The last words my mom expected to come out of my mouth that one afternoon last year were, “Mom, sometime in my life, I want to go to Israel.” But, sure enough, they did! We had been studying about Israel in History and the nation intrigued me. Believe it or not, the very next day my teacher announced an opportunity for a month long, all expenses paid, exchange trip to Israel through the America-Israel Friendship League. I applied, went through an interview process, and was chosen as one of three students out of seventy five applicants to go!
On Sunday we packed up and started out on a four hour bus ride to New York City! We arrived at the 30-30 Hotel in Manhattan and spent the evening touring the city. The next day we went to school at Herbert H. Lehman High School in the Bronx, New York. It was neat to see how New Yorkers go to school!
Over the course of the next three days, we got restricted access to the United Nations general assembly room and Security Council, and got to visit sights like Central Park, Ground Zero, Grand Central Station, and Wall Street. We even got to go to an off-Broadway show called “Fuerzabruta!”
After over a week on the east coast, we got on a plane and headed to Israel! We arrived, and despite our jet lag, enjoyed listening to an American ambassador to Israel speak. We spent the next couple of days touring Tel Aviv and Jaffa with the other Americans from the trip.
Then we set off for a week with our host families! I stayed with a girl named Avia and her family. I went to school with her, and while I couldn’t understand the classes because they speak Hebrew, it was enlightening. We then took a trip throughout the north of Israel including Nazareth, Capernaum, Haifa, the Israel-Jordan border, and the Sea of Galilee.
My favorite part of the trip was our week in Jerusalem. We started off with a sunset tour of the city which included traveling to different mountains and seeing the Old City of Jerusalem. We spent the week seeing different sights such as the Wailing Wall, the most sacred place of Judaism, the City of David, the original Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives. On the last evening, we had a farewell ceremony with all the students from the delegation. That was the hardest goodbye I’ve ever had to make because of the friendships I had formed with those teenagers.
After I came back, I couldn’t stop talking about it! The exchange trip gave me a passion for the nation of Israel. It opened my eyes to what lies outside my community. I now love learning about the history of Israel and I’ve even started learning Hebrew! That passion has turned into a dream and I plan to major in International Studies next year, study abroad at Jerusalem University College on Mount Zion, and move to Israel afterwards. The America-Israel Friendship League gave me an opportunity and through that opportunity came a passion, and from that passion came a changed life.
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