The second I got off the plane in Israel, on TJJ NCSY’s The Jerusalem Journey, I met my best friend.
Both of us were new to NCSY and knew one person. We were so nervous so we stayed together; little did I know she would be be my best friend of all time.
One of the first things we did when we got to Israel was get on our beloved bus 4. I started talking to everyone. I could barely remember their names, but they all seemed so happy to be there. Shortly afterward, we went to our hotel where I met my roommates, Aviva and Ariel.
That Shabbat changed my life. I really got to know the people, and just after a few days of meeting them I felt as if I had known them my whole life — better than my sister, better than my friends from home, and even better than people I’d grown up with. These people were my family. We all bonded quickly, and I knew this would be the experience of a lifetime.
After a few days at one hotel, I thought, “Wow this is so great, how could it get any better?” But then we hopped right back onto our bus and went somewhere completely eye-opening. It made me wonder: Why did it take me so long to visit the land of my people? Every few steps I took, I was so grateful not just to be in Israel, but to be there with my family. It might not be so easy to realize at first, but these people I met, the journey I experienced, made me who I am.
The hardest part was not meeting people or going to a whole new country without knowing a single person. No, quite the opposite. The hardest part of my Jewish journey to Israel was leaving. I remember that day as if it was yesterday — crying, hugging my friends, never wanting to leave. It was one of the saddest days of my life. Before we had even left each other we were already planning a visit.
I would always get these NCSY pamphlets in the mail before I went on TJJ. I used to throw them in the trash before even looking at them. I would never want to go on anything related to Jewish teen groups. I would think they’re all snobby or boring. Boy, was I wrong! A few weeks ago an NCSY event pamphlet came in the mail, and I showed my mom and said, “No need to convince me — I’m going! No question about it!”