Reflections on the Irene and Daniel Simpkins Senior Capstone Israel Trip

Written by Sophie Handloff ‘18 on . Posted in Features

On our way to Israel back in February, everyone was excited and nervous, and emotions were running way high. We had been waiting for this moment for 13 years! Arriving this time was so different after being in Israel with my grandparents and to visit my sister (Hannah ‘15).

My favorite part of the trip was Volunteer Period. I was on a kibbutz with 20 other classmates. We lived and worked together, taking care of baby cows. All of us were fully integrated into the kibbutz environment — living, cooking, cleaning, being on time for work, and dealing with everyday household issues — it was an awesome experience.

I had eight roommates, which was crazy and messy and fun and exciting. There’s no personal space (in a really good way). We played games, had fashion shows, and made the best of our small space.

I remember minute for minute our “trip” to Israel back in Kindergarten. There was a tape airplane on the floor, and we brought our suitcases, pajamas, bathing suits, and toothbrushes. Most of the kids from my kindergarten class were with me on this trip and it helped bring everything full circle. Being at the Dead Sea with your best friends is a dream!

We brought an Israeli vibe with us to Poland, and had each other to process the experience with, and be strong together. We were very cognizant that we were living the dream that those who perished weren’t able to.

Instead of having an unproductive second semester senior year, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I worked hard throughout school, especially junior and first semester senior years. We now had no work left, no sports teams, no other commitments. We were able to be fully present, live in the moment, and focus on being in Israel, and I’ve made memories that will last a lifetime.

For more information on the Irene and Daniel Simpkins Senior Capstone Israel Trip, visit

By Sophie Handloff ‘18 

Sophie Handloff‘ 18 is a CESJDS “lifer,” heading to the University of Vermont this fall.