Facing East: Processing an Immersive Israel Experience

photoCJP and Tufts Hillel Program for Israel Experience Follow Up

This program is designed for students who recently returned from traveling, learning, and volunteering in Israel. Now that they are back in the U.S., how are they to process, integrate and continue their relationship to Israel? Engaging in traditional text study and a process that combines art and creative writing we engage these diverse modalities to process how their recent experience and explore how it has influenced their relationship to Israel and their Jewish identity. With the help of rabbinic texts and our own reflective process, together we will explore the question of what facing east towards Jerusalem means to us today.


  1. To use art and creative writing to help students reflect on, process and integrate how their experiences on Birthright and in Israel have shaped their relationship to Israel and their Jewish identity.
  2. To create a safe and open environment that deepens the bonds between students and introduces them to a cohort of peers that will extend beyond this workshop


Hevrutah Study

In pairs students will study short texts from the Mishnah focused on the practice of facing east, noting questions, surprises, and points where the texts are resonant or dissonant with their own feelings, experiences and thoughts regarding Israel. Students will come back together as a group to share what they discussed as a hevrutah.


To begin stimulate their own creativity, students will be led through a word association exercise in which they will be given words from these texts and other words associated with Israel. Then, students will be give five minutes to free write in response to anything that was stirred up from the word association. At the end of the free writing each student will compose a personal response to the prompt: When I face east…. Space will be opened up for students to have a chance to share their writing out loud with the group




To further probe the themes, hopes and visions expressed in their writing, students will explore via art materials (paint, oil pastels, watercolors, collage) to create their own mizrah (wall hanging for east wall of a house). Students will probe further into the Mishnaic texts and their own writing following the same prompt: When I face East, what am I facing? Guided by this theme of “Facing East,” and their own words of prayer, students will be invited to use the art to reflect on the idea in Jewish tradition of orienting ourselves towards Jerusalem.


At the end of the art making, participants will have 15 minutes to write in response to their mizrah, following the prompts: What do I see? What surprised me? What does my piece tell me? What did I struggle with? What new words or visions might I add to my prayer? What experiences came up for me in working on this? What other aspects of Judaism were touched on for me in this experience? What elements of the texts we studied came through? To close, space will be opened up in which students will have the opportunity to show their piece and/or read what they wrote in front of the group.

Read student’s witness writings here