by Emma Voit
This summer, I took the most amazing trip of my life with NFTY in Israel. I spent four full weeks travelling up and down the state of Israel with 49 kids, many of whom I have been going to camp with for many years through Wilshire Boulevard Temple Camps. I toured cities, climbed mountains, and trekked from sea to sea. I discovered who I am as a Jew and who I want to be as I continue to grow up in the Jewish community.
My trip really focused on the history of the places we visited, and I didn’t fully connect to that until the day that we visited the Western Wall. I assumed that I would put a note in the wall, touch it, and walk away, but when the time came, it was so much more. As I stood in front of the wall, with my forehead and hand pressed against it, I felt a connection between me and the thousands of Jews who had done that same thing, said those same words, and thought the same things that I was thinking for thousands of years. Before I knew it, there were tears of joy streaming down my face as I realized that I had finally made it to the place I had dreamed about for so many years.
We were on a four day hike from the Kinneret to the Mediterranean, called “Yam L’ Yam”, when the “situation” began. A key word of my trip was the “situation”, as it directly impacted our itinerary, but not so much our day-to-day lives. Instead of returning to Jerusalem for the final week of the trip, we remained in the north of Israel where fewer rocket alarms were going off. Every day, there was talk of “the situation” and what was occurring. Although it was heavily broadcast here in the U.S., the conflict in Israel was dealt with very differently and most Israelis went about their daily lives.
Being able to experience the day to day life that Israelis call normal enhanced my experience and understanding of the state. The whole experience is much different than I ever thought it would be. The only time I heard a siren go off was when I was in a Druze village, walking on the side of the street. We heard the siren, a sound similar to that of a far off ambulance, and were quickly rushed into the home of a woman who volunteered her home as a safe space. It wasn’t until I had been sitting in the woman’s house for a few minutes that I realized what had just happened. We were constantly reminded where the nearest bomb shelters were and what to do if we were out on the street when a siren went off, but it seemed so surreal when it actually happened.
Now that I’m home, I think about my trip every day. I learned so much from the places I visited and the people I met. I feel incredibly connected to Israel and can’t wait to go back many more times in my future.