The Western Wall Heritage Fund

My Jerusalem Educational Programs In Israel


 

Receiving My First Siddur (Prayer Book) at the Western Wall

A Journey to Prayer from the Heart- For Students of the First Grade


In order to help youngsters receiving their first siddur feel a connection to the essence of prayer, we invite students of the First Grade to an experience at the place that Jews everywhere associate with prayer - The Western Wall. Together with them, we learn about and discuss the Western Wall as the holiest place for the Jewish people. We discuss other aspects of praying, such as focusing on what we say, and the fact that we can all pray anywhere and everywhere.

The children are active participants in the tour that touches upon Abraham and Mount Moriah, King David who made Jerusalem his capital and wrote the Psalms, the High Priests in the Temple, and more. The tour is interactive, includes stories and other supplementary aids, and lasts approximately an hour and a quarter. It ends on a high note of prayer across from the Holy of Holies, or with the children placing a note of their own between the stones of the Western Wall. They also create a souvenir, which they take home along with their brand new siddur.

Yuval Gavrieli, the principal of one of the participating schools, remarked that "…the patient and kind reception and the wonderful explanations made us all very happy. The children and their parents were very moved."

Yaakov Shitrit is the principal of one of the participating schools in Sderot, a development town in the south, on the border with Gaza. He writes, "Our students and their parents were deeply impressed by their Siddur ceremony at the Western Wall. It was an incredible experience that left its mark on the children… We wish you continued success in bringing the children of Israel to this holiest of sites, defined by one of our Prime Ministers as the cornerstone of our existence."
 


Receiving My First Chumash (Bible)

From Mount Sinai to Mount Moriah - For Students of the Second Grade


Only once in their lives do children receive their first chumash book and meet the Torah's verses face to face for the first time. At this critical moment, they join the path that the Jewish people have walked for generations - from the time of receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai to Mount Moriah where the Torah's commandments were carried out at the Temple.

We invite these youngsters to experience getting their first chumash through a unique tour of the Western Wall Tunnels in which we touch upon various topics such as: the pilgrimage made by Jews to Jerusalem three times a year, the Holy of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant, the Torah's legacy through the chain of generations, and the yearnings for the Temple and Jerusalem.

We discuss the eternal nature of the Torah, the everlasting nature of Jerusalem, and the connection between the two, thus strengthening the child's connection to Jerusalem and to the Torah. We also discuss concepts relating to Torah study through stories and other interactive programs. The children create a souvenir to remind them of their visit in the Tunnels which they take home together with their first chumash.

The letter we received from Irit Sneh, the principal of a secular school in Har Choma in Jerusalem, captures the feelings of the participants in the program. She thanks us for the "privilege" of having her 2nd graders celebrate receiving their first chumash at the Western Wall Tunnels. She found that the tour was perfectly suited to the age of the children and that "the guide's educational explanations were beautifully fitted for students of a non-religious school. There is no doubt that the sacred atmosphere that envelopes the site, as well as the warm reception and wonderful guidance, made this a special event that will remain etched in the students' and parents' hearts forever."

 

Celebrating Holidays in Jerusalem

A Journey Through the Jewish Year- For Students in Third to Sixth Grades


The Western Wall Tunnels dress up in honor of the holidays. The students who come to visit us meet Jerusalem during different periods of history and at different times of the year. Emphasis is placed on the Jewish year and on whatever holiday is about to be celebrated. Thus, the children realize that the holidays that they celebrate today are those that their forefathers have been celebrating for generations.

This program uses the children's own experiences and knowledge about Jewish holidays and shows them how they are all linked to our history and to Jerusalem.

As with all the educational programs offered by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, this too is custom-made to suit the needs of each specific group of students. The fact that each unit is "personalized" in this way makes the effect that much more noticeable. The homeroom teacher of a 5th grade boys' class that recently took part in this program wrote to tell us how much she appreciated the care and thought that went into creating a tour specifically for her class. She thanked us for a tour that they found "enjoyable, enlightening, and informative." She was particularly pleased that "the tour was suited to the needs and ages of our children both in terms of the level of the instruction and its content… The guides were wonderful and geared themselves perfectly to the children's questions and to what the children had learned during the school year."
 


The Eternal Chain of Generations

"My Jerusalem" for Children of the Seventh Grade - Their Bar/Bat Mitzva Year


We invite classes of seventh graders from all around Israel, from Kiryat Shmona in the north, to the southernmost city of Eilat, to a session dealing with the eternal chain of generations of the Jewish people. This program is geared for children of all backgrounds and affiliations, from ultra-orthodox to secular.

The program includes the following elements:

A preparatory unit is taught by our trained staff at the children's school, in which the children familiarize themselves with personalities who lived and worked in Jerusalem during different periods of time, important sites, and events in the Jewish nation's history.

A day tour of Jerusalem includes significant sites of Jerusalem that combine old and new, east and west, and are of historical and national importance. The tour lasts approximately 8 hours and takes the children from the Knesset Menorah, to the lookout point in Armon HaNatziv, the Jewish Quarter in the Old City with its antiquities, the Western Wall Tunnels, and of course - The Western Wall. This exciting journey through the tunnel of time takes the children from past to present via the extraordinary sites of Jerusalem.

A short and personalized summary unit is conducted facing the Western Wall whereby the children summarize their day in Jerusalem and the city's importance in the timeline of Jewish history. At the end of the tour, each student receives a beautiful certificate as part of a moving ceremony at the Western Wall.

At the time in the lives of these children, when they are forming their own identity, it is important that they realize that Jerusalem and our nation's legacies are a part of who they are. For this reason, we offer this program, including guiding, transportation, and food, at a nominal fee. There is no question that this program has a strong and lasting effect on the way children think and feel about Jerusalem, the State of Israel, and most importantly, themselves as part of the Jewish nation.

Ronnie, from Kiryat Shmona, summed up the effect of this program by writing, "I saw places on this trip that I had never seen before, like the Western Wall and its Tunnels. I learned about the roots of the State of Israel. Until today, I never thought about how important the State of Israel, and especially Jerusalem, is to all of us. Jerusalem will always belong to us… it is the heart of the State of Israel… From all of my heart, thank you for allowing me and other children from Kiryat Shmona to see and enjoy Jerusalem. The trip was like a gift for me. My belief was strengthened and I feel a part of something."

 

Rejoice in Jerusalem

Bar and Bat Mitzva Celebrations for Underprivileged Children


The Western Wall Heritage Foundation offers a very special Bar/Bat Mitzva program to underprivileged children and children at-risk who have had to leave home due to financial or other problems. We believe that by showing these children that they are anchored in the sturdy roots of their history, they will be able to march forward with a feeling of belonging to the Jewish nation.

The celebration we prepare for them includes:
  • Putting on teffilin (phylacteries), going up to the Torah, and a festive prayer service at the Western Wall
  • A Bar/Bat Mitzva tour of the Tunnels that includes an arts and crafts activity that the children take home as a souvenir
  • A festive meal in a hall, including live music and a magician
  • A personalized Bar/Bat Mitzva certificate for each participant
Each child is also encouraged to invite two guests who share this moving experience with him. For many of these youngsters, were it not for this joyous and significant commemoration, the occasion of their Bar or Bat Mitzva would probably go by with little notice. Because of this program, they experience an unforgettable day and this momentous time of their life takes on considerable meaning.

Michal Goren, the principal of the junior high school in the Ben Shemen Youth Village wrote to us to say, "In these crazy days in which we live, days of insecurity, social extremism, and anxiety, we have found you to be an extraordinary island of sanity, unconditional giving and love. You gave to these children from your hearts, while being meticulous about every last organizational detail…Thank you for giving us the privilege to get to know you and your ability to connect the children of Israel to their heritage and their roots."
 

Bar and Bat Mitzvas Celebrations for Children Victims of Terror and Their Families


One of the most meaningful programs we run at the Western Wall Heritage Foundation is this immensely moving Bar/Bat Mitzva celebration for victims of terror and their families.

The celebration for these wonderful and brave children includes:
  • A gift of teffilin (phylacteries) and a ceremony at the Western Wall during which the Bar Mitzva boy put them on for the first time
  • Going up to the Torah and a festive prayer service at the Western Wall
  • A special ceremony with the participation of the Chief Rabbi of Israel, the Mayor of Jerusalem, the Minister of Tourism, the Minister of Welfare, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency, the Rabbi of the Western Wall, family and friends of the children
  • A tour of the Western Wall Tunnels
  • A gift of a beautiful Bible embossed with the name of the Bar/Bat Mitzva child
  • A festive lunch with entertainment, followed by a reception with the President of the State of Israel at his residence and a gift of the book  "Touching the Stones" about the Western Wall Tunnels.

This program is significant for many reasons, not the least of which is to show these children and their families that the nation of Israel stands with them in times of joy, as well as in times of sorrow. These families, who have been through so much, have something exceedingly special to be thankful for as they reach the occasion of their child's Bar or Bat Mitzvah. It is a pleasure and privilege to partake in a program that celebrates these children's lives and their joining the congregation of Israel.
 

Citizenship and Democracy for High School Students

This program is offered to the higher grades in conjunction with the Education Ministry's Centers for the Study of Citizenship and Democracy. The program consists of educational tours whose goal is to encourage Israeli youth to play their part as responsible citizens of their country.

The tours cover the following topics:
  1. The State of Israel as a Jewish Democratic State
  2. Disharmony versus Unity in Israeli Society in the Light of the Law
  3. Social Responsibility and Involvement
  4. Being a Citizen - What that Means to Me

Several options are offered for the tour itself, with the exact route determined by the school staff and the staff of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation to best suit each specific group of students. Likewise, the content of the discussions on the tour are tailored to the students' backgrounds, studies, and interests.

One participating 10th grade student from Nahalal wrote, "The tour of the Western Wall and its Tunnels was the most interesting activity. The historical explanations were fascinating and I learned a tremendous amount." Another 10th grader wrote, "It was my first time at the Western Wall, and when I left, I felt like it was mine. It was a strange, surprising, and pleasant sensation."

It is clear to us that high school students are at the turning point in their lives between childhood and adulthood. At this juncture, it is crucial that they understand the privileges and responsibilities that come with being a citizen of the State of Israel. Learning about citizenship and democracy must be based on a feeling of belonging and an understanding of the past. Without a clear understanding of where they come from and what their history teaches them, they will not be able to move forward into the future as proud and contributing members of Israeli society. By experiencing the places where their history took place, the lesson becomes a vivid and dynamic one that affects the student's sense of self as an integral part of Jewish history and culture.
 

A Journey to Jerusalem for Soldiers and Security Personnel


This special program for soldiers and other security personnel is run by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation in order to bring groups of soldiers from different army units for a day tour of Jerusalem.

Unfortunately, the disturbing reality is that thousands of soldiers from the IDF have never visited the Western Wall. The goal of this project is to bring soldiers to Jerusalem, the Western Wall, and the City of David to try to connect them to their roots. We choose significant sites that convey both the ancient and the modern to explain the yearning behind the age-old phrase "Next Year in Jerusalem", uttered by generations of Jews around the world. Thus, the soldiers can understand the vital link between the Jewish people and Jerusalem - Israel's eternal capital.

During this informative and moving tour, the soldiers undergo a very personal exploration of their own perspectives regarding Zionism and Judaism. For many soldiers, this tour affords them their first opportunity to grapple with some of the basic tenets of their identity. The visit, therefore, adds a crucial historical and spiritual component to their military service.

The following was written in a letter we received from Air Force Base 6 Flight Battalion, "The soldiers' exposure to the historical legacies, battle sites, and scenic views of the city accomplished the very valuable goal of demonstrating to the group the necessity and legality of Jerusalem as our capital city."

An officer of an artillery unit that took part in the program wrote, "The soldiers in my unit greatly enriched their knowledge of Jerusalem. For some of them, this was the first visit to the holy city. I wish to thank all of you who dedicate yourselves to this selfless task for the organization of the tour, the educational messages, and feeling of oneness the program fostered in my unit."
 

This Land is My Land - Jerusalem for New and Veteran Immigrants

"Go forth from your native land and from your father's house to the land that I will show you."

Thousands of years after Abraham received that commandment, Jews from around the world are still following it and are coming on "aliya" to Israel. What they all have in common is that they have left their native land, their father's house, and have come to the land that G-d has shown us. However, the link between themselves and their new homeland is not always clear. We, at the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, hope to assist in welcoming these immigrants home.

For some time now, each group of new immigrants is brought to Jerusalem for a day tour of sites, including the Western Wall and the Western Wall Tunnels, that have national, historical, or religious significance. As with all our programs, we attempt to create tours to suit differing needs. Therefore, we are organizing special tours according to country of origin, age, and other criteria.

For many immigrants, the connection to Israel is still not solidified. For this reason, we are looking into the possibility of creating a two-day tour of Jerusalem. More time would allow us to convey and analyze with them the new and exciting relationship they are developing with Israel. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation covers the cost of the program so that every new "oleh" will feel that he has come home.
 

The Psalms Project

Every year, a moving and amazing project takes place at the Western Wall Tunnels during the Nine Days between Rosh Chodesh Av (the first day of the Hebrew month of Av) and Tisha B'Av (the ninth day of Av), the time when we commemorate the destruction of the Temple. Throughout this nine-day mourning period, people from all over come to the synagogue that is Opposite the Holy of Holies, established by the late Rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Yehuda Getz. This spot is closest to the place that was the heart of the Temple, and is the most appropriate of venues for heartfelt prayer.

The groups gather for a lesson, and a tour of the Tunnels. Then, together they recite Psalms and prayers. Day after day, pure and sincere voices join in prayer, creating nine continuous days of pleas to "Rebuild Jerusalem soon and in our day."

Shem Tov Ilan, of a participating synagogue from the city of Ashdod wrote to us to say, "This spiritual activity, taking place during the Nine Days preceding the 9th of Av, left a deep impression on the members of our community. Besides the benefit of prayer and recitation of the Psalms, the project made the participants feel united as a group and strengthened our sense of unity as part of the community and as part of the nation. We pray to the Creator that this blessed project will help bring the days of redemption closer and that we will have the privilege of hearing the Levites sing at the Temple in our days, Amen."

To find out more about the Psalms project, contact us.
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