Israel was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Seeing the country that has always been talked about at almost every Jewish function was surreal. It was an amazing opportunity to visit Israel, and experience everything you have heard about in politics and the bible with a group of fellow teenagers. Being in Israel also influenced my Jewish views greatly. Before going, I was one of the least spiritual people that I know. Although I didn’t become necessarily more religious, I do feel much more connected to Judaism now that I’ve visited; just being in Israel made me feel more Jewish and spiritual. This trip didn’t only increase my connection to Judaism, but to Israel as well. I am one of the most pro-Israel people I know, and have been thoroughly involved in pro-Israel politics for a couple years. Furthermore, my travels through Israel have strengthened my connection towards the land and state of Israel. Overall, my trip to Israel has caused me to change greatly as a person and become much closer to Judaism and Israel.
After this trip the song “leaving on a jet plane” would really take some meaning. In the song it says “I’m leaving on a jet plane and I don’t know when I will be back again” this is exactly what to I think most if not all of us on this trip. Everyone on the trip from day one started to see the beauty and the long history of Israel. Thanks to our one-in-a-kind tour guide Geoff we learned more than those years in religious school had taught us. Additionally we went to many important places. While we were there one of my favorite places was masada. This wasn’t the first time that I was at Masada but it definitely felt different than the first. At the very end we went to this ledge where when you shouted you could hear the best [insert spoiler here] one could hear. Additionally, one of the things that we shouted was the oath that the soldiers in the army would take upon starting which was really cool seeing that we just two days later were “drafted” into the army, where we had to recite an oath. All in all this was by far the best trip that I have ever been on.
My Israel experience was unique. This was not my first time being in the Jewish homeland, in fact, it was my third. However, my first two times were with my family. I had a great time with my family but this third time was different. This third time I went with friends. It was a totally different experience. I was able to see how certain activities touched some people and not others. I realized that a trip to Israel means something different for everyone. For me, trips to Israel are not just another vacation. When you go to California, you don’t get to see 2000 years of history. Israel is the only place I’ve been to that has that history. And on top of that its the history of the Jewish people, our people. Realizing this makes me want to go back again and again. This is why I love Israel.
Somehow, camp has managed to make every summer the best summer of my life. With every year holds new memories, new friends, and new laughs. However, the Big Trip was incomparable to any and all of my pervious 4 years at camp. The trip connected me more to my Jewish roots than I ever thought it could, weather it was visiting the Western Wall, floating in the Dead Sea, or even just riding a camel. For me, my favorite experience was touring the mystical city of Tsfat. During the tour, we met a lot of super interesting people, such as Avraham (originally Robert) who taught us about the importance of Hebrew names and how they’re connected to a much deeper aspect of life than an average American name (take Robert, for example). He also taught us how nothing in life is a coincidence, which I thought was really interesting. Next on our Tsfat tour we visited a mikvah, a religious bath taken once a month in a woman’s life to cleanse and renew her as a Jewish individual and woman. I thought this was really cool because not only did it connect me to my religion, but also my gender. If anyone has the chance to go to Israel, they should undoubtedly take it. If anyone has the chance to go on the Big Trip, there shouldn’t even be a question. This experienced has positively impacted my life in drastic ways, and without it I would be a completely different person than I am just a few weeks after the trip ended.
The trip we took to Israel last month was much more than an ordinary trip. It was an opportunity to find our true Jewish identity, as well as an experience to explore our Jewish homeland. As Jews, we have been persecuted countless times, and we have been forced to endure many hardships. By supporting one another, we have possessed the tenacity to overcome those challenges, and in the year 1948 we were finally able to fulfill a lifelong dream of establishing a Jewish state. On the Big trip, each new day created many opportunities to connect to Israel on a personal level. By the end of the trip I personally felt proud to be a Jew, and the month long program really made a strong impact on my views towards Israel and the Middle East, as well. Going to Mt. Herzl and Yad Vashem were the two most powerful experiences, in my opinion. Being in the physical presence of fallen soldiers was truly an unforgettable experience. I have been to 6 other Holocaust museums around the world, and Yad Vashem was one of the best that I have ever visited. Overall, the Big Trip left me with an overwhelming sense of Israeli National Pride, and I can’t wait to send my children on a similar experience.
Going to Israel through Camp Stein’s Big Trip was a truly enlightening experience. I had never been to Israel before this trip, which made it all the more special. One of the most interesting aspects about Israel is that basically, all the citizens of Israel are required to serve in the army once they graduate high school. Here in America, we just have to go to college and have fun but the Israelis have to go and risk their lives for their country! When we were in Gadna, a condensed Israeli army experience, a group of real soldiers stayed the night at our base. One of the campers on The Big Trip saw the real soldiers walking with their M-16s and said, “Wow, those kids get to carry real guns!” He mistakenly thought they were other students participating in the Gadna program, but the fact is that they are actually in the Israeli army. They were not only carrying real guns, but were being trained how to use them. But most shockingly, these “kids” were only 2-3 years older than us! I just couldn’t believe it when I realized this. These soldiers didn’t choose to go into the army; they are required to. They need to do so to protect their county: our Jewish homeland. It is all very awe-inspiring. Hopefully one day, Israel won’t need drafts; hopefully they can one day reach peace.
“Yesterdays the past, tomorrow is the future, But today is a gift”
This quote is an important one to live by on the big trip Israel. You conquer so much in one month that you need to live by each day instead of focusing in on one particular week or place. This experience I had going to Israel for the first time with my best friends and fellow camp steiners was inspiring. Every day is jam packed and long, yet the trip was over before I knew it (sound familiar). Then You are left with memories. Going to Israel and experiencing different culture and different ways people practice their religion made me e feel even more proud to be Jewish, let alone expand on what it means to be a Jew. The environment and people are so warm, welcoming…and attractive. All I have to say is don’t let a trip like this pass you by, don’t miss the one chance you have to go on the Big Trip. Go have the summer of your life in Israel.