My Israel Story – Coming full circle
Extremely moving

My Israel Story – Coming full circle

Ellie Schwarz was a participant on an Israel program. And soon, she will visit again - this time, as a madrich.

  • Israel program ruach!
    Israel program ruach!
  • Desert adventures.
    Desert adventures.
  • Ellie Schwarz (centre) was a participant on a BJE/UJEB Israel program in 2019.
    Ellie Schwarz (centre) was a participant on a BJE/UJEB Israel program in 2019.
  • Ellie looks forward to returning to Israel as a madrichah.
    Ellie looks forward to returning to Israel as a madrichah.

IN 2019, I was fortunate to spend my summer in Israel as part of UJEB and BJE’S year 10 Israel program. Rather than living through the stories and experiences of others, this trip afforded me the opportunity to experience it for myself, forging my own personal bond. Being able to truly figure out my own connection to Israel and the Jewish community was empowering.

I would divide the program into four aspects; history & geography, food, culture and social.

It was extremely moving to see the history of Israel, rather than learning about it from the other side of the world. Being where history took place made it so much easier to understand and comprehend.

Travelling on the year 10 Israel program meant that I did not have to know everything about Judaism and Israel. I appreciated how everything was explained and no one assumed prior knowledge. A memory that is ingrained was when I was standing on the top of Masada, listening to the echoes and all the history of the incredible ancient fortress on the edge of the Judaean Desert. Likewise, walking through the City of David tunnels, in Jerusalem, and hearing how they were once used, was insightful. It was powerful to experience the history with my own eyes, staring directly at it.

A trip to Israel would not be complete without the array of mouth-watering Israeli food. We were provided extensive opportunities to try shawarma, falafel, chanukah doughnuts and of course, shoko b’sakit (chocolate milk in a bag). We were given DOTS (dinner on the street) and LOTS (lunch on the street) at multiple locations, also experiencing the chutzpah of the shuks (markets) and shops.

The culture of Israel is so unique. The first Shabbat, in Jerusalem, was hugely memorable. We all walked together to the Kotel. Many were experiencing the Kotel for the first time. Once we arrived we started singing in a big circle, eventually joining with a group of strangers, singing all together despite not having known each other a few minutes prior.

I had the incredible opportunity to embark on this journey with my friends. Transitioning from a non-Jewish school to being immersed in the company of Jewish teenagers, who were undergoing similar experiences, felt like a remarkable shift. The shared experience brought us all closer, allowing us to forge strong bonds. The spontaneous memories we created were unreal, such as evenings spent together, playing games we had just learned.

This trip ignited a desire to return to Israel, one I was fortunate enough to fulfil during a gap year after school. For me, this trip was an experience that changed my connection with Israel.

I now consider myself lucky to be returning to Israel on UJEB’s Ketsev year 10 Israel trip at the end of this year as a madrichah (program leader). Guiding these year 10 students, who attend non-Jewish schools, on their journey to explore their personal connection with Israel, akin to my experience in 2019, feels like coming full circle.

We have been meeting with the current Ketsev cohort regularly, preparing them for this adventure. I am looking forward to sharing this incredible Israel journey with them, in just a few months’ time.

Let the countdown begin!


How to participate:

  • Collate 10 to 15 high-resolution images from a trip to Israel.
  • Email with the email header MY ISRAEL STORY, and include your FULL NAME, MOBILE NUMBER, and HIGH-RES IMAGES from your selected trip.
  • One of our journalists will be in contact to find out more.

Terms & Conditions: By participating in The Australian Jewish News’ My Israel Story, you grant The AJN full rights to publish your name and images for the article both in print and digital formats.


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