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Back in March 2009, I was sitting in the pew of my church listening to my pastor read aloud the usual announcements. My heart raced when I heard Pastor Ben share that there would be an upcoming trip to Israel in November. I was determined to go, though the cost of the trip was $3,400. I found many ways to make money over the next eight months: collecting cans, selling raffle tickets at the speedway, setting up a cell phone recycling drive, holding a few garage sales, and mailing out donation letters to friends, family, and local businesses. It must have been my destiny to go, because the money seemed to flood in and I ended up earning the full amount that was needed!
Over the ten day trip throughout Israel, we visited and studied numerous famous sites such as the Mount of Beatitudes, Armageddon, Herod’s palace on Masada, crossing the Sea of Galilee on a boat, Mt. Carmel, Capernaum, the Roman Amphitheater in Caesarea, Mt. Hermon, and the Qumran Caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered. I went to the lowest point in all the earth, the Dead Sea, where I was able to float in water which consisted of one-third salt! In Jerusalem I witnessed the Mt. of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, Golgotha, the Garden Tomb, the Upper Room, Dome of the Rock, and I even had the opportunity to slip a prayer into the Western Wall. My absolute favorite site was En Gedi, which was the place of the beautiful wilderness caves where David wrote most of his famous Psalms and where David hid when King Saul was pursuing him. A highlight of the trip was riding on the back of a camel down the streets of Jerusalem. I found some things strange like not being able to have cheese on my hamburger because of the kosher eating laws and having to walk out backwards when leaving the Western Wall.
One of the most important lessons that I learned in Israel was an appreciation for the importance of history. Growing up, I’ve never been enthusiastic concerning historical topics. Events of the past never interested me like the way math did. However, the eyes of my understanding began to open and I started to comprehend how history directly influences us in our everyday lives. For example, I marveled at the resiliency of the Jewish people despite their many years of persecution and how great of an influence they have had on the rest of the world. Jews have made great contributions in the areas of philosophy, art, athletics, literature, entertainment, and politics.
On my adventure, I was in awe of the incredible beauty of the ancient architecture that was built without modern day equipment. What I saw exceeded my expectations. Before traveling to Israel, I had always pictured the country covered with sand and people traveling bareback on camels. Once there, I realized how ignorant my view was of other cultures, which inspired me to want to visit more countries. When I go to college, I hope to take advantage of the study abroad programs so I can expound on my cultural learning.
My voyage through Israel was by far the most influential trip of my life. Nothing can be exchanged for the experiences I had there. The opportunity I had to walk in the same places that are mentioned in one of the oldest books in the world was life changing. I have gained a deeper and lasting appreciation for other peoples and cultures, and I hope to continue my quest of cultural discovery.