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 two in the morning in Carmel, Indiana. I can’t sleep. I’ve been home for more than a week now, avoiding this final blog post like the plague. Writing this means that our trip is finally over, and deep inside I know that I cannot fully capture what this summer meant to me. I can name my favorite sights, and I can tell you about the funniest moments. We can sit for coffee and I can say, as I have said countless times, that I have been moved and changed. I can explain that rather than become a different person, I became a better defined version of myself. But I cannot really put these feelings into words. This is my best attempt.
I have always been proud of my Judaism. My religion has never held me back. But before this trip, I wasn’t quite sure what being Jewish meant to me. It was passed on by my parents, and it was something I wanted to continue for the sake of my children. But I wasn’t sure why. This summer, I connected to parts of myself that I can’t quite name. I guess I call that religion. This does not mean that I returned home observing more Mitzvot, but I do feel more Jewish regardless. My friends on the trip felt the same way, as if this spirituality had awoken in us. My Jewish identity no longer exists because it’s expected of me, but because I experience it. Because I breathe it and because I feel it in everything that I do.
Those friends that I mentioned were the same ones I talked about in my very first blog. I was nervous to meet them, remember? Looking back, I had every reason to be. My life will never be the same. Every friend that I made is important to me for a different reason. I learned something new from everyone that I came across. I feel exceedingly blessed to have spent five weeks with some of the most incredible people I have ever met. We came into each other’s lives very quickly, and I hope we never leave. I know that I will never forget how they made me feel. Those things just don’t go away.
For several days after I got home, my eyes were glued to the television screen. Back in the States I feel so removed from the situation in Israel. Everyone welcomed me back with open arms, exclaiming, “You must have been so scared!” All the while, I just want to go back to Israel. I just want to go back home. I now have a much better grasp of what Zionism means to me. No matter where I am, what I’m doing, Israel is my home. As a part of the Nitzachon program, I gained the proper tools to speak out as an advocate for my home. I am a more realistic, knowledgeable ambassador for Israel.
I feel inclined to be honest here. I have realized that I am incredibly self-centered. Perhaps it’s ingrained in our “Selfie Culture,” and maybe it’s just me. But now when I watch the news, I know that there is so much more to the story. This leads to me to wonder about the millions of other stories that are happening in the world right now that I am unaware of, and suddenly my problems are so small. I have spent so much time worrying about my next step and my own future, when there are so many next steps and futures that I have not taken the time to learn about.
But none of this makes me feel small or insignificant. More than ever, I intend to harness my skills and become a leader that speaks out for Israel. None of us are small. It’s not that at all. All of our perspectives add up to be something very big, and I hope to shape someone’s perspective someday. The Nitzachon program has certainly shaped mine.
Thank you to everyone who reads these blogs. I really enjoyed sharing my summer with you. Most importantly, thank you to Young Judaea and Hadassah for such an important journey. I will carry this experience with me for the rest of my life.