My Israel story – many happy returns
'Pinch me' moments

My Israel story – many happy returns

With Israel marking 75 years since independence this year, The AJN is asking readers to share their stories and photos of visiting the Holy Land. This week, Gareth Narunsky, AJN national editor, shares his story.

  • With fellow trip participants on UIA Young Leadership mission, 2004.
    With fellow trip participants on UIA Young Leadership mission, 2004.
  • Standing in front of Gaza, 2016.
    Standing in front of Gaza, 2016.
  • At the Kotel, 2022.
    At the Kotel, 2022.
  • With Jewish Agency chairman Doron Almog, 2022.
    With Jewish Agency chairman Doron Almog, 2022.
  • Chanukah outside the Old City of Jerusalem, 2022.
    Chanukah outside the Old City of Jerusalem, 2022.

I have been lucky to visit Israel a number of times. Each trip has been for a different reason, hence each has been a different experience.

I cannot claim to remember my first time in Israel; I was not yet four years old. I’m told it involved my dad carrying me around a lot.

The next time I visited was as a fresh-faced school leaver with AUJS Academy after finishing year 12. As a still 17-year-old, the best part back then was being able to get into the bars in Israel where they didn’t check IDs.

Many a night was spent partying at the Underground nightclub in Jerusalem and the Coliseum nightclub in Tel Aviv. Oh, and between all that, we toured around Israel from top to bottom making new friends along the way.

I then spent around 10 days as part of a UIA Young Leadership group in 2004. The centrepiece of the mission was an international gathering of young Jewish adults from around the world called “Yachdav”.

Experiencing the land alongside fellow Jews from such a diverse array of nationalities was an illuminating experience. We spoke different languages and came from different cultures, but we shared a palpable and inescapable common bond.

Then in 2008 I visited purely as a tourist. I was “in the area, so to speak” so booked some flights and divided a week between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. With my other trips being structured programs, it was nice to explore at my own pace, wandering down streets I had not been to and exploring without a rigid schedule.

It would be eight long years before I would return in 2016, this time as media liaison for the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, chaperoning a group of mainstream journalists and think-tank analysts around the Holy Land.

Travelling through Israel with these first-time visitors allowed me to see the land and people through their eyes. In addition, being a media trip, the access to high-level people and sites was unprecedented to anything I had previously experienced. I was truly privileged to have had the opportunity.

Finally, last year I attended the global Jewish Media Summit in Jerusalem. This was a different experience once again, with journalists and advocates coming together to share their experiences and learn from each other. I came back with a fresh sense of purpose as to why what we do in the Diaspora to advocate for Jews and Israel is so important.

It doesn’t matter how many times I go to Israel – each time I pinch myself and think “I’m actually here”. And with the last two trips being so short – six and five days respectively – I can’t wait to go back.


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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