Sofia Jalenak: My Teen Israel Story

by JCPConnect-

Sofia Jalenak, daughter of Monique and Charles Jalenak, is a junior at St. Mary’s Episcopal School. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemksy Endowment Fund provided her with a Teen Israel Experience grant to help offset the cost of her NFTY 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 2022 are now available online. To learn more and apply, please go to: www.jcpmemphis.org/lemsky-endowment-fund.

By Sofia Jalenak

The Israel trip to me was an experience like no other. I was able to travel with my best friends, meeting new people, and making stronger friendships. We stayed at so many different places with new people each time and meeting people from my camp I did not really know very well.

One place I will remember is when we slept and woke up early to hike Masada. The sunrise was beautiful, and I remember rushing up there thinking we were late, but we made it just in time. Another sunrise I remember is when I went to the IDF program. I had such a fun time meeting new people. I stepped out of my comfort zone and was away from all my friends and still had a good time. Unfortunately, I was not feeling good but the sunrise I was able to watch was pretty and a little bit worth it. Another memorable place was in the middle of the woods during the IDF training. The instructor led us single file into the woods at nighttime and told us we were not allowed to speak. I was able to sit there peacefully and watch the stars and reflect on my experience so far on the Israel trip. Once everyone was led out then we were all collected and led back to the camp. I will always remember how bright the stars were that night.

Just like when we were hiking in the desert, I will always remember the sunrise when we were waking up in the desert. I got close with so many people when we were hiking in the desert. The eight-hour long hikes made it seem like they were only thirty minutes because of the conversations and funny laughs we had. We would do trivia games and share jokes. Another sunset I will remember is the one on top of the roof in Akko. We had just gotten back from IDF training, and I had to say goodbye to all the new friends I made. We waited for the other buses to come and watched the sunset and saw the pretty pink sky shine bright on top of all the buildings.

The sunsets in Israel will always be my favorite thing. I saw them with all different people around me, including people I never thought I would ever be friends with or ever have the chance to meet. I watched the sunsets with new friends, old friends, and unlikely friends. It makes me sad to think that those times were the first and last times I was able to watch the sunsets with those people. I will forever cherish these memories and remember the beautiful sky and the beautiful people.

I am appreciative to Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund for making my NIFTY Israel trip possible.

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