Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Yavneh travelers undeterred by Mideast violence

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

KENWOOD - Despite the ongoing violence in Israel and threats of terror around the world, 24 eighth-grade students at Yavneh Day School are "bouncing off the walls" with excitement over their trip to Israel, Principal Ophra Weisberg said Tuesday.

"There is nervousness among some of them. With others, it's not bothering them at all," said Weisberg, who will accompany the students with two other chaperones.

The students fly out of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport today on the two-week trip that has been planned for years and costs nearly $3,000 per student. The culmination of the eighth-grade curriculum, it has been canceled only once in the last seven years - two years ago, months after the 9-11 attacks.

But nothing was going to stop these kids from their mission this year, which includes more than just a tour of the country.

They will be taking six duffel bags full of donated stuffed animals, dance shoes and tutus. The animals are for children in the Children's Hospital of Laniado Hospital in Netanya, Cincinnati's sister city just north of Tel Aviv.

The tutus and shoes are for immigrants from the former Soviet Union who take dance classes in Netanya and performed for a Cincinnati contingency (including Mayor Charlie Luken) on a mission to Israel in November.

When the students arrive in Tel Aviv on Thursday, they will be greeted by a guide who will take them throughout the country on a historical and biblical tour. An armed guard and medic will accompany them at all times. Half the students will carry cell phones and share them with the rest of the group so all can call home.

The students will spend a night in a tent in the desert; swim in the Dead, Red and Mediterranean seas and the Sea of Galilee; ride a camel; and go on an archaeological dig.

They will return home March 31, the day before school lets out for Passover.

Carol Ann Schwartz's son Matthew will be going on the trip. She compares his trip to one a 20-year-old Israeli friend of hers took to Cincinnati in 2001. The girl was staying at the Schwartz's house when the downtown riots broke out. The girl's parents called her from Israel in a panic, terrified she was in Cincinnati.

"If you only listen to the news, you always hear about the bombings and the shootings, but it's not always that way," Schwartz said.

"You can't say they will never be in danger, but we're no more nervous than when the class went to New York last year and Washington, D.C., in sixth grade."


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