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.
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.
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.