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Israel day ten: ending where it began

January 20, 2013

This May marks 65 years since the declaration of the State of Israel by Ben-Gurion in Independence Hall in Tel Aviv. It marked the beginning of the State of Israel, an end to 2,000 years of exile and the return of the Jews to the homeland. It was only fitting that we end our birthright journey at Independence Hall, learn about this declaration and listen to a recording of the words from that day because without that day, we wouldn’t have had the birthright journey at all.

Independence HallAs I stood and listened to Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, in Independence Hall, goosebumps developed on my arms. Throughout the 10 days, I had learned about the perseverance of the Jews and everything we had gone through. I learned about the figures who fought for Israel and never saw its establishment. I learned about the everyday people who continue to fight for Israel. I learned about what it means to be Jewish. Standing there, knowing its significance, filled me with pride and satisfaction. Hatikvah means hope; hope has defined and continues to define the Jewish people.

After that, we carried out the important Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, which means repairing the world. We joined Jewish and Arab students in cleaning up a garden and planting trees and learned about what it’s like to live as they do. This, too, was a fitting conclusion to the experience.

In the evening, we had a wrap-up session where we went around the room and heard what every participant in our group had learned about Israel, learned about himself or herself and what he or she would like to do upon return to Israel. I chose to read something I had written on my hotel balcony only an hour and a half earlier. It was raw emotion, and it is as follows:

It is almost 7 o’clock Wednesday night. We’re packing up and getting ready to leave Israel in 11 hours. I’m sitting on the hotel balcony in Tel Aviv, looking out at the streets Einat yelled at us not to jaywalk on just hours earlier in the city that produced Israel’s declaration of independence. It is the end of a memorable and practically indescribable journey that was so short but so packed with activities, lessons, good times and moving experiences. When I get back home and to school and tell my family and friends about this trip, I will show them my pictures, share the itinerary and write many blog posts describing things with as much detail as possible. But through no fault of their own, they can’t fully understand how it felt to fly into Tel Aviv and actually see the Holy Land. They can’t understand the pride in stepping up to the Western Wall after hearing about the perseverance of the Jewish people. They can’t understand pop rock chocolate or why this experience was “awesome.” They can’t understand how it feels to stand on the edge of Jordan. They can’t understand the feeling in my heart and smile on my face as we rode into Jerusalem. They can’t understand interacting with Israeli soldiers or celebrating Shabbat in Jerusalem. They can’t understand going to Yad Vashem and standing on a road that was once part of a Jewish ghetto in Poland. They can’t understand standing overlooking the Gaza Strip. They can’t understand standing in the middle of nowhere under the stars, singing the Circle of Life and the Rock Chalk chant. They can’t understand riding a camel, climbing Masada and floating in the Dead Sea – in one day. They can’t understand hearing Hatikvah in Independence Hall. They will try to understand, but only we had this experience these past 10 days. It was amazing, and it was awesome, and I will savor it forever.

As I’ve said at the bottom of every post, this is an indescribable journey that I am still reflecting upon. It was personal, and the only people who can fathom the true meaning of the experience – what it was like to do all of these things last week – were those who also experienced it. This wasn’t a vacation; it was a pilgrimage.

Finally, I went with a small group on a tour of the ancient port city of Jaffa, which brought the experience full circle. Sixty-five years ago, people entered Israel by boat through Jaffa, and in a few hours, we would be leaving by plane through Tel Aviv and look down at this place below the clouds.

This marks the end of my blog posts for each day of my birthright trip to Israel. After more reflection, I will post about the trip again to complete the series. Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible. Thank you to everyone who made this trip wonderful. Thank you to everyone for reading.

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From → Israel

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