That one word perfectly describes the whirlwind three-city performance tour of France by the 37 high school students and 5 staff members of the WIZO Nachlat Yehuda Youth Village’s Song and Dance Troupe.
The Nachlat Yehuda Song & Dance Troupe with Joëlle Lezmi (far right), President of WIZO France
The tour, which featured sold-out performances in Paris (April 17th), Nîmes (April 22nd) and Cannes (April 23rd) celebrated the State of Israel’s 70th year of Independence.
The tour was made possible thanks to the dedicated efforts of World WIZO Chairperson Prof. Rivka Lazovsky and Joëlle Lezmi, President of WIZO France, along with the support of the Jewish communities of Paris, Nîmes and Cannes. WIZO France also provided kosher food for the group all along their trip.
Flim (with English subtitles)
Film (with French subtitles):
The Singing and Dance Troupe: A Staple of Nachlat Yehuda
Established in 1922 in Rishon LeZion as a training center for agricultural workers, WIZO Nachlat Yehuda is one of the oldest educational institutions in Israel. After the establishment of the State, it became a high school focused on agricultural and farm studies. In addition, there have also been singing and dance troupes in the village for over 20 years. The troupes have played on stages throughout Israel and around the world, especially in Jewish communities in order to strengthen their ties with Israel. The troupes also function as therapeutic and educational tools that develop the talents of students and allow them to experience success and improve their social and educational performance.
Tour de France: Paris
The new experiences for the troupe began even before they landed in Paris. For a few of the students this trip was the first time they had ever left Israel and the first time they had ever been on an airplane.
When they landed, the group was met by Joëlle Lezmi, President of WIZO France, who accompanied the children every step of the way in Paris and made sure everything ran smoothly. After taking photos at the Eiffel Tower, WIZO France organized a lovely boat ride for the students on the Seine River.
Boat ride on the Seine
The students also really enjoyed spending a day at Parc Astérix, a theme park 22 miles north of Paris, based on the popular comic strip. The group was admitted to the park, which is one of the most visited sites in France, with around 1.6 million visitors per year, free thanks to the extreme generosity of the Goscinny family. René Goscinny, a Jewish Frenchman, was one of the original creators of Astérix. A big merci beaucoup to Joëlle Lezmi and her wonderful chaverot of WIZO France for arranging such a wonderful gift for the students.
On the evening of April 17th, the students held a moving ceremony for Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers, at the Edmond Fleg Jewish Community Center in Paris. The ceremony included stories of soldiers who studied in Nachlat Yehuda and lost their lives defending Israel, as well as special memorial prayers.
The student's Yom Hazikaron Memorial Ceremony in Paris
After some more rehearsals, the troupe was finally ready to take the stage in the Palais des Congrès in Paris.
The atmosphere at the show in Paris was electric. The Jewish community came out in full force to support the event. During the performance the audience was on its feet clapping and dancing in the aisles.
Nîmes: Rishon LeZion’s Sister City
The next stop on the tour was Nîmes, Rishon LeZion’s sister city. There the troupe was warmly welcomed by Nicole Illouz, President of WIZO Nîmes, and her husband Maurice. The troupe then visited the Arena of Nîmes with a Hebrew speaking guide. The visit to the site was arranged with the gracious assistance of the local municipality.
That evening the students performed to another packed hall. The enthusiastic audience not only thoroughly enjoyed the show, they also joined the performers in a spirited round of Israeli dancing.
The final stop on the three-city tour was Cannes. The Chief Rabbi of Cannes, Rabbi David Moyal, and his wife Eva warmly welcomed the group together with the President of the Cannes Jewish Community, Mr. Gérard Bavard and the President of WIZO Cannes, Mrs. Chantal Ziegel. After enjoying a wonderful day of touring, the troupe prepared for their final show, which was simply spectacular.
The show at the Jewish Community Center in Cannes
The French-Israel Connection
“This trip was so important on several levels,” World WIZO Chairperson Prof. Rivka Lazovsky said. “For the Jewish communities in France these performances are a wonderful way for them to show their love and support for the state of Israel. WIZO Nachlat Yehuda is eternally grateful to Joëlle Lezmi and her devoted Chaverot of WIZO France who organized the tour in an outstanding way, taking care of all the children's needs. The children are so grateful to them for their tremendous support in all three cities: Paris, Nîmes, and Cannes.”
During the trip, the Nachlat Yehuda students also got the opportunity to meet youth their own age in France, including the French scouts.
Everywhere they went, the Jewish communities made the troupe feel very welcome. The group also thanks all the local municipalities who supported the events and sent their representatives to greet the group.
A Lasting Impression
What the Israeli students found most surprising was the outpouring of love for Israel and for the troupe from the French Jewish community. They couldn't believe it. They kept asking their group leaders why do they love Israel so much, why do they love us so much. The staff explained to them that the members of the Jewish community that they met and that came to their shows are proud Zionists who love Israel - and that you, the young people from WIZO Nachlat Yehuda, represent the very best of Israel!
The students in front of the synagogue of Cannes
Photo and Video Credits: Monique Asher