After weeks and weeks of watching many of my friends travel to and explore Israel, I am excited to finally be going back to Israel from January 7–18, 2015. In reflecting upon my two previous trips to this phenomenal place, I realize how incredibly privileged and fortunate I am to have had the opportunities to create strong and unique bonds with the state of Israel.
The first time that I stepped foot onto the soil (and paved roads) of Israel was in June 2010 with my NFTY in Israel group. After spending a week learning about European Jewry and witnessing the horrors of the Holocaust in Poland, our group traveled around Israel for four weeks, fully immersing ourselves in the religion, culture, people, and places of Israel. As we packed up all of our stuff and drove to Ben Gurion Airport to fly back home, I knew that Israel would an important part of my connection Judaism and Jewish people for the rest of my life.
My second trip to Israel, two and a half years after my first experience, was for a different purpose, although still connected to NFTY. As the NFTY President at the time, I traveled to Jerusalem to represent our movement at the 2013 Netzer Olami Veida, a gathering of representatives from all of the branches of Netzer Olami, the worldwide Progressive Jewish youth movement. Over the course of ten days, all of the representatives learned from one another, created policies for Netzer Olami, and explored the snow-covered streets of Jerusalem.
So, what makes my upcoming trip different from my other experiences with Israel?
For the first time, I will not be traveling to Israel with NFTY, but with the University of Kansas (KU) Hillel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) on the 2015 Israel Leadership Mission (ILM). I have had incredible experiences and opportunities through KU Hillel and I’m excited to be traveling to Israel with 22 other people who I have gotten to know and work with over the past couple of years during my time at KU. The JDC is a Jewish humanitarian organization that operates all over the world, helping communities respond to disasters, revitalize Jewish life, and assist impoverished Jews. JDC Entwine, the young adult wing of the JDC, guides trips and creates opportunities for Jewish young adults to positively take part in supporting the Jewish people all over the world.
Additionally, the purpose of this trip will showcase different aspects of Israel than my previous experiences. Our group will be working alongside JDC initiatives and projects that are already operating in Israel to assist marginalized populations in Israel, including children, women, Haredim, and those with disabilities. Through our volunteer work and interactions within these communities, our group will begin to understand the enormous social and economic issues facing Israel. Ultimately, I hope that this experience, combined with our previous experiences with Israel, provides our group with the knowledge and inspiration to utilize our leadership skills to address these issues confronting Israel and the Jewish people.
I’m extremely excited and ready to experience Israel through new viewpoints and perspectives and hope that this opportunity is just as inspiring as my previous trips to Israel. Be sure to keep up with the Israel Leadership Mission 2015 Blog to read about our adventures each day! And with that, it’s back to the holy land!
Originally published at evanltraylor.wordpress.com on January 7, 2015.