Young Judaea’s Year Course redirects
Photo: Courtesy Webb Family
“Going on Year Course was the best decision I ever made and I’m sorry it ended this way,” here with his father James, Webb self-quarantined with his family upon arriving April 2. “Still, I got an incredible experience.  I’m a better person than when I left, and that’s due to the last six months.”

Should I stay or Should I Go query Dallas-area teens

By Deb Silverthorn

Young Judaea’s Year Course has, like all the world, been set on a new route with Dallas’ Adam Gadol and Joey Webb following its diversion.  Gadol, remains at YC’s Jerusalem campus, while Webb returned home April 2.

“Year Course is in a weird stage that couldn’t have been expected,” said Gadol.  “I’ve been talking to my parents daily and evaluating the situation.  Here, or at home, I’m staying ‘in,’ so I hope to ride it out.”

Reluctant to return, but worried about the ability to get home and satisfied it was the right decision for him, Webb is continuing online coursework, hoping to get on-campus, as a freshman at American University, in the fall.

“Going on Year Course was the best decision I ever made and I’m sorry it ended this way. Still, I got an incredible experience,” he said, grateful for the opportunity he had.  “I’m a better person than when I left, and that’s due to the last six months.”

At press time, there are 22 North American students still in Jerusalem, and 18 at the program’s Tel Aviv campus. None have become ill.  They are studying, playing video games, working out in the campus’ gym and visiting in the courtyard —family to each other, acting not differently from anyone.

“Whatever’s safest is what we’re looking at,” said Gadol.  “The days seem long but, suddenly, Sunday to Thursday feels like a blur and my feelings about leaving change constantly.”

El Al has announced an extension through May 2. From, May 3-30, it will have limited flights to 10 cities, including New York.  The original group flight is still scheduled to leave May 19.  

While they look forward to being reunited, Gadol’s parents, Janet and Steven, are backing his decision.

“We’re talking and he’s concerned, but with a clear mind.  It’s more like ‘camp’ now but he’s staying put, and making different memories,” said Jane. Concerns about health threats that traveling, and layovers might allow are somewhat driving decisions.  “We know him and he’s smart.  It’s tough to be apart but this is the ‘now’ and, so far, it’s as controlled as can be.”

Now cleared, the students were quarantined for approximately 24-hours, before a report of a potential exposure at a Purim party, was disqualified.   

“Everyone, students and staff, helped make quarantine happen quickly,” said Young Judaea/FZY Year Course Director Kate Brody Nachman. She noted leadership has separated spaces, on both campuses, should an immediate quarantine need to occur. “They were equally pleased to be released from quarantine and considered it better safe than sorry.”

Gadol’s classes, now all via Zoom or Google classroom, include “Zionism,” “Jewish Art,” “The Jewish Idea,” “Hebrew,” and “God Talk,” the later initially accompanied by field trips to historical and religious sites which have been canceled, along with a trip to Poland.  In whatever form school resumes in the fall, Gadol will begin studies, where yet to be determined, following a major in sports media and marketing. 

Gadol and friends volunteered at HaShomer HaChadash, helping farmers while many agricultural workers aren’t working due to current travel restrictions. Year Coursers picked oranges, grapefruits and strawberries and packed up food for delivery to families.

During Passover, many had planned to travel overseas, or around Israel, and others were expecting visitors to join them.  Instead, seders were held with guidance from the staff, but most of the experience by peer leadership, a core value of Young Judaea.

Year Course,  last month , had scheduled a hike from the Mediterranean to the Kineret, a surfing and other water activities course, snorkeling and other activities while living on a kibbutz. 

Now, on the rare occasion students leave campus, they’re covering their mouths and noses and wearing gloves. Rotating shopping duty, the hunt for goods is carried out with concern.

“Today I found toilet paper, chicken, fish and beef, milk and cheeses, sauces and cleaning supplies,” said Gadol, who made the trek by foot, gloves and mask part of his wardrobe.

Gadol, like many of his peers, arrived in Israel not so experienced in the kitchen.  He says popcorn was his specialty. Now he’s more accomplished.  While enjoying occasional to-go meals, the group mostly takes turns cooking and cleaning for themselves.

Webb, arrived home showered and sheltered.  His brother, Max, returned from studies in Vietnam 10 days earlier. The whole family is self-quarantining, but thankful to be together.

“The pool is running, the dartboard and corn-hole games  are out.  So many flights were canceled and I’m just glad they’re both home, safe and healthy,” said the boys’ dad, James.  “I can’t say enough about the incredible job that Year Course did communicating and caring for our children.”

Like Jews the world over Gadol is celebrating Passover differently than planned. “Today, I still think it’s ultimately safer to be here.” he said.  “Regardless, it’s been an amazing experience.”

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