This summer, I was lucky enough to travel to the remarkable country of Israel with my best friends. After 7 years of sleepaway camp in Pennsylvania, this past summer, my age group had the opportunity to tour Israel for a month. Almost every Jewish teen comes back from a Teen Tour to Israel saying, "it was the most meaningful month of my life,” but it really is true. When I got to Newark airport I saw eighty Jewish 16-year-olds, most of whom I know or are my best friends. Seeing them, I knew this trip would be absolutely incredible, but I didn’t realize just how much of an impact the trip would have on my Jewish identity.
The first week in Israel felt unreal! We were in the desert, so it was definitely hot, but we had so much fun seeing the sights of Israel, riding camels and just being together in this beautiful place - but I didn't feel that much of a connection to Judaism.
The first time I really felt a connection was at the Western Wall. Our group was able to go to the Wall for Friday night services and it was an experience like no other. I went up to the Wall feeling a connection to Jews all around the world who have stood in the same place as me. I thought about how my grandparents, parents, family members, and friends have been there as well, and I truly felt connected to the Jewish community. After being at the very front of the Wall, we went to the larger section near the Wall that allowed for both men and women. My friends and I saw a group of Jewish-American teens dancing to the Horah. We instantly felt welcomed and joined the group to dance. After talking to them I found out they were traveling with BBYO, which made me feel so happy to meet other Alephs and BBGs like myself.
The next time I truly felt a connection to my Judaism was on Ben Yehuda Street. Ben Yehuda Street is a beautiful street in Jerusalem with tons of shops, places to eat, and even street performers! There were hundreds of different American teens visiting with different groups, and everyone was so friendly. People asked about each other’s names, about their ages, and about the trips they were on. Once again, I met many fellow BBYO teens and I instantly felt a connection to them as they are in the same, amazing, organization as I am. I even met a few teens from around the world - including the United Kingdom, Canada, Argentina and Australia! I also had this experience meeting tons of teenagers just like me at the Maccabiah games in Jerusalem.
There was something so special feeling like a part of something bigger: these teenagers from all over the world are just like me. I think that is amazing. The entirety of my Israel trip was awesome and truly unforgettable, but the meaning of those moments is what truly stands out to me. If you get the opportunity -whether it's with BBYO, summer camp, Birthright, or otherwise - take that trip to Israel, and find that something meaningful.
Anya Miller is a BBG from New Jersey who lives in Dylan O'Brien's hometown.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
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