We’re marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel with a year-long celebration! Keep an eye out for “Memphis Celebrates Israel at 70” branding at your synagogue, at events around town, and online. In this series, we’re asking Memphians to tell their personal Israel stories. Do you have a story to tell?
This past summer, thanks to a grant from the Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund, I was fortunate to explore my homeland through the NCSY JOLT Israel program. We spent the first week learning how to be leaders in preparation for a camp which we ran the following week for the siblings of pediatric cancer patients. The camp was organized by Zichron Menachem, an Israeli nonprofit organization. After the camp, we spent three more weeks exploring the land and came to love every part of it.
My favorite memory from the camp is of the first water hike we did with the kids. At the beginning of the hike, I was walking with a group of my friends and in front of us were several campers. As the water began to rise, we noticed the kids struggling to move forward. Each of us took the hand of one of these little kids and began to help them. The camper I was helping was one who I hadn’t met yet, and she hardly spoke any English. However, even with the language barrier, we still managed to enjoy each other’s company as we took in the scenery and the fish and navigated the water, sometimes almost falling.
The actual experience of running the camp was amazing, and I found that when it was over and the tears had stopped, we were so much closer as a group. For that one week of the camp, every JOLT Israel participant had given these kids their all, and we let our differences slide away. All the little things that cause teenagers to judge each other and cliques to form somehow didn’t matter when we were around the campers. Because of this, as we sat around a bonfire immediately after the end of the camp, I looked around and realized how comfortable I was with everyone and how we really were one family.
The next three weeks were unforgettable. As I explored Israel with my newfound family, I grew so much closer to the land. Throughout those weeks, there were so many opportunities to grow and connect with Israel, such as the reading of Megillat Eicha on Tisha B’Av. That night, we sat in the ruins of a place called the Herodium, where our rabbis explained that on the same night thousands of years before us, Jews were sitting in the same place watching Jerusalem burn. Never before have I felt such a strong feeling of love for Israel. Before this summer and this moment, I called Israel my homeland and I loved visiting it, but through JOLT Israel, I saw the land in a new, unforgettable way. Thank you to my parents, Memphis Jewish Federation, and NCSY Summer for giving me the opportunity to have the best. summer. ever.
Alexandra Goldblatt, the daughter of Chana Dina and Joel Goldblatt, is a junior at Goldie Margolin School for Girls. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided her with a Teen Israel Experience grant to help offset the costs of her NCSY program in Israel. All rising juniors and seniors in the Memphis Jewish community are eligible for grants of up to $3000 to attend a recognized teen summer program in Israel. Teen Israel Experience applications for summer 2018 are available online.