With just two–days notice, our 10 Atlanta Shinshinim tearfully packed their backpacks and suitcases and prepared to go home to Israel. As the schools and organizations across Atlanta and North America that work with them have closed, The Jewish Agency followed Israeli guidance to return all North American Shinshinim to Israel.
We’ve been deeply moved by the efforts made by the host families, students and sponsoring partners to say goodbye to them. Just before leaving for the airport they assembled at Federation for a farewell closing circle, sharing memories from the last seven months.
The good news: The Shinshinim are safe and sound and living together in a town called Shomera, up north near the Lebanese border. By their own choice, our Atlanta Shinshinim decided to remain together as a group rather than return home to their families. Their parents are voluntarily paying for their temporary living quarters in Shomera and have organized an elaborate system to deliver food to them during the two weeks they are living here. They’ll return home at the end of the quarantine period.
We asked several of the Shinshinim, to update us on their situation. Read on to see what they said.
Q: Why did you all choose to stay together?
We chose to stay together for a few reasons. The first was to create space to transition from our time in Atlanta to being back in Israel. The decision to send us home happened so fast, out of nowhere, so in order to adjust more easily, we decided that still being around each other would make this sad and confusing time a little bit nicer. The alternative to being together was to be isolated at home. What would we do for 14 days alone in our rooms, with no way to talk to our family other than through the door?
Being with people makes it better. Also, again, thank you to our parents for taking care of us and planning everything!
Q: How did it feel to leave Atlanta?
It was hard. I started to get the feeling we were going back when Dor, Shani, Yotan and I went to the NBA game in Atlanta and they announced this was the last game of the season. From there the schools were canceled as well, and we were told we were going back in just two days! I didn’t see any of the kids from all of my amazing institutions! And some of them I can’t reach out to through social media because they’re too young.
To say goodbye to my host family was hard, we moved in not that long ago, and I’m really sad I didn’t get enough time with them. But I know the Jewish Agency made the right decision.
Q: What’s the situation in Israel at this challenging time?
We watch the news every night and are very carefully following the Ministry of Health instructions. It’s unbelievable how fast things are getting worse around the world — even the Eurovision got canceled! We believe that Israel is taking the right steps.
It’s crazy that even though we are quarantined in Shomera, the situation at our homes and families is not that different. Most of the people don’t go out of their house — you don’t have places to go to anyway, everything non-essential is closed.
We feel all these things are bringing Israelis together, the talk is about unity and togetherness instead of arguments. Funny songs and jokes about the corona virus are all over social media and being sent in group-chats all over Israel.