Jillian Feiger, Director of Jewish Student Connection & IST, Shares Her Experience from This Year’s Trip to Israel
This year we celebrated the 52nd anniversary of the Joyce Zeff Israel Study Tour (IST). IST has been a staple in the Colorado community and a life changing experience for our Colorado Jewish teens since 1971. This summer I had the pleasure of spending five full weeks with 72 teens and 10 staff, both Israeli and American, as the Director of IST.
It is a testament to the impact of IST that all four of our American staff went on IST when they were in high school or came back to staff a second summer. IST is not only a staple in Colorado, but it is one of the most well-known and highly respected community trips in Israel.
One of our tour guides when given the job asked a friend about doing a five-week teen trip, at first the friend said don’t do it, then when she heard it was the group from Colorado, she said absolutely do it. IST has a reputation in Israel for being the best trip with the best teens and staff. This is also evident every time we are around other teen groups.
This summer on IST our overall theme was community. Not only creating our own internal community but learning about Israel’s various communities. We opened our IST group to five Israeli teens from JEWISHcolorado’s partnership region, Ramat HaNegev. These five teens joined us for a week of touring in the Northern Galilee region of Israel and then again during host family weekend in the Negev. In addition, we explored and learned about many diverse communities in Israel, including the Druze, Bedouin, Moroccans, Palestinians, Christians, Muslim, Settlers, and much more.
Some highlights of IST this summer according to the participants in the end of trip survey were learning about the Holocaust at Yad Vashem, walking through Hezekiah’s water tunnels under the old city of Jerusalem, going to the Gaza border wall and completing a peace art project at Netiv HaAsara, camping in the Negev desert, snorkeling and banana boating in the Red Sea, hiking Masada, rafting on the Jordan River, Aqua Kef a water park on the Sea of Galilee, cliff repelling, visiting the Ahmeddiya Mosque and hearing from an Imam, Bahai garden tour in Haifa, surfing and biking in Tel Aviv, ropes course, and Mt. Herzl.
Beyond just the people we met and the highlights of the trip, IST 2022 had some unique opportunities that most IST trips do not get to experience. We watched the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup live from the top of Masada at 5am and were lucky to attend the Maccabiah Opening Ceremony where President Joe Biden was also in attendance and one of our ISTers was an athlete. These were bonuses to an already memorable and life-changing trip.
After five weeks of traveling coast to coast, the last night of IST culminates in a closing circle where each participant gets to share about their experience over the summer. The best part of this is to hear how the teens will come back to Colorado and continue their IST and Jewish journey. I can’t wait to see what they do next and who comes back to staff IST in 2027!
As one of the teens said in the IST survey, “Amazing experience, 10/10 recommend”.