Personal Reflections: Leor Is Back in America

After a month in Israel, I have arrived back in the United States. I feel a sense of sorrow, but also of happiness. Sorrow, because the trip is over.  Happiness, because I was lucky to be afforded the opportunity to experience the best summer of my entire life.

 
Going into this trip, I did not truly know what to expect. I knew that I would expand my connections with friends and explore Israel. What I did not predict was that Machon would have such a profound impact on my life.

Each small experience that I had this summer shaped me a little, and I would like to share a few of those special experiences that I have not yet written about.


A few days ago, we went to Tel Aviv and visited Rabin Square, the place where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in November 1995, nearly twenty years ago. In Rabin Square we talked about Rabin and his search for peace. We were then told to go talk to Israelis on the streets around the Square and ask them about Rabin’s assassination. We started off by talking with a few interesting people.  Then, all of a sudden, we met a man named Moshe. Moshe was there the day of Rabin’s murder. He brought my group and me up to the spot where Rabin spoke and sang Shir L’Shalom, the last song that he sang before his assassination.  He also showed us the exact place where Rabin was shot. Moshe explained that after Rabin’s death the entire community came and stood around the place where Rabin was shot and held candles for seven days. People were crying and mourning.  Not just for Rabin’s tragic death, but also because many people believed that this was the end of the prospect of peace. This incredible experience made me feel as if I was right there twenty years ago. I felt connected to the emotions and sorrow of that tragic day, and the feelings of many people in Israel that peace may be harder to achieve.  Now, looking back twenty years later, I believe they were right. 


One of the last things we did on the trip was visit Mount Herzl, the national cemetery of Israel in Jerusalem. We walked through the thousands of graves. We began with graves from the beginning of Israel and slowly moved up to graves from the war last year. Looking at these graves, I felt suffocated. I felt the loss and open wound that many Israelis feel. It was impossible not to cry.
 
Another very special part of Machon has been the interactions that I have had with the other Machon participants and our counselors. Throughout the trip, we have had discussions about spirituality, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more. It is very special that we are all now at the age where we are forming our opinions and can have intellectual, deep, and engaging conversations about these important and difficult topics (this does not mean that these discussions don’t sometimes lead to disagreements, but we try to be respectful). Throughout my time in camp we learned and experienced many things together.  But, until now, we have not had conversations as deep as these. Being in Israel and together experiencing the things we are talking about have helped to facilitate these very meaningful and important discussions that we will all take back home with us.
 
The last week I was in Israel, two terrorist attacks occurred, and innocent people were murdered. These acts of terror only affected our group slightly, as we could not go to the Kotel on the final Shabbat. Other than that change, the trip was not altered. Despite these horrific acts, life in Israel appears to go on. Throughout these blogs, I have expressed how incredible Israel is. However, these events highlight the imperfections and problems in Israel that need to be combatted so that the identity of Israel isn’t lost to extremists.
 
I believe it is vital for young Jewish adults to visit Israel to strengthen their connection and really understand its importance. Young Judaea Machon is the perfect way to experience Israel because it encompasses education, fun, and exposes teens to the culture of Israel. Most importantly, Machon allowed me to travel around Israel with some of the most passionate, intelligent, and caring people I know.
 
Now that I am back home, I am so excited to share my experiences with others and continue to be a strong advocate for Israel. The knowledge that I received has helped me become more informed, and gained a wider perspective on the many issues that Israel faces.

Throughout all of these posts, I’ve shared some special moments of Machon with you.  I hope that I have also conveyed how incredible and impactful this trip has been as a whole. Even though I already had strong feelings about Israel, after Machon, I have an even bigger and more appreciative love of Israel. This trip also helped strengthen my Jewish identity and my pride for being part of the Jewish people.
 
I can’t wait to return on year course and spend an entire year in Israel.