Naomi Farahan of Carmel, Indiana, is a rising senior at University High School. She is the founder and editor in chief of the U Post – her high school’s online publication, president of the Young Democrats Club and participates in a number of other activities. Naomi has a close connection to Israel and has always been an advocate for the country. This summer, she is traveling Israel with Young Judaea’s Discovery program, after receiving theHadassah Leaders of Tomorrow Award. This highly selective merit-based award gives two high school women the opportunity to receive full tuition for a four-week Young Judaea Teen Summer Program in Israel.
It’s been more than a week since I last wrote, which seems impossible. The clichés are true – time moves fast when you’re having fun, but I also feel as if I have known these people for years. Time is warped here on the Discovery program. I fall asleep when I shouldn’t and I’m always slap happy and just when I think I’ve recovered from jet lag, my eyelids stiffen as if to taunt me. This culminates to provide me with the experience of a lifetime.
Our Teva sandals seemed to shuffle on their own as we lugged around Greece. The Parthenon, in all its glory, stood as an origin story for our society’s prized ideals. People from all over the world gathered to “ooh” and “ahh” at curves of the columns and the birthplace of democracy. Languages hummed together to sound something altogether unfamiliar. Words could be picked out, but the sound was a general reverberating appreciation of the Acropolis. Of the beautiful Athena and what is left of her city. We also hiked across three Greek islands with our tour guide, Adonis. Our iPhone camera rolls became National Geographic covers, despite our lack of technical skill. The scenery begged to be taken in, to be painted and to be written about.
As you might have read in my first blog post, I was nervous about meeting the other Discovery kids. I’m here now, sitting on the bus on the way to the Dead Sea participating in three conversations at once. I feel as if I have found parts of myself in the other kids here. We are all very different, and we come from different places – France, Missouri, Puerto Rico, and New York – but for many of us there is a quickly developing connection that makes each day all the more exciting.
We arrived in Israel on Thursday. As the plane neared Ben Gurion airport, strangers formed an impromptu choir. We sang Hallelujah and Havah Nagillah as we looked out the window. My friend, who is in Israel for her first time, found herself tearing up. The greens and reds outside our window were familiar to her. The soft beiges felt like home to all of us, whether or not we had been in Israel.
We met up with the Young Judean campers in Israel. They have known each other for years, and those of us who went to Greece just met last week. Together, though, we have formed an incredible group. Our counselors consistently urge us to ask questions – about faith, about Israel and its history, and perhaps most importantly, about what we expect from ourselves. The program has just begun and so many of us have looked at our lives from an entirely different angle. This is not easy to do.
Today we made it to the Old City, which came as a surprise considering the recent security concerns in Israel. The Kotel always provides a sense of solace, no matter how many times you have been. No matter what you believe, it is nothing short of incredible to consider how many people have found god there. Praying is a very humbling act. And here, at the Kotel, millions of people have found it in themselves to speak with a higher being. It was difficult for all of us to walk away. Those who had never been to the Wall said that they felt they had been there before. I find this concept to be intimidating and unifying.
I am really looking forward to having more of these profound experiences as the month continues. I am so lucky to know that each day will be filled with such meaningful memories. To read more about the Discovery program, check here for my weekly blog posts. Thank you for reading!