by Sarah Levy
When I got off the plane at Ben Gurion airport, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of belonging. From the first word spoken in Hebrew, I felt a connection to the people I met. Going on a teen trip was different than any other trip I took to Israel. Not only did I travel to a country I consider my second home, but I also got to share this amazing experience with some of my best friends. I met a ton of new people and made connections with Jews from all over the world.
The organization I went with was called March of the Living. Since this is an international organization, there were teens from all over the world participating. There was a huge walk to the Kotel and a concert where I met so many new people. There was also the typical “Jewish geography” going on in every conversation between Jews from all over the world. I had never felt so connected to so many people.
I had the amazing opportunity of being in the country during Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaoot. The former was a somber and serious day. This is a lot different than Memorial Day in the United States. When the first siren went off, we were on Ben Yahuda Street, and when the second one sounded, we were in Tel Aviv. I have heard about this experience my entire life but nothing can describe the silence that comes over the country to remember all of the fallen soldiers. We watched cars stop and people put their life on pause. We then watched the country completely transform that night. Yom HaAtzmaoot was a huge celebration of independence and was nothing compared to the 4th of July I have experienced in America.
Like I had mentioned before, I had been on a few trips to Israel before this one. Somehow, just being on a trip with other teens makes it so memorable. Going back to the Dead Sea was such an amazing experience when I was with some of my closest friends. I felt a huge connection with the entire group just when we arrived.
I had the amazing opportunity of having Friday night services right next to the Kotel. Some of the teens got to lead prayers and I was lucky enough to share the V’Shamruh with a Holocaust survivor from the Florida delegation. He was the most amazing singer and I felt so close with God in that moment. After services, we walked over to the Kotel and the girls of our group joined a huge group of women singing and dancing in a circle. Everyone was so passionate and although I’ll never see those women again, I will always have that memory.
The whole trip was mind-blowing and it went by so quickly. I made such great friends and felt a spiritual connection that I couldn’t have gotten just by going to temple every week.