Lily Hirsch: My Teen Israel Experience

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Lily at the Haas Promenade on her first day in Jerusalem

Lily Hirsch, daughter of Marci and Geoffrey Hirsch is a junior at St. Mary’s Episcopal School. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided her with a Teen Israel Experience grant to help offset the cost of her NFTY Jacobs Camp Israel trip last summer. 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. Applications for Summer 2023 are now available online. To learn more and apply, click here.

During my NFTY Jacobs Camp trip to Israel, I was frequently surprised and comforted by the prevalence of Judaism. Every new place I visited, I thought “I wish I could spend more time here.” I’ve never been surrounded by so many Jewish people and seen so many people openly practicing Judaism. This experience was definitely unique and special to me.

The most memorable part of my time in Israel was the two-night camping trip in the desert. I spent each night in a different part of the desert and slept under the stars. Going into this trip, it was the part I was least excited about. Once I got to the desert, I immediately loved the scenery and knew I would love spending time there. I really enjoyed sleeping under the stars at night and waking up to the sunrise in the morning. It was amazing to see these incredible views.

On the last week of my Israel trip, six Israeli teens joined us and traveled around with our group.

It was so interesting to hear about their lives and compare our experiences. It was also fun to have people my age showing me some of their favorite things about their country. On the last day of their stay with the group, I ate lunch at one of their houses. It was exciting to see where my new friends lived and to have the opportunity to experience a traditional home cooked Israeli meal.

Sharing these experiences with the camp friends I have grown up with was the most special part of the trip. I don’t know if my connection to Judaism grew stronger during the trip, but I am so happy to have a connection to Israel and to have a better understanding of the Jewish community beyond my home.

Thank you to the Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky’s Endowment Fund for helping make this journey possible for me.

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