From the beginning it was obvious: This would be the best summer ever. My best friend Itai and I boarded a plane to New York and arrived later that day. Over the next hour the most important people in my life would walk through the terminal entrance — I just didn’t know it yet. Besides the amazing friends I made this summer, almost as important were the memories.
This trip was great for obvious reasons — what teenager wouldn’t want to travel to Spain and Israel with 38 other kids his age? It was also the first time someone from my immediate family, aside from my grandfather, had returned to Spain since the Inquisition.
In my cousin’s house a necklace hangs on the wall with a short paragraph beside it that explains the Behar family history. The one sentence that always stood out was, “Toledo, where our family lived for many years with great satisfaction.”
When looking through NCSY’s Euro ICE program brochure, I saw that they would be traveling to Spain, and, more important, to Toledo. I immediately managed to convince my parents to let me go, and with help from Seattle NCSY director Ari Hoffman, Elise Peizner of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and the SAMIS Foundation, I was on my way.
Our trip to Toledo on the second day was the most meaningful experience of the trip. We visited the churches and learned about the Inquisition and the oppression of the Jews in Spain. We then visited a Sephardic synagogue museum. It was strange to think how my ancestors may have once attended this synagogue until they were kicked out of Spain in 1492.
During free time, some of my newfound friends and I walked around nearly the entire city. For two hours I walked in the footsteps of my ancestors, from the highest point in the city to the lowest. It was an unforgettable experience getting to see what my family hadn’t seen for generations.
Sitting at the top of the city, overlooking the high-rising churches and everything else the city held in all its grandeur, I couldn’t help but wonder how my family had lived when they were here. Because of this trip I felt a strong connection to my past, and it only grew stronger as we traveled the rest of Spain and most of Israel, following the course of Maimonides’s life.