Ava Jalenak: My Teen Israel Experience

Ava Jalenak, daughter of Monique and Charles Jalenak, is a junior at St. Mary’s Episcopal School (pictured left). Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemksy Endowment Fund provided her with a Teen Israel Experience grant to help offset the cost of her NFTY program in Israel. All rising high school juniors and seniors in the Memphis Jewish community are eligible for grants up to $3,000 to attend a recognized teen summer or semester program in Israel. Teen Israel Experience applications for Summer 2022 are now available online. Click here to learn more and apply.

By Ava Jalenak:
This summer I went on the most amazing trip and made so many memories that I will never forget.  Also, I created many deep connections with friends, and I am so thankful for the friendships.
I saw some of the most beautiful scenery ever and will never forget the beauty. As well as connecting with other Jewish teens, I also connected with my Jewish faith and identity throughout the trip. Everywhere we went was meaningful to how I view our faith and culture. One of my favorite places was the Negev desert. Even though the desert was extremely hot and exhausting to hike for hours, our surroundings and all the views were worth it. At night it was cool, and you could see all the stars in the sky. It was so peaceful, and I would do anything to go back there. On the last day of hiking in the desert, we went to the top of a mountain and the wind was so strong it made your eyes water. The view of three different countries was so amazing and I can still picture it.
Another one of my favorite places was Tel Aviv. The beaches were so pretty, and it was fun to see what the beaches were like in Israel. The city life was so cool to experience, and the food was amazing. During the day, sometimes we would go to markets for lunch and to buy things. It was cool to see how busy the markets were packed with tons of people.

Along with being with my best friends from camp, I met lots of new people and I immediately connected, and we all became friends. This included most of the people on my bus and people from the different buses in our Adventure One group.  It was so much fun to share these connections with other Jewish teens my age. I also think sharing a faith, especially Judaism, creates an immediate bond between people before you even get to know them.  I still keep in touch with a lot of the friends I made on this trip. I am so thankful to have made these friendships and connections with teens all over the U.S. I am also very thankful for meeting the Israeli teens my age and becoming friends with them as well! I am trying to stay connected with them even though they are across the world.
I also loved seeing the holy sites like the Western Wall and the old synagogues. I feel like experiencing those sites made me become more in touch with my Jewish faith and identity, and it made my love for my religion grow even more. Seeing the culture in Israel was also too cool and it made me fall in love with the country.  My Israel experience was by far the best trip of my life, and I would go back to Israel in a heartbeat if I had the chance.
I am appreciative to Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment for helping to make my NFTY Israel trip possible.

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