Before this trip, it was difficult for me to imagine what life was like in Israel. I usually try to step outside of my own perspective, but Israel seemed like a world away, different customs, different food, different language, different people, etc. Where would I even begin? Without experiencing it first hand, all those differences just created distance. After this trip, I can say I have learned from the customs, enjoyed trying new foods, heard the beauty of many different languages, and met the most amazing people. Israel doesn’t seem like a world away anymore; it feels like a friendly neighbor. I truly have a new appreciation for the country and culture, and those differences now come with understanding and respect. I feel more connected to Israel, and my hope is that my JCC community will as well.
Looking back at our time in Israel, I am filled with gratitude. I asked to go on the trip last minute expecting that I would be turned down. Instead, I was told that I had 24 hours to decide if I really wanted to go. I felt like I had to make a rushed decision, and even after saying yes, I didn’t know if I had made the right choice. There were even some moments during the trip where I questioned if I had made the right choice. But those moments were fleeting, and now there is no doubt in my mind that I made the correct decision. I wholeheartedly believe that I will never have an experience as meaningful as this one again.
One of my biggest worries going into the trip was that I didn’t know anyone very well, and most everyone else already seemed to be best friends. This was very challenging for me, and I am so proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone because I found out that I have some of the absolute best coworkers. Spending so much time together and going through the same experiences gave me the opportunity to connect with people I otherwise wouldn’t have even passed in the halls at the JCC. I am so blessed to have people that I can now go to for advice, for comfort, and even just for a laugh.
When I think back to our day-to-day activities and all of the things we accomplished, I feel overwhelmed. In the moment I was overwhelmed with the busyness, with the amount of information being thrown at us, and with the crowds. But I was also overwhelmed by all the beauty and sense of adventure. Now, I am overwhelmed with feelings of unity, respect, appreciation, and above all else, gratitude.