My name is Lexi and this summer I visited Israel through BBYO’s “Israel Journey.” Going into the trip, I was excited for all of the typical tourist things, like visiting landmarks throughout the country and enjoying Israeli food. However, by the end of the trip, I not only accomplished this, but I met incredible people and established long-lasting friendships I know I will never lose.
Throughout my time in Israel, I was able to enhance my knowledge and understanding of Israel’s history, day to day life, and culture. While I enjoy learning and hearing about Israel in the states, being fully immersed in the country’s culture is incomparable.
For example, learning about the war between the Jews and Romans on Masada from a desk in Baltimore only gave me a story and facts to memorize. However, hearing the story while standing on Masada allowed me to envision the siege that occurred, and feel more connected to the land and its history.
Later on the trip, we stopped along the Gaza border. Surrounded by bomb shelters, my group and I immediately thought back to the recent conflict with Hammas. As we stood along the border, our tour guides explained that if any dangerous situation were to arise, we would have five seconds to run into a bomb shelter for safety. Standing there strengthened my empathy for the Israelis living through this.
Furthermore, nothing compares to welcoming in Shabbat at the Western Wall with the teens on my trip. I even had the opportunity to lead our short service along with one of my new friends. Spending the last Shabbat of our trip at the Kotel with my new best friends was the most meaningful Shabbat I have ever experienced.
After returning home, many friends and family members have asked me what my favorite part of my trip was…and I have not repeated the same thing to anyone; I loved celebrating Shabbats, watching sunrises, visiting Eilat, rafting down the Jordan river, surfing in Haifa, and everything in-between. Yet, the most memorable part of my Israel trip was meeting amazing friends, and having the opportunity to establish close relationships with Jewish teens from across the United States.