The Trip I Never Thought I Would Go on...but Did!
by Genna Barashick, age 16
This summer, I had the experience of a lifetime! I traveled to Israel with 17 other teens from Palm Beach and Martin County on the Federation program Bonim Chaim, which means, “building life.”
Bonim Chaim is Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County’s three week-long teen mission trip to Israel through the Jewish Teen Initiative (JTI). The 18 of us and four chaperones enjoyed all the State of Israel had to offer and more!
I’ve always been proud to be Jewish. But after my experience in Israel, I feel even more connected to my Judaism.
Now, when people talk about Israel, I can picture the beautiful country and my new Israeli friends. The feeling of being in Israel is hard to explain. As I tell family and friends, “I can not put it into words. You just have to be there to take in the beautiful sights, smells and sounds.” There is a feeling of comfort being in your homeland despite all the distress and hatred from surrounding countries.
Knowing that almost everyone around you is Jewish really stood out to me. Nowhere else in the world can one experience that feeling other than in Israel!
When a teen from our area chooses to be part of Bonin Chaim, he or she will ride camels. He or she will talk to Bedouin people about their life, culture – and sleeping in the desert! They will climb to the top of Masada before sunrise and stand upon the mountaintop, where our ancestors fought so hard for our freedom.
Hiking, floating in the Dead Sea and bargaining at the markets filled many of the days we spent in Israel. We also visited museums, historical sites and toured bustling cities like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. We also volunteered with Ethiopian-Israeli teens and took part in many leadership opportunities we were offered.
A particular memory I cherish is celebrating Shabbat at the Kotel with our Israeli friends. If you've never had the chance, Shabbat in Israel is extremely unique. Most of the local businesses close; it is a day of rest for all. I truly enjoyed my Shabbat celebrations and their meaning while I was in Israel.
To me, staying in the TZAHAR Region (Tzfat, Hazor HaGlilit and Rosh Pina), which is the Federation’s Partnership 2Gether region was the most memorable part of the trip.
I got the unique chance to experience firsthand what life is like as a citizen of Israel. Through Bonim Chaim, we were able to stay with Israeli teens and their families. We all spent valuable time together for a week as one group of about 40 American and Israeli teens.
I feel so connected to my teen host, Ron, and know that I will always have a home in Israel with her. Each host family has a teen that will travel here for a week to experience life in the United States. I can’t wait to host Ron and the rest of the Israeli teens when they travel here this coming December.
It means so much to have had the chance to build friendships in the homeland that will last a lifetime!