Faculty visits Israel for immersion program


History teachers Larry Klein and Katherine Holmes-Chuba speak to a shopkeeper in an Israeli spice market. Sixteen faculty members spent two weeks in Israel on an Immersion Faculty Fellowship to experience the culture. Printed with permission of Cheri Gaulke

Noa Schwartz

Sixteen faculty members traveled to Israel on an Immersion Faculty Fellowship June 13-27.
The school’s Gunter Gross Global Fund sponsored the trip and provided faculty with the opportunity to study abroad.
History teacher and trip leader Larry Klein said there was no notable impact from the current political state of Israel on their trip.
Traveling as a group allowed the faculty to connect outside of school, Klein said.
The trip primarily consisted of different activities exposing the faculty to various, different aspects of Israeli history and religions.
The faculty also immersed themselves in Israeli culture and lifestyle as well as saw multiple guest speakers.
Additionally, they visited a school for special needs children.
“Everyone had their own unique experience of immersion into a unique, ancient and current historical and spiritual culture and place,” Klein said.
The itinerary included visits to Jerusalem, Golan Heights in the Levant, the Dead Sea, the Negev Desert, Tel Aviv, the Knesset building, Bethlehem and the disputed territory of the West Bank, said counselor and humanities teacher Luba Bek, who went on the trip.
“In two weeks’ time, I learned so much about the history, current state of affairs in the region, the Israeli people and their way of life,” Bek said. “My favorite experience was when we visited an [Israeli Defense Forces] base. The life of those young boys and girls, who are about the age of [Harvard-Westlake] students, who are proud to defend their country and serve its people, all combined with an almost summer camp-like atmosphere, all stood out to me as extraordinary.”
History teacher Katherine Holmes-Chuba said she enjoyed going to the Western Wall on Friday Shabbat as well as walking around Jerusalem to see the different layers of history throughout the city.
“I’ve been to Israel before, I’ve studied it obviously and I’ve read about it, but there was a day that we were up in the Golan Heights, and suddenly Mr. Klein said, ‘You realize we’re two miles from Syria, and we’re 20 miles from Lebanon?’ and at that point, you just have a whole new understanding of how Israelis feel,” Holmes-Chuba said. “You understand it because you look in a map and say ‘they’re surrounded,’ but when you’re actually on the ground, it’s like there’s a reason for feeling paranoid because they’re so surrounded.”
Holmes-Chuba, who teaches the senior class AP Art History and the tenth grade class The World and Europe II, said she hopes to incorporate her personal experiences from the trip, such as learning about the Bauhaus buildings in Tel Aviv and seeing an iconostasis in the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, into her classes’ curriculum as well as classroom discussions.
However, Holmes-Chuba said she also wants to remain impartial as an educator in order to allow her students to develop their own opinions on Israeli current events and controversies.
“There’s enough in the world today of everyone telling you how to think,” Holmes-Chuba said. “I do think that one of our jobs as history teachers is to get students to think for themselves and not indoctrinate, but [I will share] my own experiences, show pictures particularly in Art History.”