Israel Summer Trips 2022: Zoe Klevens

ELLEN FUTTERMAN, Editor-in-Chief

It didn’t take Zoe Klevens very long to return to Israel after getting back from her first trip there this summer. In fairness, the Parkway Central High School junior had already decided in advance of her summer trip to spend the fall, or more specifically from Aug. 29 to Dec. 28, in Jerusalem, attending classes at URJ Heller High School.

But upon returning to St. Louis after a month-long trip to the Jewish state with URJ Nifty through Camp GUCI, Zoe knew she made the right decision to go abroad to study there.

Zoe, whose family is members of United Hebrew Congregation, was one of several teens and twentysomethings who agreed to chronicle their Israel trip by shooting a short video of the sights, sounds, people and places that most impacted them. This Israel video project was made possible due to a generous grant from the Kranzberg Family Foundation. See her video at the top of this story.

After she returned from her summer Israel trip on July 18, the Jewish Light spoke to Zoe about some of her experiences.

Did anything unexpected happen on your trip?

I got COVID. We stayed in a boarding school, there were 50 people overall at the same time as me who had it on the trip.  It was hard but it was whatever. I had it for eight days, it was the third week of the trip.

What was the biggest surprise on the trip?

Snorkeling in the Red Sea. It surprised me that I really enjoyed it.

Did you feel any different connected to Judaism after the trip?

I felt pretty much the same. I’m pretty involved in the St. Louis Jewish community and felt pretty the same when I got back because I was with a lot of the people I already knew. Also, I’m the President of Jewish Student Union in my school, so I’m pretty involved in that.

Was there a site in Israel that made a very strong impression on you?

I really liked – I forgot what it’s called — a cemetery where all the soldiers were buried (Israel’s National Military Cemetery on Mount Herzl) and hearing their stories. That really resonated with me. Actually, that was the place that I was surprised most impacted me.

Did you make any Israeli friends?

There were some Israelis on our trip for a week. It was the week that I missed (because of COVID) so I was only there with them for three days when I rejoined my group. Some of them left because they didn’t really enjoy the trip so that kind of made it hard to get to know them better.

Is there anything you didn’t get to do on this trip that you plan to do when you go back this fall?

Because I missed a week, I didn’t get to go banana boating so I’m excited to do that when I got back.

What was the best part of the trip?

The last week for me because I was more grateful for everything once I got back with the group. That’s when we went to the cemetery.

Any part of trip you would change?

I would suggest maybe giving us a little free time during the day.