Hannah Siegler, the daughter of Stacy and Jerry Siegler, is an 11th grade student at Lausanne Collegiate School. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided her with a Teen Israel Experience grant to help offset the costs of her Summer 2019 NFTY 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 or semester program in Israel. Teen Israel Experience applications for summer 2020 are available online.
This past summer, I went to Israel with NFTY. I had been to Israel before with my family, but I was very little so I do not remember much. The second time I had gone to Israel was with Bornblum Jewish Community School for the 8th grade trip. I was with a few of my friends going into it, so I had a good time. On this trip, I was accompanied by my friends from the URJ Jacobs Camp and kids from the URJ Greene Family Camp. Since some of my camp friends weren’t going, I was nervous to meet new people and to see camp people I wasn’t really close with.
When we arrived at our first destination, we did some icebreakers. We were all tired from a long day of traveling, so it made getting to know people more difficult. We all just stuck to our own small groups for the first week, not really branching out. But by the time we got to Israel, we went from a bunch of little groups to one big community.
We spent our first few days in Israel in the Negev desert, and this was where we really bonded. We had to do everything outdoors: sleep, eat, hike, and even go to the bathroom. From then on, there were no more unfamiliar faces because we were all friends.
From the good times, such as Ben Yehuda Street, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Bedouin tents, to the not as happy moments, such as remembering those who gave their lives for Israel and hearing Holocaust survivors’ stories, we were together throughout it all.
I will cherish all the wonderful memories that I made in those 5 weeks. I know that this was a once in a lifetime kind of experience and that wherever I may be, I will always remember NFTY in Israel.