A Jewish State, But a Home For All
By Alec Milner, Johns Hopkins University
My name is Alec Milner and here’s a little background about me. I am a junior mechanical engineering student at Johns Hopkins University. I am one of the David Project Interns here at JHU and it is my first year. I’m involved in a couple groups on campus included the Israel group on campus called CHAI. I also play football for the Hopkins Blue Jays, kinda.
Israel Uncovered is a unique experience catered to bring participants out of their comfort zones. Speakers from the radically opposite ends of the spectrum are given a platform. There are sights that make the pictures on the news become eerily real. Conversations are had between people of varying backgrounds and values. This trip is not Birthright. This is not just a fun experience for Jewish college students, but that may be where the beauty lays. In contrast to pulling participants from their comfort zone, Israel Uncovered also shows how everyone, not matter their belief or background, has a reason to be interested in Israel.
Participants from our bus included Jews, Christians, and Muslims; it included Israelis and a Palestinian; we had liberal-minded people and conservative-minded people. I could continue, but the point is that we represented a diverse population. Despite these differences, everyone felt a connection to Israel. In recruiting for the trip, I found one of the most difficult talking points was to describe the feeling that I get when I’m in Israel. It’s like a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, a sense of home. I struggled every time I took campus leaders out for coffee. Birthright is where I first felt it. I thought it was maybe just the “Israel High,” or maybe it was just excitement from having such an incredible experience, or maybe it was just that I knew that was the only place I would find hummus that good.
Since I needed legitimacy for this feeling, I decided to do the Onward Israel program where I would live and work in Tel Aviv for 8 weeks. My mindset was that over the course of those 8 weeks, I would see if that feeling wore off and that Israel wouldn’t be what I was making it out to be in my head.
My theory was wrong.
This feeling only grew with time. I found myself living my best life and slowly growing as a person. I knew this feeling was real, that Israel radiates an energy. As I struggled to define this energy, I called up the help of the Johns Hopkins Israel Fellow. I tried to get her to put into words what I was feeling so that others could understand. As someone who spent their entire life in Israel, even she couldn’t; she just told people to trust us that it exists.
The greatest part of this trip for me was seeing the individual moments of realization that this land holds a special energy. Whether it was as soon as we stepped off the plane or during our last day together, I believe everyone ended up feeling it. It’s great when someone who has Jewish ties to the land feels it, but it’s incredible when anyone else feels at home in the Jewish State. This energy and feeling of home is so strong that some participants have taken it upon themselves to even learn Hebrew. There was no greater pleasure in this trip than to share that love for Israel with such a diverse group of people.