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This summer, I had one of the most memorable and powerful experiences of my life when I spent a month in Israel on the JCC Camp Chi trip. One of my goals for the trip was to become more connected to my religion and heritage, and I am fully confident that this trip assisted me in doing so.
Personally, I felt a direct connection to the land of Israel the minute I stepped off of the airplane. I vividly remember the first place we visited once landing in Israel. Our tour bus took us to the town of Jaffa, one of the oldest port cities in the world. Though that may not seem like anything extraordinary, it is one of countless examples of the historical sites all over Israel. Another prime example was visiting the location where David and Goliath fought one of the most famous battles in history. It is truly astounding to fully appreciate the thousands of years of history that I am now a part of after going to Israel. However, the rich history of Israel is just one of many lessons and memories that I took away from my trip.
One thing that is unique to the state of Israel is that, at age eighteen, everyone is enlisted into the army for a certain amount of years of service. Throughout my trip, I realized one important concern and value that all Israelis carry with them in their everyday lives: protecting the Jewish state. I was truly amazed at the level of discipline and passion that Israelis show in order to protect their homeland. Additionally, it was intriguing to hear the story of Gilad Shalit, a kidnapped Israeli soldier. Essentially, the Israeli government released one thousand potential terrorists from prison in order to get one body back, not knowing if he was dead or alive. This narrative alone exemplifies the emphasis Israel puts on returning every soldier to his or her home, something that had a true impact on me. Something else that had left impression on me is how nationalistic and proud people are to live in the Jewish homeland. For so many years in history, Jews have had to persevere through hardships and adversity. Finally, the Jews were given a place of their own in 1948. It truly amazed me to observe just how passionate each and every Israeli is about living there. The abundance of museums and memorials everywhere is a perfect example of the pride all Israelis possess. Personally, the Israeli nationalism rubbed off on me and now has me strongly considering going back to study there in college or even possibly live there for a certain amount of time. Everything I experienced on my month-long journey to Israel caused me to want to share my feelings and express my love for Israel back at home and at camp.
There are many ways in which I plan to bring what I learned and experienced on the JCC Camp Chi Israel Trip back home and to camp. First and foremost, one thing I learned while in Israel is that people in America have many misconceived notions about the state of Israel. I plan to educate as many people, young and old, as I can about the true beauty and holiness the land of Israel possesses.Additionally, I plan to bring my newfound passion for Israel back to camp in order to educate younger campers about the amazing culture in Israel. Certain things include teaching younger campers more Hebrew, educating them on just how technologically advanced Israel is, and truly pushing the true statement that Israel is the Jewish homeland, and any Jew should feel welcome there anytime.Simple programs such as having a new fact about Israel every day or learning the geography of Israel can get campers’ minds thinking about how incredible it is to have a Jewish State and that Israel has so much to offer.
Overall, the JCC Camp Chi Israel Trip was the best month of my life, and I succeeded in my goal of becoming closer to my Judaism and embracing it. I believe that every Jew deserves to and should visit Israel at some point during their adolescence. Thank you Camp Chi for such an amazing, unforgettable opportunity!!!