Friday, August 8, 2014

The End of a Journey

June 7 to August 8 were dates engrained in my mind since I ended school April 22nd. At first, it was to countdown the days until I left for Israel for a two-month internship program. But, by the end, it was an utter disaster every time someone mentioned that the end date was quickly approaching. It meant many things to me, but the most important was that I would have to become a “real person” again, face the reality of life, and going back to school.

My summer started off as an amazing one, something that I cannot even put into words. I was meeting new people, exploring a metropolitan city, and learning more about living on my own and being independent. Along this path, though, there were many hardships. The first started off when my purse was stolen on the beach… a lackadaisical move on my part. I had to put my big girl pants on and faced the fact that I no longer had some of the basic necessities to get me through the summer such as two phones, cash, a credit card, etc. In the scheme of things, this disaster seems only minimal compared to the other tragedies that happened along the way. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer while I was in Israel, which came as a complete shock and a hardship, especially dealing with it halfway across the world. With the amazing support of my family and friends, I was able to handle the situation as best as I could. I needed a way to cope with my feelings, and Israel was just the right medicine. I witnessed the kidnapping and killing of three innocent Israeli soldiers. I attended their vigils and sang songs and prayers in Rabin Square for them. I lived through Operation Protective Edge and had rockets fired over my head daily. I practically visited a bomb shelter every day and even cooked dinner and watched a movie in there. I had a negative experience at my first internship at Chimes, which subsequently drew me to Delicious Israel. This got me back on my feet and in high spirits.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that nothing is perfect. No one’s life is perfect, no matter how much we think some people’s are. I was living the life in Israel yet unexpected things occurred. Shit happens. Yet, I tried to take all of those difficult experiences and make them into something incredible.

My nights didn’t consist of sitting in my room sulking about how messed up this world is. Did I think that many times and sometimes let it consume my thoughts? Of course. But, I tried to let go of the situation and just enjoy life. Instead, I spent nights going out with my friends, dancing the night away in clubs, sipping on wine at local bars, and tasting Israeli cuisine. I spent my days exploring and learning the back roads of Tel Aviv and all the city has to offer. I took excursions to random places. I got denied from the Bahai Gardens in Haifa, drank wine overlooking the mountains in Tzfat, played cards with my host family in Karmiel, visited the Kotel in Jerusalem, had a meaningful Shabbaton in Yerucham, and mudded up at the Dead Sea. I hiked the Ein Geti and “hiked” (swam) through a body of water near the Golan Heights. I sat in many classroom lectures and met wonderful Israelis who were so proud and dedicated to their country. I ate a 12-course meal with my boss at a contemporary Asian Fusion restaurant. I progressed as a writer and helped Delicious Israel in many business projects.

This summer is one I will never forget. I know it’s cliché but I truly did find myself this summer. I have a passion for advocating for Israel that I’ve never experienced before. I never knew I had it in me and didn’t really have the motivation and drive. My only connection prior was Birthright, which I think is a great step in the right direction. But ultimately, I think it takes living in a foreign country as a local to truly experience everything. Touring and living are just not the same things. I have “toured” many places but have only felt at home at a select few. I can honestly say that I know I will be back to Israel. It isn’t just something that is a want, but more of a need. There is just this connection to both the Jewish people and the land that doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. Yes, Highland Park is VERY Jewish, but it is different. These are my people. My land. If I ever need an escape or somewhere to run to, Israel is there for me. No questions asked but they will take me in. Nowhere else in the world does this exist. Yes, Israel isn’t perfect and there are obviously flaws and faults in any country. But, nowhere else do I feel this connection.

I truly hope that everyone has the opportunity that I had to experience another culture, whether it is in Israel or somewhere else in the world. I know I have a bit of wanderlust and understand that not everyone feels the same about traveling. But, I think you also get to know your own culture and country by visiting other ones. I now know what about the United States I like and aspects that I don’t agree with. I know what I love about Israelis and what I could probably live without.

I want to thank my family and friends (especially my parents) for making all of this possible. I seriously don’t know what I would do without you guys or who would keep me sane in crazy situations. I need you people in my life to calm me down during hectic times and to celebrate with me in times of happiness.

For example, my flight today. I was supposed to be on an 11:30pm flight from Tel Aviv to Philly then to Chicago. I sat calmly on the runway after the flight was already delayed for an hour. Three hours passed and the pilot informed us that the flight was being cancelled. After a frantic panic attack from me, I Facebooked my mom about the situation. In a matter of minutes, I was booked on the next flight to London then to Chicago. Mom makes moves, let me tell you! I ended up meeting amazing people on my flights (shout out to all that helped me with my oversize and massive bags) and although I literally spirited across London Heathrow airport to make my connecting flight, it gave me an adrenaline rush and I have the sweat marks to prove it!

Israel is just an amazing place. Period. I don’t know what else to say. These two-months flew by and in the blink of an eye they were over. I definitely have no regrets but I do feel in a way that I turned my back on Israel. We lived like Israelis for two-months and then just left when it was our time to go. I hated leaving during the situation and felt as if I were letting down my people. Not that I myself have that big of an impact on Israel, but I just felt a sense of remorse. But, I know I’ll be back next year. Whether taking classes, working, volunteering, or something else, I know I’ll be back. It wasn’t a “goodbye” to Israel but more of a “see you later.”

I have a favorite quote that perfectly summed up my time in Florence as it does for Israel as well. “You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. You’ll not only miss the people you love, but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and place because you’ll never be this way again.” Peace out Tel Aviv, I’ll be back for you someday soon!

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