Sarah Blen: My Teen Israel Experience

Sarah Blen, daughter of Alison and Scott Blen, 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. Click here to learn more and apply.

By Sarah Blen

My trip to Israel was incredible. We went all over the country and did so much. All the food was so good and was like nothing I have ever had before.

In Jerusalem, the Old City was beautiful. I had always seen pictures online or in Sunday School but visiting was meaningful. We went to the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Shabbat and saw a lot of people praying. I especially enjoyed the things we did outside. Climbing through caves and digging in them was cool. In the desert, staying in the Bedouin tents was a fascinating experience, especially learning from the people in the tribes who lived there. My favorite constant was the hot tea we drank when we were in the desert during Sea to Sea.

Sea to Sea was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip. The hike made me feel accomplished. Our guide taught us about the stars, cooking skills, and about the plants that were around us. I will never look at sage the same way again. I had a really good time cooking with my friends in the middle of nowhere. We started by swimming in the sea of Galilee and ended by biking to the Mediterranean Sea. It took about 4 days, and we hiked on rocks and water for miles. I appreciated the free time we had in the shuks and markets. Although they were complex and easy to get lost in, there were so many different things you could buy and eat there. Most of the people who worked in the markets were very familiar with the teen trips to Israel, so they were patient with us when we did not know how to communicate. Although it was not necessarily Jewish, I loved seeing the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The art there was breathtaking, and I left with many questions.

Snorkeling in the Red Sea was also fun, and I saw many cool fish. I think going to Israel with my camp friends made the trip more meaningful. While we also made good friends with the other camps staying with us, I am glad my camp partnered with NFTY for the trip. I always look forward to seeing my camp friends every year, so this was the best. I found visiting the Druze people interesting as well. The food was good there and I honestly did not know that the culture existed, so it was nice to learn about them.  

Even the hotels with their leaky ceilings were fun experiences!

I recommend this trip to anyone who already loves their URJ and wants to see the Holy Land. Ultimately, my trip was the most fun I have ever had with the best people ever. I could without a doubt see myself visiting Israel again.

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

Caption: Among scores of memorable experiences during her NFTY Jacobs Camp Israel trip last summer, Memphis teen Sarah Blen visited the Old City of Jerusalem. Her trip was made possible in part with support from a Teen Israel Experience Grant from Memphis Jewish Federation.

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