A big part of summer for people in high school is experiencing new things, whether it be at camp, at a summer learning program, or traveling with a teen tour or family. I had a totally unique travel experience that was both life changing and possibly the best time of my life. I went to the Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI), a program for Jewish Americans, and my time was spent not only learning and traveling, but literally living the life of an average student in Hod Hasharon, Israel.
For me, like for a lot of Jewish Americans, Israel is a second home… it’s where we came from originally as a people, it’s where we turn when we pray, it’s where our 4000 year history is, and it’s a place that is always on our minds. Obviously we have a strong connection, but my experience in Israel gave me the chance to feel that connection and to understand why we have it. Whether hiking in a canyon in the Golan Heights, spending a weekend in a tent in the desert, climbing Masada for the sunrise, or experiencing a concert of Israel’s most famous singers on Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut), I saw and felt the connection firsthand. I not only developed a spiritual connection to the land, but also one with the 46 other teenagers on my trip. Living, learning, and traveling made us like a family. Not only a spiritual connection, but a historical connection also played a big role in my trip. I saw where and how my ancestors lived, which was really powerful for me.
The lesson I learned from AMHSI was to never forget the past, and to use it as a tool to build the future. After my experiences, I won’t ever forget the Jewish past and will use those experiences to define our future. Because of my experiences, I would totally encourage other teenagers to look into their pasts, to learn where they came from, and to let that be a part of building their personal futures. It helped me better understand myself, and I’m sure it would impact anyone in the same way. Your history and heritage is there for you to discover and love, it’s your job to find it!