I Love Israel!!! By, Abby Bernhard

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Everyone said that I would really like Israel. But what if I didn’t?  The only times I had ever been out of the country was to Canada, Mexico and Argentina when I was ten. Spending four months in a place I had never been before with a language I didn’t speak and people with different customs was a huge risk. When I signed up to go on Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim (TRY) I knew that I was about to step out of my comfort zone and take that risk to explore the land of my people.

I touched down in the David Ben Gurion Air Port on January 31st, 2011. After the longest flight of my life I was ready to jump of the plane and kiss the holy ground. I didn’t end up doing that because the runway wasn’t too clean, but I was still overcome by emotion. “This is it,” I thought, “the place of my ancestors, where Jews have been praying too for thousands of years and I made it.” Tears swelled in my eyes as I looked around and saw signs in Hebrew! And Jews in back suits and tsetset , Jews speaking Russian and Jews texting in Spanish! I already knew that I wasn’t going to really like Israel, I was going to love it!

My experience was so meaningful was because I shared it with 43 other Americans, and Canadians, four madrechim (counselors) and numerous incredible teachers.  Going on TRY I got to see Israel in so many more ways than just an average tourist would. My beloved Jewish history teacher, Moshe would take us to spots that no one else goes to. Like going up the Runners path at Metzadah, a three hour hike at four in the morning. Or going to Beerotayim and following the footsteps of Abraham and a hike at three in the morning in the middle of the Negev where I came across a scorpion.

We learned the history of the Jewish people from Abraham to the present day. The more I came to know about our people the more I realized I hardly knew anything, and therefore, I wanted to learn even more. Moshe would say he didn’t know anything. I guess that’s part of the beauty of Israel. There is always something new to explore and something to discuss with Jews from all around the world.

Abby in Israel

 

Mishala’s Israel Experience

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When I made the decision to study abroad in Israel, I honestly had no idea what to expect. I had never been there before, I did not know anyone else on the program, and Israel is a long way from home. Yet I knew that NFTY EIE High School in Israel was the program for me. Before EIE, I was quite unknowledgeable about Israel. Sure, I had been through Sunday school and Hebrew school, but that can only teach you so much. I was sanguine about leaving the states to experience something that was said to be life changing, and it really was.

My time in Israel was the best I have had to date. Though they went by faster than I could imagine, what I learned and experienced will be with me forever. The 44 other students and all the staff became a family to me, supporting and loving each other throughout every step that was taken. Though we went through many experiences together, I have to say the most meaningful one was going to Poland to study the Holocaust. Poland is a country with a very dark history for the Jewish people, yet a whole new generation is trying to rebuild what was lost. Although traveling through Auschwitz and Majdanek was beyond unbearable, we learned about the lively hood of the Jews before the Holocaust. My fondest memory was at a schtetel in Lublin where everyone came together in the synagogue and sang and danced to a plethora of prayers and songs.  Words cannot describe what that experience felt like, nor can it accurately depict my deep affection for the State of Israel.

It is difficult to explain just how paramount this experience was for me, because I resent not going to Israel sooner. Now being back at “home”, I feel as though I am in the Diaspora. Every small gesture reminds me of Israel, and I cannot wait until the day I can go back. I could not have known how important Israel was to me until I went there and experienced it for myself. I urge every one of my Jewish friends to at least travel to Israel, if not to go on a program over there. It is so important for us Jews to keep Israel alive in every aspect of our lives, because of all the freedom it gives back to us.

Mishala with her Israel program peers

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We will be updating the blog twice a month with new stories and experiences about Israel from the Seattle Jewish Community. If you would like to get your story featured on our blog, send an email to Annie at AnnieJ@JewishInSeattle.org.

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