Yehonatan’s Trail – A Unique Educational Pilgrimage
The “Yehonatan’s Trail” Project aspires to pull together and highlight our students’ various educational experiences throughout their years of study by a “voyage” through Israeli society exploring important places and issues relating to religion, community, science, personal empowerment and development of responsibility and social consciousness. Our seniors set out on a common journey outside the four walls of the classroom characterized by hands-on experiential learning across the country, which prepares them for adult Jewish life as citizens of Israel. During the pilgrimage students will develop wider horizons, will sharpen and expand their independence and personal responsibility, will familiarize themselves with new segments of Israeli society with an approach characterized by humility, understanding that life in Israel is broader and deeper than their particular everyday “bubble” that they inhabit.
The mainstay of the program is the personal responsibility placed on each student – on his own and as part of the team, as well as the collective responsibility reflected in the fact that the whole journey is planned and executed by the students themselves – from the most minute technical details down to the ongoing necessity of joint decision making in the field. This reflects our most basic deviation from the traditional educational approach – we choose to transfer the major burden of responsibility from the teacher to the student himself. As opposed to what usually happens in schools, in yeshivot, in universities and elsewhere, here the student assumes responsibility over his own life and in doing so, learns so much about himself and about society and the world around him.
The program was designed in full cooperation with the family, friends and former classmates of our late student Yonatan Zuckerman z”l, who was killed in a car accident. This project, dedicated to his memory, seeks to continue his path which was cut short so tragically, using his life as a role model in the ongoing search for a life filled with meaning.
The program promotes and deepens the dialogue and unity between all parts of the nation and society. The meetings – which, as stated, are organized by the students themselves – are planned with an open mind and full of desire for unity. Our students meet everyone: Jews and Arabs, left and right, religious, secular and Ultra- Orthodox, with great emphasis placed on familiarizing themselves in depth with the innermost qualities of others. We seek to penetrate the barriers of opinion, hostility and alienation and delve into the person and his emotional mindset, discovering within rich new worlds which we may not be familiar with.
Once this voyage is over, the students claim to have changed beyond recognition. They have learned to listen, to express themselves, to get in touch, to feel, and most importantly – to commune with others. They better understand the realities of life in all their subtlety and complexity as well as the enormous importance of unity despite differing world views. The seniors, when they return to their studies in the Yeshiva, influence and inspire the narrative and dialogue of the rest of the school. Younger students see them differently, listen to them and some of what they experienced seeps into their bones as well.
The Vision and Goals of the Program:
1. The students will experience the fact that significant learning takes place in real life and not just in the “laboratory conditions” of the school and classroom.
2. Students will learn to live as part of a community by taking on individual and common responsibility with the life lessons of give and take, making demands and giving in to others, success and failure, while making real time decisions both individually and jointly. It is within the group that real learning occurs – learning from those one lives and works with over time and space.
3. Students are exposed to life in the world of adults in general and in Israel in particular. Learning first of all by planning the journey in details (including scheduling and keeping appointments with service providers, distribution and correct use of the limited resources at their disposal, preparing meals throughout the trip) and then complete management (as much as possible) of the journey out in the field, while recognizing and dealing with the unexpected challenges which always crop up during such a journey.
4. The student will empower his persona with deep introspection both as preparation for the next stages of his life, but also in the belief that this is how life is to be lived. He will clarify his own inclinations, expand his consciousness and feel the circles around him – his self, his family, his community and general environment. All this while expanding his horizons in various fields and as widely as possible. These tools will help him live a meaningful life. This program in essence sums up and instills within the students those same values he acquired during his four years of study.
5. The student will come into contact with characters and circumstances he never got to meet before, will learn from them and about them, acquiring sensitivity to the complexities of modern Israeli society. He thus acquires the ability and patience to listen to others different from him and properly digest what he receives from them, while learning to mold and express his own personal opinions when necessary.