Chloe Bullard, daughter of Samantha and Brian Bullard, is in eleventh grade at DeSoto Central High School. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided her with a Teen Israel Experience grant to offset the costs of her NFTY L’Dor V’Dor 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 of 2022 are now open at https://www.grantinterface.com/Home/Logon?urlkey=jfom.
An Unforgettable Summer
When asked to talk about my experience in Israel tons of memories and emotions come to me. My mind takes me back to Newark airport: I can still remember the butterflies I had in my stomach that day. Thousands of negative scenarios came across my mind. “What if I forgot something?” “What if no one likes me?” “What if it’s too far for too long?” As I started meeting the teens I traveled with, the thoughts started to quiet down. When I made my arrival to Israel the nerves left me. I remember feeling so welcomed and safe as I stepped into the airport where I met the staff members who became my family for the next few weeks. I did not know it then, but I was about to experience the most incredible summer I have yet experienced.
Stepping onto the Jerusalem streets; observing the historical city I have heard so many stories about was truly a surreal experience. I remember visiting the City of David where we saw lots of remarkable spots including the Western Wall. The Western Wall was a place I had heard lots of good and bad things about; however, I wanted to form my own opinion. Thousands of people surrounded the wall; some were praying, chanting, or even just staring. Our counselors had given us paper and pens to write notes on the bus to put in the wall. Note in hand, I walked toward the wall. A feeling that I’ve never felt before rushed over my body. I suddenly felt safe and warm as if someone were telling me everything is going to be ok. That is a feeling that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
A few days later, we were told our next stop was the Negev Desert. I was personally not the most excited for the desert. I had never gone camping before or done anything like that. I was so scared that I would be uncomfortable, exhausted, and unhappy. Upon our arrival, those fears started to fade into the distance. I was truly in awe of the Negev. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Not only did the Negev provide gorgeous surroundings but also brought us as a group together. Because of Covid-19 I was not able to attend camp the previous summer, so I had not met a lot of the teens from my camp I was traveling with. While in the Negev I grew very close to them, and it stayed that way the rest of the trip. I am still close to them to this day. A memory I will never forget was the time our tour guide, in the Negev, told us she was going to take us on a quick 15- minute hike. It was our last day in the desert and I was so tired from hiking for the past few days. I had questioned going or not, but I decided to push through and go. Looking back, I am so thankful I went. We hiked a very steep but short distance where we reached a cliff looking over the desert. Our tour guide said just six words, “Let the Negev speak to you.” I started looking off into the sandy hills and did as she said. The Negev truly did speak to me as I was soon brought to tears. I looked around and found out I was not the only one affected that way. I took a mental picture of my view at that moment. A picture that I can still imagine to this day.
As the weeks went by the time came to go our separate ways and depart for home. Of course, I had missed my family and friends from home but a part of me was now in Israel, and always will be. My summer in Israel will forever hold a special place in my heart. I am truly thankful that I had these incredible experiences and I will remember and look back at them for the rest of my life. I am grateful to Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund for helping to make my NFTY L’Dor V’Dor Israel summer program possible.