A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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Visiting Israel was eye-opening journey


For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to visit Israel. Even before visiting, I knew that one day I would want to live there. Something about the fact that there’s a place that’s specifically meant for us, the Jewish people, always stood out to me. I had never been to Israel, however there was always a piece of my heart that knew that as soon as I got to Israel, I would never want to leave. 

This past summer, I had the opportunity to visit Israel for four weeks, through an NCSY summer program called Michlelet. I spent part of my summer touring Israel, learning about Israel and growing as a person. Time flew by, and once my four weeks were up, I didn’t want to leave. However, I also struggled at the beginning. 

I flew to Israel with a variety of girls coming from mostly the New Jersey and New York area. Most people came to this program knowing each other — from school, from camp, from 4G (a New York NCSY program). That first week was very hard: On my campus, I was the only person from my region and I felt out of place and knew nobody. There were times at night when I would second guess my decision to leave the comfort of my house, surrounded by people I knew. However, as time went by and Michlelet came to an end, I realized that it was the best decision I could have made for myself. I made lifelong connections with people that I would have never expected, and if I could go back and spend another summer with them, I would do it in a heartbeat. 

Michlelet took us all over Israel, including the “Four Holy Cities” — Chevron, Tiveria, Yerushalaim, and Tzfat. Each place in Israel we visited was meaningful and fun. For the flight to Israel at the very beginning, most group flights landed in Israel around 3 p.m., and Michlelet took us straight to the Kotel (The Western Wall), which I was fortunate to be able to visit three times. 

As someone truly connected with Israel, going to the Kotel for the first time was quite the emotional roller coaster. As soon as I got there, it was breathtaking, and just amazing that I was seeing the Kotel with my own eyes, and not through pictures. I was able to go up and daven (pray) while directly touching the Kotel. Tears came out of my eyes as I said Mincha at the Kotel for the first time ever.

A very special time for me on Michlelet was Shabbos. I spent two Shabboses on my campus; One was an “off Shabbos” spent with family friends, and one was in Tzfat with both campuses of Michlelet. A regular Shabbos on campus started out with Kabbalat shabbat (Friday night prayer), and followed by an assigned seating for Friday night dinner. For the girls who didn’t know other people, the assigned seating seemed like the best thing ever at the time — nobody had to feel left out. As Shabbos would slowly come to an end, everyone would take their chairs up to the roof, and have a kumzitz (sing) until the sun set. Shabbos was the time when people could bond without any electronics distracting them, and it was a time to really connect with Israel itself, and others around you. 

There were multiple opportunities for sunrise hikes. Some had the option to wake up at 3:30 a.m. to take a two-hour bus ride to Masada, and hike up in time for the sunrise. Others had an option to go sheep herding in Shiloh. I chose to hike up Masada. The view on the way up and at the top was spectacular. Once we got to the top, all the girls had some time to daven, and shortly after we were given a small rundown on the history of Masada. On the way back, we all stuffed into a cable car and rode our way down. 

Out of all the trips and activities I had during the summer, my favorite was our overnight trip to Tiveria. We left our campus early in the morning, and once we got to Tiveria, the day was packed with lots of different activities. We started off with a water hike, and once everyone dried off, everyone was split into groups to go jeeping. Little did I know that the group I had for my personal jeep, those people were going to be some of my greatest friends for the rest of my summer. Our jeep took us to our next activity — repelling. I was absolutely terrified, before, during and after, however I don’t regret doing it. The following day we went to the Kineret, and did different types of boating (banana and pancake boating). The trip finished off with an Israeli BBQ at a park on the way home. 

Other than sightseeing and touring Israel, we also had multiple opportunities to do chesed (kindness) around the Land of Israel for different Jewish/Israeli organizations. We painted schools, and we went to a home for disadvantaged children and made tie-dye bags with them, and hung out with them. We went medical clowning and uplifted spirits of patients of all ages in a hospital near Yerushalayim. Each was an opportunity to explore Israel, to do kindness and at the same time to meet lots of different people around the country.  

Each summer program is designed specifically on what people want and how they want to spend their summer. There are over 20 different NCSY summer programs, some for boys, some for girls and some co-ed. Despite some challenges, going to Israel on NCSY summer program Michlelet helped me grow as a person and make connections with people that will last a lifetime. 

I can only hope that everyone who wants to have the experience of a lifetime will consider going to Israel. The environment, the people and the overall attitude of the State of the Jewish people — it’s all amazing and worth it. 

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