Yom Ha’atzmaut 2022

This year’s theme for the all-day Yom Ha’atzmaut programming focused on the מצות התלויות בארץ and קדושת ארץ ישראל (the mitzvot and sanctity of the Land of Israel). In honor of the Shmittah year, students rotated through various stations, each one teaching about a different mitzvah connected to the Land of Israel, and doing so on a level catering to different age groups. The stations taught students the core idea of that mitzvah, its connection or application to Israeli history, and included a hands-on activity.

In our Shmittah station, our youngest students learned how Hashem reserves bracha for us before, during, and after the Shmittah year. They made special bentcher boxes to show how we reciprocate Hashem’s blessing by thanking Him for sustaining us. Our upper elementary students worked on creating and playing their own מצות התלויות בארץ (mitzvot of the Land of Israel) board game. Our middle school students learned about the history of the early settlement of the Land of Israel and the debates that flared about how we could finally observe the mitzvah of Shmittah after millennia of living in exile.

To learn about the mitzvot of Peah, Leket, and Shichicha, students enjoyed a presentation teaching the definition of each of the gifts to the poor, and connecting it to the upcoming holiday of Shavuot in which we learn about Ruth collecting these gifts to the poor. Students also heard about an amazing organization in Israel, Leket Israel, which works to collect food for the hungry. To apply the lessons to their daily lives, students decorated tzedakah boxes with the themes of Peah, Leket, and Shichicha.

Our Terumah and Ma’aser stations seamlessly integrated math into the learning. Our youngest students visited a “farm” where they helped the farmer separate Terumah and Ma’aser. There was a “carob orchard” (i.e. chocolate chips), a vineyard (i.e. raisins), and an apple orchard (i.e. Apple Jacks). Students, young and old, learned how the sanctity of the Land of Israel demands a higher degree of caution and action with food to make it prepared to eat.

To illustrate the notion of Kilayim (forbidden mixtures of produce, animals, and clothing), students experimented with foods that aren’t typically eaten together. They rated these “interesting” combinations on the “gross-o-meter.” This memorable experience made a lasting impression and drove home the point that Hashem has designed this world perfectly, and some things are just not meant to be combined.

Our Bikkurim (First Fruits) stations focused on the special Shivat Haminim (Seven species) for which the Land of Israel is praised. Students matched the Hebrew names with the fruit of Israel. Our middle school students received and decorated a special thankfulness journal and were challenged to each day record at least one thing for which they are thankful. 

The station teaching about Ma’aser Sheni (Second Tithe)  and Neta Revay (fruit from the fourth year of a fruit bearing tree), our eyes and noses were treated to beautiful views and delicious smells. Our upper elementary students decorated frames with Yerushalayim, and our middle school students created a spice shuk, selling spices in exchange for students committing to learn additional Torah. 

From the start of the day, when our upper elementary students and middle school students came together for a spirited, beautiful hallel led by OCA parent, Mr. Uri Rabinowitz to the middle of the day, when we gathered as a school community for a delicious falafel lunch, until the end of the day, when middle school students reflected on the day by comparing it to one of three Israeli chocolate bars, it was a day of excitement, learning, and community all around our precious Israel. 

Early Childhood Center
After boarding an imaginary ECC El Al airplane to Israel, students explored the Kotel, created their own Kotel wall, and learned about the Dead Sea. The children squeezed oranges to make orange juice, and used their senses to play with the colors blue and white, using shaving cream with blue and white paint. They shopped in the ECC Shuk, and farmed the land in OCA’s kibbutz, gardening and planting fruits and herbs. We topped it all off with a delicious falafel lunch!