Israel Means Something to Everyone
By Jackie Chertock, University of Pittsburgh
Last year I had the luxury of visiting Israel twice in six months. Since going on these trips to Israel, my life has really changed. My first trip revolved around Jewish related sites and experiences and I fell in love with the country immediately. When I got back from the trip people would ask me what my favorite or most impactful part was, and it was hard to come up with one answer.
My second trip was with The David Project on Israel Uncovered. I was given the amazing opportunity to travel around the country with a diverse group of student leaders from the Midwest and see places in Israel that were once unknown. Upon returning from this trip I was asked the same question, and this time I had a specific and meaningful answer that I never thought I would have.
One of the sites we visited was the Mount of Beatitudes. On the ride there, some of my trip members were so excited that they were able to visit a place that was so meaningful to them. This realization filled me in on the significance of this place. I remember getting off the bus and my immediate thought was how beautiful the landscape was. I didn’t think I would have a connection to this place, but it truly ended up being my favorite memory. I was able to see some of my friends on the trip getting emotional simply by being in it’s presence. It reminded me of the feelings I had from some of the Jewish sites in Israel. I remember how impactful those moments were for me and I was happy for them.
After we toured the area, the group sat around in a circle on a hill and the scenery was beautiful. It was in that moment that my friends started sharing their experiences openly with no judgement and deep emotion. I never thought on my ride there that I would leave with tears in my eyes. People who had only known each other a few days, who had all different backgrounds, different viewpoints, and different religious beliefs all sat together and shared their feelings. We were able to support each other, and it was nothing short of beautiful.
It was in that moment that I truly felt in my heart that Israel is a place that anyone can connect to. This diverse group of people all sat together some of whom had never even heard of this place and we listened to each other and connected with one another. On the bus ride back, I remember sitting with one of the Jewish students and we both talked about how we didn’t think we would be leaving from this place feeling so emotional. It reminded me of my first trip, the trip that made me initially connect to Israel and decide that Israel advocacy was something I was passionate about. It was this moment that made me realize that there was so much more I had to learn and so much more to explore.
I left feeling more connected to Israel and to these people than ever before. It made me open my mind even more to new experiences and the entire bus really bonded in this moment. It showed me the importance of trying new things with different people and learning from one another. It’s a beautiful thing when people from different backgrounds can support each other. This moment will truly always have a special place in my heart and I am forever thankful to The David Project for giving me that opportunity.