By Abdifatah Ibrahim
It has been almost a week since I left Israel and it is safe to say that I am still processing the truly incredible journey that I went through.
Rewinding to about two months ago, I found out that I had been invited to be a part of a trip to Israel for campus leaders and, sure enough, I was elated. I would be going to Israel in just two months! I had never even imagined that I would get such an amazing opportunity; for me, Israel was a place shrouded by mystery and the fact that I would have the opportunity to uncover Israel filled me with excitement. As I arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport just over two weeks ago for the flight to Tel Aviv, I had butterflies in my tummy; I was filled with anticipation and was a little nervous. What would I discover in Israel?
At JFK, I, along with all the other participants in the group, was given a notecard to write expectations and questions that I had before we arrived in Israel. As I am writing this, this notecard is in front of me; I want to share one of the questions I asked. What makes Israel special for me? Fast forward to today, as I am writing this smiling an appreciative smile at fate for willing me to ask this question, the answer I have found today lies in the word mishpucha.
A common assertion that I hear is that, Jewish or not, everyone can find something that connects them to Israel. For me, this connection is the strong sense of community that I discovered. In Israel, I encountered something that has come to mean so much to me; a mishpucha, a family, was born. This mishpucha, brought a sense of community to my life which is something that I felt was missing for so long. Throughout my life, I always valued individuality; I believed in going my own way. While this did bring varying levels of success in my life, I always felt as if something was missing. Over the past year and half in university, I started to build strong relationships and started to realize the importance that a community of friends can play in my happiness. Going into the trip I finally appreciated friendship as almost something sacred; friends are the family that we get to choose. This appreciation of friendship meant that Israel Uncovered came at just the right time in my life.
During this ten day journey, there were highs and there were lows. There were moments that were emotionally difficult like at Yad Vashem. There were also moments that were merry like when we danced to Bob Marley next to the Sea of Galilee. Just like a family, we experienced these moments together. We laughed together, we cried together. We sang together, we danced together. We challenged each other, we supported one another. Most of all, we accepted one another. From the first moment to the last, I felt as if I could be myself around this mishpucha.
My first experience in Israel was incredibly moving and intellectually stimulating; with that being said, I have been left with many questions. One question is more important than them all. When am I going back?