Portland Jewish Academy is a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and is proud of our partnership with them in strengthening our local Jewish community as well as the global community.










8th Grade Israel Trip

Sun, Snow, Flash Floods, and One Unforgettable Eighth Grade Trip to Israel

This past February, PJA’s 8th grade class embarked upon an amazing adventure! Along with two of their teachers, Shahar Eden and Liz Phillips, the students spent 16 days exploring Israel. As has been the practice for the past few years, PJA teamed up and traveled to the Holy Land with students and teachers from Contra Costa Day School, an independent Jewish school in the Bay area. 

From the minute the plane touched down in Tel Aviv, the group was off and running. First stop, Jerusalem! While unusually rainy and windy, the wet weather did not slow down the PJA kids. From exploring the shuk (open market), to touring the Old City (above and below!), to participating in an archaeological dig, to walking to the Kotel on Shabbat, to experiencing Yad Vashem and Har Herzl, students took advantage of all that Jerusalem had to offer. From there, the group hopped on the bus and went east to Masada. After climbing to the top of Masada, the students gathered together for Shacharit. “Reading Torah on Masada was a special way for me to connect with Israel,” says 8th grader, Jacob Glass. 

Afterwards, it was time for the Dead Sea, where students slathered on mud and bobbed in the water! Next up—southern Israel, which included a Jeep ride through the Negev, a visit to Mizpe Ramon, and a tour of the Salad Trail—an agricultural wonder in the middle of the desert! To add to all of this excitement, students experienced two unusual weather conditions in a single day while traveling through the desert—first snow and then a flash flood! “It was amazing to see snow in the desert!” says Ruthie Zeidman. “Even in Portland, we rarely see snow. To see it in Israel was a unique experience!”

The tour of Israel continued with a visit to the artist communities in Tzfat, and then on to a sunset boat ride on the Kinneret. Eventually the group made their way back up north to the Golan Heights, where they visited Mount Bental and the Helicopter Memorial honoring the soldiers killed in the 1997 Israeli Helicopter Disaster. “It was really difficult to see the individual soldier’s names, because my family has a connection to three of the individuals who died,” says PJA student, Gili Heyman. “Listening to Shahar talk about his father was also especially meaningful.” Shabbat home stays, a visit to the Bahai Gardens in Haifa, learning about the Druze community in Usfiya, and a quick trip to Caesarea happened next. Eventually, the group found their way to Tel Aviv, where they got to experience the vibrancy and excitement of the city! Tess Jacobs’ favorite experience was visiting the Shuk HaCarmel. “It felt so inviting to be there. At one point, my friends and I joined a dance circle. I really enjoyed connecting with some of the Israeli citizens through this experience!” Without a doubt, this trip will leave a lasting imprint on both students and teachers alike. What a remarkable experience for our PJA students!

PJA wants to express its gratitude to The Cookie and Merritt Yoelin Fund of the OJCF/Brian and Amara Norman for their generous support of the 2019 Israel Trip. Philanthropic gifts directed to this trip help to make it affordable for our 8th grade families. For more information on supporting PJA's 8th grade Israel Trip, please contact Steve Albert at salbert@pjaproud.org or 503.535.3592.