My Israel Experience
Read this story in Jewish Press
This summer I took a trip to Italy and Israel. The trip was partly funded by the Israel experience grant and Passport to Israel and sponsored by BBYO. Our group spent two weeks traveling all around Italy, then spent three weeks in Israel. Being able to go on this one-of-a kind trip with 20 to 30 other Jewish teens from all over the US was amazing. Every single one of the teens on the trip, including me, wanted to experience Israel for what it truly was. This is exactly what we got to do.
We landed in Israel at about midnight on the 8th of July. Everyone being so groggy from the long plane ride shuffled through the airport going through two different checkpoints, and finally reaching our bags and the other two groups we were going to travel with. We headed for our hotel in Jerusalem, where everyone got to their rooms and instantly fell asleep. I woke up in the morning to the sound of lots of yelling, shuffling, and noise that resembled a tornado siren. It took me and my roommate only a couple of seconds to realize that rockets were coming straight for Jerusalem. We quickly got dressed and ran downstairs, where we found the rest of our group standing in the bomb shelter either in shock or crying out of fear. When the sirens stopped, we all went to a meeting room and had a talk. The staff said we will most likely be moved up north to where it was safer. They also told us that it was the first siren heard in Jerusalem in a while. We then had a discussion with an expert about the events and the political situation. What we found out later was that that siren was the start of the Protective Edge operation.
The following day we moved north and spent a week and a half traveling around the Kineret, swimming a lot, doing group bonding activities. We occasionally visited other places such as Tzfat and the Golan Heights. We then traveled down to the south for a week, where we went to Eilat, had a Bedouin experience, went to the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, and climbed Masada.
Climbing Masada may have been the best and most memorable part of the trip. Even though it was my second time doing so, it was a completely different experience, partly because I got to do it with my friends. We took the easy Roman path up and spent about half an hour anxiously waiting for the sun to come up over the mountains. During this time people took the opportunity to take pictures with other people, or just reflect on life while sitting on the rocks. As we saw the first glimpse of the sun, everyone on the mountain including us began to yell and scream in excitement. After the screaming died down and the sun was fully up, we took a tour of the mountain and all the historical sites it offered
After the excitement down in the south and experiencing one more siren in the city of Arad, we went back up to Jerusalem so we could have the experience we were waiting for. During the first couple of days in Jerusalem we explored all the political sites, such as the Knesset and the Shrine of the Book. We also heard a couple of speakers who talked about Israel and everything that was going on. We then visited Mt. Herzl, some famous graves of political figures, and some freshly dug up ones of soldiers who had just died in the war that was being fought. It was very emotional to see friends, families, and strangers come and cry next to their graves. Some members of my group did he same. Traveling back to the hotel, everyone on the bus was silent and no one really talked for the rest of the day.
On our last day in Jerusalem and Israel we visited the Western Wall. We prayed, talked to some soldiers, put notes in the wall, and toured the tunnels under the city. Being at the Western Wall was when I felt most at home. It gave me comfort, and that was the best experience I could have had in Israel. I'm glad I ended our trip to Israel like that.