Rachel Koch, a teacher from Tennessee, with her family
and a visiting Israeli educator.
December 13, 2010 / 5 Tevet 5771
Rachel Koch is a religious school and preschool teacher in Nashville, TN, who participated in the Partnership 2000 (P2K) Educator Exchange Program as a host in December 2009. She will visit Israel at the end of December for an upcoming Educators delegation.
When the Carmel fire broke out in December, she immediately got in touch with the four Israeli educators she met through the program.
Here is her letter to them.
The P2K Educator Exchange Program links Israeli and North American Jewish educators. The upcoming delegation from America will spend a week in Israel being hosted by families, spending time with Israeli educators and in their schools, and will also tour the country and visit Jewish Agency sites and programs.
Thank you so much for writing and letting me know about you and your families. I continue to watch the news and hope things will be better soon. But this situation has also shed much light for me on a transformation that has taken place within me over the past year. Had this fire happened thirteen months ago, I would have watched the news and thought, "What a terrible tragedy for Israel." I would have cried over the photographs of the burned bus and the images of those who lost their lives, lined up under blankets beside it. I would have worried over the loss of wildlife and the trees. I would have felt for the displaced families. I would have written a check and said a prayer for recovery.
However, 12 months ago I was introduced to the Partnership 2000 Educator Exchange Program. I was asked to host a teacher and I agreed.
Prior to meeting this teacher, I could never make Israel feel real. It felt like a country very far away. I tried... I read books on Israel. I talked to my rabbi about my concern - how can I feel connected??? But Israel was still a place with strangers, not a Jewish homeland engraved in my heart. As I've said before, my life changed the day I went to the JCC and met the teacher I would host. Israel and its people came into focus for me. My children fell in love with Adiv immediately. Harding Academy's students were captivated by him immediately. And even though he was with us only for a few days, Israel and its people continue to grow in our hearts.
Now I see these images on the news of your fire and in my heart and mind, I worry for individual people...for Adiv, his wife Sagit, his children Guy and Yaara. I worry for Maya whom I met briefly in Nashville last December. I worry for Hila whom I've communicated with via email both last December and this autumn. I worry about Amy and all the students at Alona whose faces have smiled at me over YouTube. YOU are real to me now. Israel is real to me now. Maps could not make this so. The news media could not make this so. Books could not make this so. It was the program bringing a human being into our lives and home. If any of you ever doubted that the connections made through Partnership 2000 were in vain, I assure you this connection is not only worthwhile, it is priceless.
I continue to look forward to my trip to Israel and to meet you all again, or for the first time, in person. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.