I couldn’t believe it … I was actually going to Israel for the first time since I was one! I had grown up hearing stories about the country from my parents and grandparents, but I had never been able to visit before, definitely not alone.
Now, as a Jewish teenager, I was finally getting the chance to experience Israel for myself.
I was travelling with a group of other Jewish teens – none of whom I knew before the trip – and spending 5.5 weeks together, exploring the country and learning about our heritage. It was a little intimidating to think about spending so much time with strangers, but I was excited for the adventure.
We landed in Tel Aviv and I was struck by how different it was from anything I knew. The air was warm and humid, and the architecture and language were completely unfamiliar. It was both thrilling and a little scary to be so far from home.
Our first few days were spent in Jerusalem, where we visited the Western Wall and the Jerusalem water tunnels. I was overwhelmed by the history and significance of these places, and I felt a deep sense of connection to my Jewish heritage. It was incredible to be surrounded by so many other Jews, all of us united by our shared history and traditions.
As we travelled around the country, I learned so much about Israel and its people. We visited kibbutzim and talked to farmers and workers, we hiked through the desert and saw ancient ruins, and we tasted amazing food from all different cultures.
One of the most interesting parts of the trip was spending Shabbat in Jerusalem. We walked through the streets as the city slowed down for the day of rest, and we gathered with other Jews to pray and sing. It was such a powerful experience to be part of this ancient tradition in the heart of our homeland.
Tel Aviv was truly a standout during my visit to Israel. From the vibrant chaos of the Shuk HaCarmel to the exhilarating e-scooter rides along the stunning beach, the atmosphere was nothing short of amazing. What truly captivated me was the stark contrast in climate and overall vibes between the various cities in Israel, making the experience all the more fascinating.
Of course, there were also some challenges along the way. Living with a group of teenagers for over a month was not always easy, and there were times when we got on each other’s nerves. But we also bonded over shared experiences and became close friends.
By the end of the trip, I felt like I had truly experienced Israel in a way that I never could have as a regular tourist. I had learned so much about my heritage and myself, and I had made lifelong friends from around the world.
As I boarded the plane to go home, I felt a mix of emotions. I was sad to leave Israel and my new friends, but I was also excited to bring all of my experiences back with me to my home community. I knew that this trip had changed me in ways that I would never forget, and I was grateful for the opportunity to explore my identity and connection to Israel.
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