An Ann Arbor high school senior writes about her experience when she traveled to Israel this summer with CTeen.
Having only been to Israel once in my life as a baby, I was thrilled to receive the opportunity to return 17 years later. The anticipation leading up to my summer CTeen trip was high, having joined numerous Zoom sessions to learn more about Israel, its history and culture.
I felt a strong sense of excitement, passion and commitment to take on this new experience. Due to the scary situation going on in Israel weeks prior to my departure, I was worried the trip might get canceled, but thankfully it didn’t; nor did COVID really impact the trip.
Even though this feeling of uncertainty was present, I knew deep inside that no matter what we as Jews encounter, we will continue to persevere and find ways to visit our homeland. Many say that when a Jew visits Israel for the first time they feel like they have finally come home. My dad told me this before I left, and he was so right. I felt this feeling numerous times throughout the trip. I felt it in different ways and learned new things about myself and my Jewish identity.
A moment I will never forget from the Heritage Trip to Israel, was Friday night as the sun was coming down. The Kotel was flooded with Jews from all backgrounds, all there for the same reason, which is that special moment to connect with G-d before Shabbat. We all took our moments to connect, some of us even using a bit of Israeli chutzpah to make our way to the Wall. Once my group finished praying, we decided to start singing. We formed a big circle and started singing songs that many people know no matter where they are from. It started with my group of 40 and quickly expanded to other teen groups joining, tourists and locals. The energy was high, and the smiles were wide; everyone was jumping, dancing and singing. The unity felt that night was amazing while being surrounded by so many other Jews.
Another very special and personal moment during my trip to Israel and reaching the Kotel was the phone call I got just before praying at the Wall. The call was from my mom, who let me know that finally she has been cured from a life-threatening illness. I carried her tiny note to the Kotel, knowing she is probably praying for health and good news from her doctor. I wanted to pray for her successful recovery. Her call was my magic moment, my blessing.
As our trip ended, I left with an extra amount of love for Israel, new friendships and the biggest smile on my face. Getting to see different areas and meeting Israelis opened a new door of feelings and joy knowing that we as Jews are all truly connected and have this beautiful homeland. And yes, there were moments during stories and visiting historic sites where I was amazed or horrified by what had happened or is happening; but, in the end, we as a Jewish people continue to fight for our people and land and show lots of love to Israel. The sense of unity is comforting.
Lastly, I learned more things about myself and how to better my community back at home. Additionally, I learned leadership skills like when my group hiked Masada — some of the group couldn’t make it down but instead of being bummed out about having to wait, we made light of the situation and decided to play Israeli music and have a dance party to pass the time. Honestly, even on our bus ride we still made a blast out of it. No moment was a boring moment.
I could tell anyone who is considering a summer teen trip to Israel: you’ll meet new friends for a lifetime, you will learn more about yourself and your Judaism, and you’ll have the best summer, leaving you with endless memories that you’ll want to share back at home. RootOne and CTeen made it possible because without their support I might not have been able to go. Eternally grateful.
Inez Mundrian is a high school senior in Ann Arbor and traveled to Israel this summer with CTeen, one of 20 providers of RootOne trips to Israel. RootOne provides subsidies to make the trips more accessible and includes pre-and post-trip learning and community engagement experiences for teens.