How My Trip to Israel Changed My Life

November 3, 2023
Maren Hettler

Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States

Class of 2025

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Last summer, I visited Israel for the first time with BBYO Israel Journey. I spent three weeks traveling across the country with 45 other American teens, visiting everywhere from Tel Aviv to Eilat. 

My trip started and finished in Jerusalem, my favorite of all of the places we visited. The vibrant markets, diverse neighborhoods, and streets of the Old City made it my favorite destination. Later on, we visited Tel Aviv and spent our time visiting museums, learning about the different cultures in Israel, and experiencing Israel’s city life. 

Growing up in Oklahoma, a land-locked state, I haven’t had many chances to see the ocean. In Eilat, I was able to snorkel and banana boating in the Red Sea. It was much different from the big city of Tel Aviv and allowed me to appreciate the natural beauty of Israel. The desert scenery and beaches of Eilat were some of the highlights of my trip. 

During the trip, I visited Netiv HaAsara, one of the most impactful experiences I had in Israel. Netiv HaAsara is a community located right on the border with Gaza. We spent a few hours with Tsameret Zamir, the founder of a group called Path to Peace. Tsameret opened her home to us to teach us about the reality of life in her community. We learned about how they are never more than a few seconds from a bomb shelter and that most buildings in the community are just as fortified as bomb shelters in order to protect residents. Netiv HaAsara is so close to the border that the Iron Dome is often not able to intercept the rockets soon enough. During a time of heightened conflict, like there is now, residents sleep in their bomb shelters because if rockets were fired at them in the middle of the night, they wouldn’t be able to reach their shelters fast enough. At the end of our visit, we placed a piece of clay art on a piece of the border wall that can be seen from Gaza. 

Netiv HaAsara was one of the many communities destroyed in the attacks on October 7. As I reflect on the 3 weeks that I spent in Israel, my time at Netiv HaAsara stands out. It reminds me of the fragility of peace in the region and the importance of working toward a more compassionate world.

Maren Hettler is a BBG from Nona Bloch Salomon in NTO and she loves olives!

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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