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From Israel to Woodhull

Posted by Roya at 14th July, 2010

Hi, my name is Roya Nazarian, and I’m a Woodhull alumna as well as a summer intern.  I want to share my recent experience on a trip to Israel, which was truly life changing and enlightening for me.  I would recommend visiting the country to anyone who is interested in historical sights, politics, nature, and a little self-discovery!

Last month, I took my first trip ever to Israel with Taglit Birthright.  As a moderately conservative Jew from Long Island, I grew up hearing various accounts of the “home land,” from my parents, my rabbi, and family friends.  One cousin of mine raved about the delicious shawarma and beautiful Jewelry in Tel Aviv upon her return from Israel.  Another cousin returned with a whole new outlook on life and Judaism after visiting the holy city in Jerusalem and the West Wall.  I can’t say I had either of their exact experiences, but my trip was unique nevertheless.

The visit consisted of thirty-five Americans, like me, in their late teens and early twenties.  We all arrived extremely jet lagged and slightly confused about the dozens of different directions we were given: “always cover your head and shoulders in order to prevent dehydration, do not stop drinking water, don’t lag behind!”

As we slowly adjusted to our packed rhythm, the heat, and long days that sometimes began at 7 am and ended at midnight, I began to truly open my heart to my supposed “homeland.”  I grew to love the rugged and dry terrain of the Middle East. I met dozens of young soldiers, none older than myself, who risk their lives daily to protect their loved ones and a cause they believe in.  I climbed Masada, rode camels, and slept in a Bedouin tent in the middle of the desert.  And yes, I did indeed haggle over beautiful jewelry, eat delicious Kosher McDonald’s, and finally taste the “amazing shawarma” (which didn’t actually meet my expectations).  By the end of the trip, I was so empowered! Trust me, you would be too after climbing numerous desert valleys and mountains almost on a daily basis.  I was in complete awe of the natural beauty I witnessed, the brave people I met, the historic sights I visited throughout the country, and the language I always inspired to learn. Furthermore, I had grown so close to those 34 other travelers in those short weeks; I believe that we all made bonds to last a lifetime.

Ultimately though, my visit to Israel changed my understanding of the religion I grew up with and its place in our modern world.  When you live in an environment as politically vigorous as New York, it can be difficult to establish your own beliefs and hear your own voice when it comes to world politics.  However, finally visiting Israel helped me uncover my own Jewish identity when I thought I had lost it for good.  Not only did I return feeling more connected to my religion and faith, but I felt a sense of pride in my own heritage and family that I had never known before.  I hope to go back soon, visit my friends, and perhaps taste the falafel this time around!

About Roya

Roya Nazarian has written one article on this blog.

Category : Community Member Projects and Updates / News

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