This past summer I received the great fortune of traveling on a month-long program to Israel . On a journey with hundreds of Jewish teens from all around the world, I had waited for this experience for months; not knowing what to expect. I will never forget the very first day of the program: our counselors told us to get ready to have the most exciting and life-changing experience of our lives. Hearing this at first, I did not exactly think much of it and truthfully assumed they were exaggerating. But little did I know that they were right—and the greatest month of my life was about to begin.
As the days went by I was having a blast and making friends from all over the world. I got close to teenagers just like me, only from places like Canada , France , and Israel . The experiences in Israel were phenomenal. We saw everything the beautiful country has to offer and I truly learned to appreciate such a wonderful place. When I woke up in the mornings and remembered were I was, my heart would fill with joy. My body felt so motivated and energized to make the absolute most of the new day ahead. As new and exciting as these feelings were, they also came as a kind of surprise. I did not understand how this newfound passion had suddenly appeared. That is what Israel started becoming to me: a passion.
A soldier from the second Lebanon war talked to our group about his experience in war. I will never forget the day we all sat together hearing his heart-wrenching stories. He was the medic for his tank unit at that time and he intensely described what he had seen with his own eyes. We learned about how he watched the fight, and dear friends suffer or even lose legs right in front of his eyes. He was nineteen years of age. My friends and I were in shock. We wondered why he had chosen this specific position out of all of the army positions. The brave solder answered, telling us that he did this because he was proud. He was proud to be an Israeli, and he felt it was his duty to express the love he had for his country in this way. And at that moment, it hit me. What were all these feelings I had been experiencing? What was the excitement during my journey? I was in love. I was in love with the land of Israel .
Before this trip I did not understand what it meant to feel love and connection to a country. I finally realize what this means. My summer in Israel changed my life. I finally felt like I was where I belonged. I experienced strength, true happiness, and love. I now believe that love can be found anywhere as long as you know where to look.
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