By Becca Diamond, NFTY in Israel 2009 alum, 2016 staff, current HUC rabbinical student
“And Adonai said to Avram, go forth from your country, from your homeland, from your parent’s house, to the land that I will show you.”
This is the first introduction we get to the land of Israel in the Torah, a commandment from God telling Avram (who would later be renamed Avraham, or Abraham in English) to just trust God, that this unknown land will work out alright. Thousands of years later, this was the promise my parents told me when we decided I would participate on a NFTY in Israel trip as a teenager. Like Avram, I left my country, my homeland, and my parents’ house to go to a land unknown to me, the land of Israel. It was a place I had learned so much about but knew so little. Through my 16-year-old eyes, this trip represented an unprecedented level of independence from my parents, a space to meet other Jewish teenagers, and an avenue through which to see a part of the world I had learned so much about.
Seven years later, I returned to NFTY in Israel as a madricha (counselor), I relived my own experience through the eyes of my participants. In supporting them in their personal journeys through Israel, I understood better how this trip shaped my Jewish identity. I watched my teens learn about the story of the land of Israel and the Jewish people, and through this, gain a better understanding of their own role in the Jewish world.
As a rabbinical student spending the year in Israel, I have a much deeper understanding of Israeli culture, Jewish history, and the Hebrew language. But every time I go to a place that we traveled to on NFTY in Israel, whether that be the Kotel (Western Wall) or hiking in the Negev or a hummus place in the Shuk (market), I mentally time-travel back to those other moments, my 16-year-old and 21-year-old selves. I think back to each of those moments and measure how much I have grown every time I have been to those places, and how much NFTY in Israel gave me a personal foundation on which to understand the connection between Israel and my own Jewish journey. Like Avram, I went forth from my country, my homeland, and my parents’ house, and I have found in myself the ability to continue to grow and learn.