44 students from the Mercaz girls high school in Brooklyn New York who experienced anti-Semitism came to Israel on a two-week tour, at the end of which they received their diplomas in a ceremony watched by their parents on ZOOM.
These students had experienced anti-Semitic harassment, including spitting and screaming, prior to their visit to Israel.
On a roof overlooking the Western Wall, the schoolgirls sat and received their diplomas. Until the last minute, it was not clear whether the trip to Israel would be possible after it had already been postponed.
The last trip from the Mercaz high school occurred in March 2020. Shortly afterwards, Israel entered its first coronavirus lockdown and closed its skies to foreign travelers.
According to the group's director, Rabbi Chaim Waldman, "Everything here was a miracle that we were able to achieve. Many schools wanted to come and could not because they did not get permits and we are the only ones we got them. It was important for the girls to get here and get their diplomas."
Elisheva Minkopf, 18, from Brooklyn, said: "This is my first time in Israel and I know today that I want to immigrate to Israel." According to her, she studied the Hebrew Bible at school but did not know the places and the experience here in Israel gave her perspective. Along with the recent rise in anti-Semitism in New York, she realized that Israel is probably the place for her.
Dvori Fleischman, 19, from Brooklyn, says that this trip made her feel even more connected to the Torah and the people of Israel. She said the corona further illustrates the need for Israel. She cannot believe "the whole world is still under the coronavirus but Israel has managed to get out of it."
Amos Hermon, CEO of the Israel Experience, the company which brought the girls to Israel, said: "Every year we bring to Israel many thousands of young Jews from all over the world. During the Corona period, young people who aspired to come here could not do so, and now they can. The Mercaz school in Brooklyn is the biggest sign of our insistence on not giving up any young Jewish men or women who will have the opportunity to come here at such an important juncture in their lives and strengthen their connection to Israel."