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Israel: Final Day Ruminations

June 2, 2008

When my sister dropped me off at the airport in what seems like three years ago, I had no idea what to expect of this trip to Israel. I knew and expected only one thing: the journey I would take would be intensely personal and life-changing. As I sit here now, at a mall outside of Jerusalem I can safely say that this expectation has been exceeded by huge leaps and bounds.

Our tour group managed to do some amazing things, some listed on the itinerary and others decided almost spontaneously. We hiked Masada, had tea with our Bedouin bus driver’s family in their Israeli Arab village, floated in the Dead Sea, and hiked through numerous locations whose beauty and wonder defy description.

Our emotions during this trip ran high. As is usual for a large group of Jewish young people, there was a lot of drama, much of it fueled through the effects of alcohol. Fortunately, I managed to stay clear of all of it…either through my choice not to spend every night drinking or the fact that I’ve been suffering from a cold that has knocked me on my ass for the last five days, thereby forcing me to resort to early bedtimes and abstaining from alcohol. Fortunately, the majority of the trip for most of the participants was not about drinking. We’ve seen one another at our best and our worst–be it puking after over-exertion on a hike (not me!) to praying together on Friday night at the Western Wall.

Remember what I said about intense personal journey? Outside of the dynamics of traveling with a wide variety of Jewish university students I have had an an awesome time as a Jewish individual on this journey. The feelings I mentioned above were tenfold in my own personal experience. I had good days, bad days, sick days, and fun days. I encountered one of the hardest and most rewarding days of my life emotionally here. I found future wives in army uniforms, met Jews from every branch of the religion, and heard Ehud Olmert speak last night at an event for 7,000 Birthright participants from 7 different countries.

As I sit back and prepare to head back to the United States, I’m feeling conflicted. I don’t really want to leave this amazing and beautiful country. In the same right…I take comfort in the fact that the door is open any time for my return. I hope I return home to Israel soon.

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