It is July 13th, 2010, local Israeli time, 7:15am, I am on an ElAl flight from Newark, New Jersey to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. I am with a Reconstructionist youth group called No’ar Hadash, traveling with 23 other sixteen year olds to our homeland, Israel. The pilot comes on the intercom and says, “Bruchim HaShaveem,” “Welcome Home.” In that moment, I knew I had found my second home.
After flying for a long 12 hours we went to Neot Kedumim, right outside of Tel Aviv, to view the lands of Israel as they were during biblical times. I sat there listening to our first guest speaker and thinking to myself, “Wow….am I really in Israel right now!?!” I couldn’t believe that I was actually there. After months of planning and packing, I was sitting right where my Jewish ancestors lived thousands of years ago. After acting out some biblical stories with my group, we then got a much needed lunch from the local restaurant. It was probably the best meal we had in the last twenty-four hours.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
We then checked into our first hotel, the Leonardo Inn Hotel in Jerusalem. This would be our home for the next few days, where I met my first roommate, Micah Fenner, who became my best friend. We both had so much in common and ended up talking all night about our lives at home. Then, we realized it was the next morning and we had a whole day ahead of us, but we didn’t care. Israel has that power to just give you somewhat endless energy. It feels great!
The next day we went to the Kotel, or the Western Wall, which is considered the holiest place in the world for the Jewish people. It was at the Kotel, where I truly connected to my Jewish roots for the first time in my life. As I embraced it’s beauty, I noticed I was crying. Not of sadness, but of appreciation and respect I have for being a Jewish person. I also realized that I knew my father, who passed in May of 2007, was in a good place. I felt that I could let go a good portion of my worrying and anxiety I had over my father’s death. It was a real place of meditation and truth. It was this experience that made me fall in love with Israel, my true second home.
Later on in the trip we went to Hezekiah’s Water Tunnel, which was an amazing 45 minutes of bonding time, singing along to Jewish Bible songs with my group. That was when we became a big family.
Closer to the end of my amazing trip to Israel, we went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. When you enter the museum, you walk into a huge triangle that gets progressively narrower through the exhibit and then right at the end, it opens up into that huge triangle again. To me, this represented the freedom that the Jewish people had before the Holocaust. Then as it got narrower, it represented how the Jews and many other hated groups, got hoarded into pens and murdered. Then it opens up again to represent the liberation and the freedom that they cherished forever.
This trip helped me discover who I am as a Jewish American. I cherish the time I had there and hope to go back someday.
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