What happens when you put 13 teenagers together in a foreign country? Most people would expect chaos, but to my surprise, it turned out to be a wonderful experience, filled with laughter, excitement and only a little chaos.
Recently, 22 members of Temple Beth Am of Bellmore-Merrick took an adventure-filled trip to the holy land of Israel. With 13 teenagers and nine adults, and led by Rabbi Mickey Baum, the 10-day trip enriched our love for and knowledge of Israel and Judaism.
The teenagers comprised mostly 10th- and 11th-graders who were rewarded for continuing their Jewish education after their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. As insightful and bright young kids, we had always paid attention to the stories that our Hebrew teachers told us about this magical land. On behalf of all the kids who went, I can say it was amazing to see this country come to life.
With a rich history and vibrant culture, Israel was like a bustling New York City street. Everywhere we went there was the smell of homemade falafel and shawarma, the sound of children of all religions playing on the streets, and the look of a strong and familial history. Throughout the 10 days, our tour guide directed us to historical and cultural sights: the Old City of Jerusalem, the Western Wall, the Dead Sea and Yad Vashem (Israel’s Holocaust museum). Some days consisted of eventful and boisterous outings, including taking camel rides with Bedouins, planting trees in the Israeli national forest and eating at a dairy factory. On other days, we took part in Shabbat services and visited museums to honor and learn about our Jewish heritage.
Although there were few days for relaxing or sleeping in, we would never be able to learn as much in our entire lives as we did on this trip. Being surrounded by friends and our temple family made the trip even more endearing.