My family has always been the kind to go on the boring, educational type of vacations. When my friends would come home from Puerto Rico and the Bahamas with cornrows in their hair, I would be jealous because all I got out of my trips were museum brochures and achy feet. As I grew older though, I started to appreciate it more and more. “What’s the point of lying on a beach all day doing absolutely nothing but harming your skin, when you can visit an alligator farm in New Orleans, or ride bikes in Amsterdam?” I would think to myself. Traveling the world soon evolved into my favorite pastime, as learning new customs and cultures amazed me.
One travel destination in particular spoke to me – Israel. Judaism plays a very large role in my life, and when I had the chance to go to Israel through the organization NFTY in Israel in the summer of 2008, I did not hesitate to sign up. Exploring Israel with my friends and meeting new faces from across the globe was an unbelievable experience that will never escape my mind. I hiked in the Negev desert for four days with no toilets, and floated in the Dead Sea with no life. I rode camels, slept in tents in a Bedouin village and pranced down the beaches of Tel Aviv. I explored caves in an archaeological dig by day and shopped until I ran out of Israeli Shekels on Ben Yehuda Street by night.
One special night in Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel) would be remembered as the longest night of our young lives. We were preparing to climb Masada, a big mountain where the Jews had made a last stand against the Romans and committed suicide thousands and thousands of years ago. In order to be able to watch the breath-taking sunrise from the top of Masada that everyone raved about, we stayed up all night and enjoyed ourselves at the base of Masada. At around four in the morning, we embarked on our journey up Masada. The hike was long and enduring, but we finally made it as the first group to reach the top! We were sweaty and gasping for air as we celebrated our great accomplishment by jumping around and screaming at the top of our lungs. A feeling of thrill and relief, both at the same time, rushed throughout my body – something I had never felt before.
I have been down Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles and down in Jupiter, Florida. I have toured castles in Ottawa and concentration camps in Poland. I have tasted the finest chocolate in Belgium and prayed at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, but I have never experienced college. I know that I can use my knowledge of the world and its wonderful people and places to my advantage, and maybe college won’t be as strenuous as climbing Masada.
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