Day 40: Lehava, Israel - Sabrina Zulman

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As I awoke on the last day of IST, I was filled with a whirlwind of emotions. The past six weeks would soon come to an end in a matter of hours. In a mad rush to find all lost belongings amongst the balagan (mess) of our hotel rooms, surviving despite extreme sleep deprivation and a wave of illness plaguing almost all the IST members, we began our final day. We shared our last tochnit (activity) which constituted a final round of encouraging our eager minds to make Aliyah. We lapped it up with a healthy dose of enthusiasm and exhaustion! Thereafter, we made our way to Machane Yehudah (marketplace) to enjoy a final delicious Israeli meal. In an emotional gathering, we then visited Ammunition Hill where we learnt about the heroic Israeli soldiers that fell for our country. Finally, to conclude this most memorable trip, the whole of IST united as one at the Kotel (Western Wall). As we sang the Israeli anthem, Hatikvah, goose bumps creeped up my arms as I soaked in the final moments before leaving my homeland.

So how can one sum up the journey of IST, the most memorable six weeks of our lives? Was it praying at the Kotel, being uplifted by inspiring speakers, soaking up the buzzing life in Tel Aviv, partying on the Tiberias cruise, engaging in intense learning at Midrasha or forging unbreakable bonds with incredible peers and madrichim? Perhaps it was transitioning from the (and I quote the infamous Rabbi Benji) “lowest of lows in Poland, to the highest of highs in Israel”?  I believe I cannot choose any one of these options, but rather the amalgamation of all these experiences mixed with the privileged ability to share it with our friends. IST is not a mere six weeks of life that have just passed – IST has served as a transformative experience, shaped me as a person, opening my mind to the wonders of Judaism, Zionism and my own values and beliefs as a young Jewish person. No doubt, it is has been a unique, transformative experience for all of us.

I would like to conclude this blog with a quote from the book ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel – a Holocaust survivor. “Have faith in life. Above all else, have faith. Drive out despair, and you will keep death away from yourselves. Hell is not for eternity. And now, a prayer - or rather, a piece of advice: let there be comradeship among you. We are all brothers ... Help one another. It is the only way to survive.” During IST, I believe we have been exposed to the full spectrum of Israeli society and culture and have learnt of the challenges we have faced as a people throughout history. Weisel’s profound words continue to ring true – in order to continue as a unified Jewish nation we must hold each other close, and march forward - proud advocates of our inheritance, our beloved land and our people.

Am Yisrael Chai.

Day 39: Lehava, Israel - Jackie Small