Ask any parent, student, and school administrator and they will all say that field trips can either be amazing learning experiences or ultimate disasters. The planning, logistics, and worrying that go into planning a trip can be overwhelming for even the best schools and admin teams. I remember when I was in school, we went on some fairly crummy overnight school trips where everything from the food to the lodging could have been taken out of a horror movie. There were some trips however, that really did make a difference, both educationally and personally. These are the trips that I still speak of fondly today. Sometimes getting out of the classroom, can work wonders for the educational process. If executed correctly, a field trip can be a positive life changing experience which will have a lasting effect on everyone involved.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in one of these life changing experiences. My son’s school organized a two day trip to mark the important Bar Mitzvah year. The trip paid tribute to Baruch Mizrachi Z”L whose son is in my son’s grade. Mizrachi, a former police officer was tragically killed four years ago by terrorists, as the family was traveling to relatives for Pesach seder. So, certainly a good cause, and an even better chance for some bonding time with my son. After all, between work and other responsibilities, not to mention his busy schedule, there is not a lot of time left over for meaningful interactions. The challenge in this situation was not the actual trip, but rather the trip’s main activity, a hike of approximately 25 KM over 2 days. This is no short stroll! For someone like myself who is not exactly in top shape, I worried for weeks about how I was going to do a hike of this proportion. My son was afraid that I was going to drop in the middle and that he would not know what to do. For a field trip involving parents, this was a tall order. Besides asking all of the fathers to miss 2 days of work, we were also being asked to walk further than many of us had ever walked previously. Just in case anyone is wondering, no, I was not the only father there who was not in top physique. This was a big ask for many of the fathers on the trip.
After the first day of about 5.5 KM, I was actually feeling encouraged. The school somehow managed to provide ample and tasty food for 300+ people. The sleeping arrangements consisted of a big rocky field with all of our tents. Needless to say, I did not sleep much that night, but that was okay. My son and I stayed up late watching a baseball game and discussing sports, thanks to my phone’s hot-spot Internet connection. I can’t remember the last time my son and I had watched an entire game like this, without one of us (usually me) having to go do something else. After breakfast the next morning, we set out on the trek of a lifetime. I had no idea at that point what I had gotten myself into.
I did pretty well for the first few hours. As we walked from Mevaseret Tzion to Jerusalem, I was in good spirits. My legs were starting to hurt, but it was manageable. The school had stations along the way that gave us all a chance to rest and to mentally prepare for the next leg. By around 11 AM, we had started the longest part of the walk, as we went from the New Kraft Stadium in Ramot to Ammunition Hill in Ramat Eshkol. There is a reason why most people do not walk this on a regular basis. About half way there, I thought I was done. I had to sit down, as my legs were giving out, and I was clearly dehydrated. A few other parents sat down with me until I felt better, and my son was great! He kept yelling at me to drink more (talk about role reversals) and he stayed behind even though some of his friends continued on the route. After 15-20 minutes I caught my breath and I was ready to continue (slowly). Every step from that point hurt, but somehow, we made it to Ammunition Hill! We were almost at our final destination, which would be the Kotel.
After a long rest period and of course some well earned lunch, I had a choice. The school had arranged for a bus to drive to the Kotel and I had the option of leaving the group and to meet them in the Old City. I was really tempted to get on that air-conditioned bus. When I thought about it though, I realized how far we had walked. How could I stop now with only a few more kilometers to go? How could I let my son down now? So, somehow, with the help of both my son and the Lord above, we set out on the final leg of the journey. As we entered Jaffa Gate as a group, singing and cheering, I was extremely thankful for having this once in a lifetime opportunity. Going through those gates reminded me of why we made Aliyah and why I was so proud that my children were able to learn in Israeli yeshivot. Despite my throbbing legs and pounding head, I was happy to arrive at the Kotel, together with my son and the other students and parents from his grade. We did it!
After this experience, I started to look bag on the last 2 days. As someone who has planned a lot of school trips, I always tend to think the worst. Somehow though, this trip, even with all of its components, was one of the most successful school programs that I have ever attended. Credit for these successes must go to the school, who really thought of everything, down to the last detail.
Consider what could have gone wrong. Imagine if there had not been enough food. Imagine if there had not been enough water. Think about what could have happened if the parents did not buy into the experience. Other than a broken air conditioner on the bus ride home, this trip was a home run! The trip set out to serve as a bonding experience for the fathers and sons, and to mark the transition from childhood to adulthood. In addition, we thought about the Mizrachi family whose father was not there.
I would like to thank Rav Erez and the incredibly dedicated and talented staff of Yeshivat Lapid Bnei Akiva. The amount of work that was put into this 2 day trip was clearly evident. I was not looking forward to the trip. I am not even sure that I went into it with an open mind. After the experience however, I know that this is an adventure that neither my son nor I will ever forget.