-by Molly Rogers
My journey in Israel started with a four day stay in the Negev. Before this adventure in the desert, I thought: “Oh, I’m just with a group of normal Jewish teenagers. It’s not like this hike could be very strenuous.” Boy, was I wrong! Throughout my trip, I kept a journal. This is what I wrote during my last day in the Negev:
“We woke up at 4 a.m. to hike one of the tallest mountains in Israel, Mount Shlomo. It was honestly so hard, like if you took a wrong step, you could have fallen to your death. However, the feeling we all had once we reached the top was so overwhelming and inspirational. I felt invincible!”
While I might have been exaggerating a bit describing the “fall to my death”, the part about feeling invincible was spot on. Gazing out over Israel from the top of the mountain, I felt so blessed and content. I thought about all of the things we are supposed to thank God for daily but too often neglect. I was grateful for all of the invaluable relationships I was forming. I was grateful for my family and my happiness. I was grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity. I was grateful to be standing in the Promised Land.
I stayed in a group with my new friends Leah and Annie and my counselor Mor during the entire hike. We never left each other’s side. Throughout the six hours on that mountain, Mor was constantly uplifting us. She would say: “Smile, girls. It makes you feel better,” or she would sing us Israeli lullabies to soothe our nerves.
One phrase Mor repeated to us that I will never forget is baktana. In her words, this phrase means, “For you, it is nothing.” The impact that Mor’s words had on me are lifelong. Baktana does not have to only be used when you are hiking a mountain in the middle of the desert in Eilat. I still use it whenever I am having a bad day. Now, I truly feel like I can do anything.
Who knew that one day on this mountain with this one person could change my life forever?
Molly Rogers, the daughter of Michelle and Jeff Rogers, is a junior at White Station High School. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided her with a Teen Israel Experience grant to help offset the costs of her NFTY summer program in Israel. All rising juniors and seniors in the Memphis Jewish community are eligible for grants of up to $2500 to attend a recognized teen summer program in Israel.
This year, JCP will supply 21 students a total of $52,500 for travel to Israel through the Teen Israel Program.