What I Love About Israel
Israel was always this place, six thousand miles away that I felt no strong connection to. It was a holy land for many people but little peace existed there. It was a scary country and everyone who went there had to be very brave. Although it was the Jewish homeland, I felt no bond to this country that was filled with so much fighting. And then, this summer, I went there.
I had learned all about Jewish history and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in school and religious school. I had met emissaries who grew up in Israel and who wanted to teach kids about the culture. I knew that Israel was a special place. But I didn’t feel it. This past December, I started looking into different trips to Israel. I finally decided on the NFTY in Israel Adventure, a four week program that brings groups of about forty teens all over Israel. I was happy that I was going to Israel; I knew that it would be a great experience. But excited? Not really; I felt no connection to this land. I was nervous about making friends, but more importantly, I worried about staying safe in such a dangerous country.
This June, when our plane finally landed in Israel, our group jumped straight into the program. As the days went on, I waited for it to hit me that I was in Israel. It never really did, until there were only a few days left. My group spent a large amount of time during the last few days reflecting on our experience. I compared myself at the beginning of the trip to where I was right then. I was shocked to realize how much I had changed. I realized that I felt a connection to Israel that I never thought was possible. It’s hard to put into words how it happened or why I feel so connected. It was each and every experience that I had with my group that replaced doubt and confusion with love and excitement. With each place we visited, I slowly but surely fell in love with the land of Israel. I could tell people all about every second of my trip, but it would do nothing to express my thoughts and feelings. The stories are nothing like the actual experience.
Before this trip, I knew that I wanted to go to Israel, but in all honesty I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about going. I can now say that I would go back in a heartbeat. I wouldn’t even need to think about it. I’ve been asked so many times what my favorite part of the trip was, but I will never be able to answer that. It was everything. The people, the culture, the places, the connection I now feel to the land. Everything.
(Note: Passport to Israel is a savings incentive program that encourages families to start saving early for a child’s educational Israel experience. The Jewish community believes that this type of experience is important for our youth. The Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts administers this community partnership with families and sponsoring congregations to make an Israel experience more affordable. Partnering organizations help families enroll in Passport to Israel and make contributions).