I’ve never felt particularly proud or excited about being Jewish. At first, it sounds crazy. I mean, I grew up in an area with one of the largest Israeli populations outside of Israel in a strong Zionist household and with the values of tikkun olam and tzedakah. I was surrounded by the strength of a Jewish family who came to the US with nothing and who fought and died for our people. And yet, being Jewish was not something that I thought about. It wasn’t something that I talked about with my friends and it wasn’t something that felt special to me. To add, due to my environment, I thought that I knew Israel in the same way that I know my house and that I know my street. I mean, after all, I’d been to Israel before; I thought I’d seen it all. Both of these truths built up my expectations going into BBYO’s International Leadership Seminar in Israel (ILSI): I thought I would meet some cool people and just have a nice relaxing summer.
Throughout the entire trip, I watched as my new friends connected with our ancient homeland, but as I stated, this was not my first time in Israel. I assumed that I had gotten all my connectivity done and over with when I was 11. I had already seen the sites, eaten the food, performed the prayers, and haggled with the shuk workers years ago. During this trip, every time we went to a new city, I told my friends at nauseum, “I’ve been here before.” However, it turns out that I was not lacking an emotional connection to this trip at all, but simply that my emotions were so strong that I had not yet begun to process them all.
In Jerusalem 3 weeks later, during our final Havdalah service of the trip, it all hit me. I thought about how Leah and Ally stayed with me at Masada while I threw up, how Niv made everything ok while I cried on the bus, how Linoy moved into my room in Jerusalem so that I wouldn’t be alone, and how I woke up laughing with my bus at a gas station in the West Bank at 12am because we saw a camel in the streets. This trip was not made special by the items that I bought at the market, nor by the comfortability of the hotels, nor by the richness of the food; this trip was made special by my new friends, who became hamispacha sheli, my family. My bus members became my siblings, my counselors my parents, and my roommates my very best friends. Exploring the greatest country in the world with all of these people and seeing everyone else’s vulnerability has made me damn proud to be a Jew. I love my land and I love my people. We are living proof that Am Yisrael Chai.
Dina Shlufman is a BBG from Palisades BBG in GJHRR: Northern, and she loves to write!
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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