Israel. One word. Enough said. That is, if you have been to Israel, and walked the path of Abraham, Moses and David Ben-Gurion.
For Jewish teens living in America today, “Israel is like this place that I’m told to have a deep connection with.” It’s hard to understand the deep history that is read about in the Torah.
But after landing in Israel and breathing the saltwater in Tel Aviv, feeling the cold touch of the Western Wall, and eating the warm, crunchy falafel, a forever connection to Israel is created. Israel is that friend who will always be there for you, no matter what you are going through.
Kyle Nowak, Denver Jewish Day School senior, was one of 100 students on BBYO’s International Leadership Seminar in Israel (ILSI). He enjoyed the Western Wall but found other attractions in Jerusalem had a greater impact on him.
“The Western Wall was an experience that was good for me but I wouldn’t say I had the same momentous experience as other teens,” says Nowak.
Rather, he found the Hezekiah water tunnel tour to be a great experience, in part because of the history. “With the tunnels, I had to crunch down to get through it. You know that [our ancestors] walked directly through this path at one point. This is the exact spot they stood,” Nowak says.
Jenni Greenwald, Cherry Creek graduate and now at Sarah Lawrence University, traveled to Israel as a participant on the Free Spirit Birthright trip with 40 people, mainly from the east coast. Among her favorite cities were Tiberias, Safed, and Jerusalem.
In contrast to Nowak, Greenwald found the Wall to be “inexplicable.”
“Jerusalem is just Jerusalem. It is such a spiritual city and it was breathtaking to be there. We got to go to the Western Wall on Friday night, which was probably the coolest experience in my life,” reveals Greenwald.
Away from the city, in the middle of the desert, is where Arin Simon, Smoky Hill senior and Israel Study Tour (IST) participant, felt like she was really in the Jewish homeland.