Gabriella Wellman (‘20)
This past summer, 2018, the Ken group of Aluma, the current juniors, traveled to Israel and were unsurprised to be, yet again, welcome to their home away from home. The familiar aromas of Israel made them crave fresh falafel, hummus, and shawarma. The group understood portions of conversations in the language that rang in their ears. They recognized the highways, road signs, and buildings as they drove away from the airport, towards Jerusalem.
Jessy Podolsky (‘20) arrived in Israel full of joy and aspirations for a good trip, but to arrive, it took what felt like an intolerable plane ride. Podolsky said, “I was so happy to finally arrive after a super long flight. It was very exciting that the trip we had waited so long for was finally beginning and that we would all get a whole month to be together. My growing excitement about our days ahead and the new experiences to come overpowered the fatigue and hunger I felt at that moment.”
As the trip went on, many of the participants found themselves visiting museums and cities known to some but not all, but ultimately it proved to be a new experience altogether. Natalie Artenstein (‘20) says, “I had actually done a lot of things that we did because I have been to many Bar Mitzvah trips, but I had fun and went with an open mind. I said to myself, maybe, with different people, it will be a different experience.”
When asked the question, “What was one part of the Israel trip that was previously familiar to you?” many people, including Maiya Hirschorn (‘20), were quick to respond, “the Kotel.” However, Hirschhorn added that “The Kotel was such a different place, from the mental perspective, I felt like I was experiencing it a whole new way. The same holiness but a new and different feeling. I feel like it means something different to me every time I go.”
While many people had done some of the activities before, other activities were brand new to everyone. One of these was Gadna, which is a week-long program in which participants learn about the Israeli army by living and training with IDF members for several days.
For many of the participants, this proved to be a true adventure. Hirschhorn felt like it gave her a whole new perspective on Israel. She said, “Gadna gave me such a different experience and understanding of the state. We only lasted 5 days, not even, but it made me have so much more respect for the people who do this on a daily basis.”
After this month-long trip to Israel, many of the trip’s participants might argue about the what was the best part of their experience but the one thing that they can agree on is that this trip was a unique and unforgettable time together. The experiences they shared and the memories they made, were absolutely one of a kind, and they envy future groups that will have this trip to look forward to.