Israeli Routes Odyssey is an innovative, six-day educational, experiential journey across the land of Israel designed to reinforce individual and Jewish identity for Israeli youth and to connect them to their own communities as well as to the people, land and the State of Israel. This unique journey provides participants with a powerful, life-changing experience which is unique in the context of educational tours in Israel as it involves the educational guidance team, the teachers and the participants together in a holistic and unfolding process.
The program is built upon well-defined principles that serve as a basis for designing tailor-made adaptations to each school, based on its needs and educational philosophy.
The Educational Program
In geographical terms, the journey progresses from the north or south of the country (depending on the location of the school; schools in the north begin in the south and vice versa) through the coastal plain to its culmination in Jerusalem.
Correspondingly, in conceptual terms, the journey is built upon a movement through concentric circles of identity. Participants begin from their individual stance at the center of these concentric circles and examine their sense of identification with each sphere in their lives: Me and Myself, One’s Group and Society at large and the more expansive spheres of the Land, the State and the People of Israel.
The treatment of these spheres of identity unfolds throughout the journey and builds from the most elementary and personal to the most complex and inclusive, as follows:
“Me and Myself” - A process of inwardly tuning-in and listening to oneself in order to reveal personal strengths and weaknesses and to examine how one deals with challenges and adversity when removed from one’s regular habitat, undergoing this experience in remote wilderness regions (the Ramon Crater, the Judean Desert, the Meron Mountains and Mount Carmel) on an excursion that lasts the better part of two days and includes camping and outdoor cooking.
“Me & the Group” - A process of examining the group’s meaning for the participants and his or her unique place in the group. The group experience is created through group challenges that emphasize interdependence, ‘give-and-take’ interactions between class members, the status of the individual student within the group, as well as leadership and inter-personal communication skills.
“Me & the Community” - A process of exploring and getting acquainted with the social mosaic of Israel, while touring towns in the periphery of the country. There, participants undergo a process of local orientation and integration through social navigation exercises and meetings with the town’s leadership. The highlight of this day is in volunteer work in charitable, educational and welfare organizations in the town. The day concludes with a counselor-led round-robin discussion that encourages participants to take the lessons home and apply them to their own communities in terms of ideas for addressing social activism and volunteering needs back home.
"Me & the Land and People of Israel” - A process of examining the place the land of Israel holds in Jewish heritage and the bond between the people and the land of Israel. This layer brings participants to the Judean plain and the hills surrounding Jerusalem, where the students explore biblical sites, ancient historical sites and key locations from early Zionism and the building of the State of Israel.
“Me & the State of Israel” - A process of examining the Zionist idea and its realization and considering the participant’s own connection, responsibility to, and involvement in, the State of Israel. This phase of the journey brings participants to Jerusalem and includes educational visits to ‘Yad Vashem’ and Mount Herzl. Journeys reach their pinnacle with Shabbat in Jerusalem, where the program focuses on the sixth, and final sphere.
“Me & Judaism” – Participants make their way to the Western Wall to welcome the Sabbath (Kabbalat Shabbat) and then continue to experience the Sabbath, which is dedicated to exploring and reinforcing Jewish identity, as well as its linkage to all the journey’s six spheres of identity.
The Results of the Experience
The experience is meant to shake the participant and encourage him/her, in a safe environment, to delve deep into the spheres of his/her identity, together with his/her peers. It is meant to be a life-changing experience whose impact will follow the participant, and research done in the aftermath of the Masa has shown that it is indeed likely to be.
As scores of secular and religious high school students and principals, as well as tens of thousands of their students across the country will passionately attest, Israeli Routes Odyssey is opening the eyes, minds, hearts and souls of Israel’s next generation, the future leaders of the State of Israel and strengthening their commitment and sense of belonging to the their heritage, land and people.
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