Ashley Rose Lynn spent her summer on NFTY’s L’Dor V’Dor Program. We asked her to share some thoughts and pictures with her TSTI Community.
It is extremely difficult to sum up my experience in Israel in a few words, and even harder to put in to words how life changing my trip was. This powerful and moving journey is etched in my heart forever.
My adventure started in Prague where we embraced our Eastern European culture. As a group not only did we try exotic foods such as goulash and homemade sweet bread, we also uncovered the thriving Jewish community still present in the Czech Republic. After visiting three of the remaining temples in Prague, I began to truly realize and appreciate how our Jewish heritage survived the anti Semitism of the Holocaust.
On a lighter note, Prague has the most amazing ice cream on the entire planet. As our journey took us to Krakow, there was a drastic change in weather that was accompanied by a dreary mood that was equally fitting. There are no amount of videos or pictures that can accurately capture the powerful impression Auschwitz had on me. After learning about the horrific history of this place, our group developed a strong bond, and together we became even prouder of our heritage and our opportunity to visit our Jewish state.
We then shifted to a feeling of great excitement upon our 3 AM arrival at Ben Gurion airport. Even after being awake for thirty plus hours our exhaustion was overpowered by the excitement and anticipation of our journey through Israel.
Over the course of four weeks, we were drenched in the knowledge of our Jewish heritage, along with incredible experiences the land of milk and honey had to offer.
One of the most memorable adventures for me was our hike through the Negev.
Throughout our Negev journey we would go to the beach to cool off, check out the malls and shops, and even ran, jumped and tumbled down mounds of sand! We then made our way to Jerusalem and enjoyed the culture and food in the Jewish quarter.
We also visited the Kotel and hiked through a water tunnel. The Western Wall, or the Kotel, brought our group even closer because we were able to be there for each other while experiencing heartfelt feelings and reactions to this emotional experience. The feeling of Kehilla Kedosha, or holy community, will stick with us for the rest of our lives.
We then went to our Chavayot of choice. I went to Ghadna, army week. It was a great experience and I have a tremendous appreciation for the IDF. After that we met back up with our Israel friends! Together we conquered the ropes course, went banana boating, spent a night in bedouin tents, rode camels, and then woke up at 4 am to climb Masada. We also rafted down a river, and, of course, floated in the amazing dead sea. I have tried to put the trip into words but have not been able to do it justice.
I have a feeling of pride in my Judaism that i have never felt before. Going back as far as preschool here at temple, I remember always having trouble believing in God. I think I was doubtful partially because of all of the horrible things that happen in this world, and partially because it is hard to picture a huge man in the sky, or an omnipresent force that is invisible yet still all around us. Even though it was a hard idea to grasp, I always wished that I could believe that there was some greater force that governs our daily lives, and that there was someone watching over us and instilling hope in those who don’t believe. Throughout the school year I hoped that my trip to Israel this summer would provide me with a strong spiritual connection. I didn’t quite know exactly what that meant, but I feel like I found it. I was not necessarily searching for a connection with God, but rather with the Jewish people and the land of Israel.
My experience in the Negev provided me with the link I was searching for. I found a connection to the land that was extremely powerful. A feeling I have been unable to find in America. Not only is Israel the most beautiful place I have ever seen, it is the land of my people, our people. I felt inspired and connected to the Israelites that wandered the desert for 40 years and the Jews who live in the Negev today. A connection strong enough to follow me back here and into the future.This experience has strengthened my connection to Judaism as well as providing me with a deeper understanding and strengthening of my beliefs.
I really recommend those who are in search of actually finding meaning in their Judaism to take this trip and follow in the steps of our ancestors. Anyone that wants to journey to the land that we’ve been singing and praying about, I can tell you from experience that it is more than you could ever imagine.
Ashley Rose Lynn
NFTY L’Dor V’Dor Israel