By Anna Levy, Bus 2 Participant
For the last few years of my life, I’ve been anticipating my Israel trip. Seeing older campers come back from their trip and rave about how wonderful it was just made me more excited. When this year finally came, looking forward to Israel was one of the things that kept me going throughout the year. Now that I’m here, and at the end of my trip, I completely understand how all of the Israel trip kids felt, and why they always said it was such an incredible trip.
At the start of this trip, it was hard for me to grasp how wonderful Israel was. I loved being with my camp friends, but I had trouble separating Israel from America and seeing some of the differences. This problem was resolved quickly, during a moment that turned on a switch in my head, making me realize how incredible this country really is. This moment occurred on one of our first days in Israel, while we were on a night out in Old Jaffa. A group of us were standing on a boardwalk, overlooking one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen. I was standing on a boardwalk with all of my friends, watching the sun sink into the Mediterranean Sea in a beautiful display of orange, pink, and yellow. To my right, the skyline of Tel Aviv was vivid, with more lights turning on every minute. Suddenly, the Muslim call to prayer from a nearby mosque on a hill started. When looking up at this hill, along with the noises of the call to prayer, I could see a Jewish wedding going on, and in the background of all of this was a beautiful church. Seeing how these three religions could exist on one small hill overlooking one of the most incredible sunsets I had ever seen, directly next to an urban city, was when it first sunk in that I was in Israel. This was only the start.
In the following days and weeks, I had so many life changing experiences, including (but not limited to) riding camels, snorkeling in the Red Sea, eating delicious food, rafting in the Jordan River, hiking from the Sea of Galilee to the Mediterranean, and so much more. When thinking about my time in Israel, I immediately think of these moments, but the moments that stick are the more meaningful yet smaller moments.
The next one that comes to mind occurred during our four days in the Negev. After an exhausting day of hiking, our group took a break on top of a cliff. Little did we know, this was one of the most incredible sights some of us might ever see. Our tour guide proceeded to show us how from the spot we were sitting in, we could see into Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. As someone who has never left the country before this trip, this small moment was life changing for me. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the gorgeous cliffs, sea, and countries around me. The rest of the hikes in the Negev were incredible, but I know that this one will stay with me forever.
During the fourth and final week of our trip, we were lucky enough to have seven Israeli teenagers join our group. This meant that my room on the kibbutz we were staying on was switched up, and an Israeli joined my room! One of my favorite memories from the whole week with the Israelis was on the first night in our room, when my roommates and I stayed up talking for hours about the similarities in our lives. Realizing that although we live across the world from each other we still enjoy the same things, grew up watching the same shows, and have the same opinions about normal things was incredible. Comparing and contrasting our lives helped me learn so much more about Israel and helped me gain some valuable knowledge about this country. Now, our Israelis have left, but I know that I’ll remember and value the friendships I made with them, specifically staying up and having conversations about our similarities.
As this trip is coming to an end and I reflect about my time, I think about these smaller moments. Getting closer with my new and old friends, having meaningful experiences in this country, and seeing incredible sights have all made this an unforgettable trip. I’ll never forget how happy and loved this trip made me feel, and I know that these small moments will have a place in my heart forever.