Through the Eyes of My Children

This week as the State of Israel is celebrating its birthday, I’m thinking back to a particular Sunday morning so many years ago.  I was fifteen years old and in my last year of Sunday School.  A representative from a program called High School in Israel came to tell us about a unique program in which one could go live in Israel and study for two months with full credit.  I was instantly enchanted.  While I was not raised in a family that was particularly religious, I had always felt a kinship with my roots and wanted to explore them further.  The trip cost about $1,000, which seems so reasonable now, but back then it was a lot of money.

I went home and told my mother about the program.  I told her how I would learn about the country’s history, geography and culture; how I would make new friends; how much I wanted to go on this trip that could possibly change my life (I’m throwing that part in, but I’m quite I didn’t say that).  My mother became very determined to see this through, despite the fact that we could not afford it.  She quickly got on the phone with my grandfather, who was a Zionist or supporter of Israel at heart, and got not only his approval, but his financial commitment.  He could not think of anything better in the world than sending his granddaughter to Israel and gave us his full blessing.

I remember the months leading up to my departure date.  My mother bought me new clothes, a new duffel bag, a new coat, whatever I needed.  We shopped and shopped until we dropped.  I had gone through a phase prior to this time where I refused to wear new clothes.  I was a bit of a “goth”, shopping only at vintage clothing stores where all the clothes were used.  My mom despised this period and welcomed the new me with open arms.  She was thrilled about my upcoming adventure.

The day to leave for Israel came.  I didn’t know a soul going on the trip.  I had also never been away from home for an extended time.  I didn’t know what to expect.  It was also the first passport I ever had, and I was eager to see what life would be like outside the U.S.A.

The next two months changed my life.  We were taken all over Israel with incredible teachers and mentors who taught us the history of the land, about the government, its wars and its joys.  We hiked up the Masada, floated in the Dead Sea, walked all over the Old City of Jerusalem, drove to the southern and northern most tips of Israel and got off in every city, stayed on a kibbutz and so much more.  We lived in a dorm outside of Tel Aviv and ate the most delicious foods.  I went to the local cart called Shlomo’s Falaffel on campus everyday and indulged in a falafel with extra hummus and pickles.  I made friends, some of whom I am still in touch with.  Life had never tasted so good.

My love for the country has never gone away; it has only strengthened over the years.  I spent my freshman year of college there again as part of a program called Young Judea Year Course.  The program was similar to High School in Israel, but it was a year program in which we studied and received full college credit.  I went back again several times during college on conferences and have remained a staunch supporter of the State of Israel.  I have been back several times since then, as a representative of several organizations including AIPAC and Hadassah, and have come back to America energized to spread the word and create further support for Israel.

Now I am about to embark on my children’s first visit.  We are planning a trip next month for a family event and will be spending some time there exploring the country and visiting relations.  My kids, age five and seven, will most likely not appreciate the significance the country has had for me, but I do hope that they will experience it as I did as a young girl on my first visit there.  I was never given the opportunity to go at such a young age and of course they are too young to realize how lucky they are.  The country’s landscape is stunning, this they will definitely recognize.  The people are also very unique and we will be visiting their first cousins, who they will have time to get to know.

I remember coming back and telling my own mother about my first trip and about how much I had fallen in love with the land and its people.  She had never left the country.  A few years later, when I returned as a freshman, we had a winter break.  After spending a few days with my friends in Egypt, I returned to Jerusalem where my mother was waiting for me to join her on a tour of the country.

My mother and I spent the next week on a tour bus exploring the country together.  She was able to see everything I had been talking about and more.   It was one of the most special experiences of my life.  That week also changed her as she started to travel abroad more often when she returned home.  My wanderlust was contagious, particularly for this special country.  The experience was also a bond we would hold forever.

On our upcoming visit, I will be dealing with meltdowns, jet lag, fighting and trips to playgrounds.  It will be a different kind of trip for me than I’ve ever taken there before.  However, it will be more meaningful in many ways as I will be looking at the country through their eyes rather than my own.  We will plan excursions suited for kids.  We will visit the biblical zoo in Jerusalem, museums that cater to children, beaches, arts & crafts fairs and national parks.

While it will still be a different kind of trip than we’ve had in the past, we will show them Israel’s most beautiful places, walk through Jerusalem’s Old City, float in the Dead Sea and walk on the shores of the Mediterranean.  I am sure they will love the country as much as I do and that this will be first of many trips for us as a family.

This is an original New York City Moms Blog post.


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