arrived at school, Religious School Director Sharon Solomon and Cantor Ofer Barnoy led the re-Kkndergarten students in the singing of Hebrew songs.
The children stood under a balloon arch erected for the occasion, waving Israeli flags as the cars pulled up to drop off children in the younger grades.
Immediately after arrival, the children made sure they had their boarding passes and passports as they made their way to the mock airport to board their “private flight” to Israel.
Cantor Ofer Barnoy acted as the pilot of the plane, while Rabbi Alan Lucas walked down the aisle of the airplane handing out snacks to the children. The children watched a real El Al airplane take off on a large-screen television that was set up in front of the plane. Upon arrival in Israel, the children had their passports stamped and they made their way back to their classrooms to engage in additional activities.
In the week leading up to their imaginary trip to Israel, Temple Beth Sholom Early Childhood Center students watched live stream video from the Kotel, the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Inside the school, a replica of the ancient Wall was created from boxes painted by the children. Classes learned about Israel’s rich history leading up to their independence in 1948. They talked about the salt in the Dead Sea and how it helps people float in the water. On Israel’s actual birthday, they sampled traditional Israeli foods like falafel and hummus and decorated cupcakes with blue and white icing, the colors of the Israeli flag.
Because no celebration is complete without a parade, the children painted and decorated flags of Israel that they proudly waved as they marched in the hallways. ”This is by far one of my favorite days of the school year,” said school director Jen Schiffer. “For our preschool children, learning about Israel and its people is an important part of their early Jewish education.”
At the end of the day, tired from their visit, the children boarded the airplane once more to head back home from their “trip” in order to be back at school in time for parent pick-up.
While nothing can compare to actually visiting Israel, the children in the school shared an immersive experience that helped them to better understand the sights, sounds and tastes of the country. Going to school amidst a global pandemic, it is nice to have something to celebrate.