The summer of 2008 changed my life.
I told my parents I was ready for this trip, but nothing could have prepared me properly for what I encountered in Israel. I experienced my religion and heritage; I loved every minute, even the disturbing events. The B’nai B’rith Youth Organization’s “Passport to Israel” gave me the chance to find myself.
One morning, some friends and I were kayaking down the Jordan River when I felt something hit the back of my head. I turned to face a young boy—the boy who is the reason why Israel truly changed my life forever. He was snickering at the pain he had just caused me by throwing a rock at the back of my head. He did this because of my Jewish heritage and my personal beliefs. I had learned about prejudice and “hate crimes” in school, but I had never been threatened before. Since the boy attacked me, I have always embraced diversity in the communities I take part in. I learned not to hate because I now know what it feels like to be hated.
Aside from learning about myself and becoming aware of world issues, I had extreme fun. I hiked mountains, swam in natural springs, made long lasting friends, and saw my Israeli family. To travel to the different sights, the group piled on a large bus, where we could talk, bond, and of course, sleep! We sang Hebrew songs, learned new Hebrew words, and talked about what our religion means to us. It was interesting to hear everyone’s different views on Judaism. I, personally, realized that I am not religious. I am not sure if I truly believe there is a divine power, but despite this, I realized that Israel felt special to me. I was overcome with an indescribable feeling while standing atop Masada, a mountain that overlooks the Dead Sea. I would suggest that everyone, Jewish or not, give themselves the opportunity to climb Masada at four in the morning, and watch the sunrise over the water.
Israel is a special place, and the summer or 2008 was the best summer I have experienced yet. I found myself in the mountains of the Golan Heights, in the Dead Sea, on the beautiful beaches of Tel Aviv, and in the markets of Jerusalem. B’nai B’rith Youth Organization gave me the summer of a lifetime!
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