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Micah Unowsky: My Teen Israel Experience

by JCPConnect-
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Micah Unowsky, son of Keri and Dr. Daniel Unowsky, just graduated from Memphis University School (pictured left posing with friends during a visit to the Western Wall). Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided him with a Teen Israel Experience grant to help offset the cost of his 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 will open in the fall of 2022.

By: Micah Unowsky

My most vivid moment from my Israel trip was waking up in the middle of the night on the uncomfortable desert terrain. I was by myself, and I stared up into the sky and saw the sky as I never had before. There was no light pollution, so the stars were clear and almost looked painted. You do not get a view like that in Memphis, Tennessee.

When we arrived in Israel, I was not sure about the trip. The technicians drawing our blood for Covid antibody testing upon our arrival missed our veins a few times. Then, our camp was integrated with three students who were not part of my group and it made me nervous. I was worried the trip was going to be less than ideal, but that was not the case. For the most part, the camps were on their own, but we also got to know new people. By the end of the trip, when we went back to Ben Gurion Airport, I knew I would miss Israel.

The people were one of the most fascinating parts of the trip. Four Israeli teens joined us for a week, and I noticed they were just like us, but with different accents. Living across the ocean, I usually feel detached from Israel, but I felt more connected because we met personalities and did not just walk past people. We think people are different from us because they live far away, but we are all the same at heart.

Visiting Masada was a very surreal moment. We woke up well before dawn to make sure we reached the top of the mountain to admire the sunrise. Events in the Torah seem intangible to me because there are almost no pinpointed locations where specific actions took place, which is why Masada was so amazing. I was literally walking on history, seeing the remains of the fortress, and the ramp that the Romans built to defeat our ancestors.

Last summer was the last time that all my summer camp friends were together in one place, and to be all together in Israel was amazing. It was a great bonding opportunity that I will always remember. Even the bus rides were fun, and I ended up meeting a lot of cool new people as well, Americans and Israelis, which enhanced the trip. I also ran into the NCSY trip with people from Memphis, a crossover event greater than The Avengers.

Nothing beats Israeli food. I miss malawach, the flatbread with the hardboiled eggs and the tomato dip. Malawach is also a great representation of the diversity of Israel. Malawach is a Somalian dish that was brought to Israel by Yemenites. The convergence of so many cultures is impressive when put into perspective. Israel is about one-fifth of the size of Tennessee yet has a far more diverse population.

So, to close, this probably will be my most meaningful trip to Israel because I had so many friends to share in the experience. I am also a cat person, so next time I may have to steal one of the 10 million cats roaming around Jerusalem.

Thank you to Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund for helping to make my NFTY Jacobs Camp Israel trip possible.

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