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Life Altering Trip
By David Grubbs
By 1945, there was nothing left of my grandfather's home. I could never go to Lodz, Poland and see the home he grew up in. My maternal ancestry had been taken away to gas chambers, and my grandfather's memories of Poland ruined. It was not until he came to Israel in 1947, that he felt a rekindling of his patriotism. He embraced Israel as it became his new home. After reuniting with his father and two brothers, he joined the Israeli Army. He fought in the army through two of Israel's wars. He later married my grandmother, and so the story continues.
When I was old enough to go to kindergarten, I was old enough to go to Hebrew school. And two years later, I was old enough to go to Camp Young Judaea Midwest. Zionism has always been a part of our family, and our education. In Poland, my grandfather and his brothers attended the meetings of 'Ha Noar Zioni ', a Zionist youth group. Just like my grandfather, I had dreamed of going to Israel.
As the wheels of the plane began gliding against the runway, I felt tears forming. I felt as if I was returning to my home after being lost for a lifetime. The singing of Hatikva and Hava Nagila embraced my ears, as my eyes were aglow from the surrounding landscapes. I could not wait to walk on to Israeli soil. There I was, standing in the same country that my grandfather turned to for refuge after the Holocaust, and I found myself on my knees as I kissed the ground. As I knelt there, I kept thinking, "God bless Israel for reviving my grandfather's love. Thank God he could turn to Israel and start his life again."
When we trekked through the Negev, I carried the army pictures of my grandfather there. When it came time to swim in the Dead Sea, I brought my pictures of my grandparents swimming there. My older sister bought Tallits on her Young Judaea Machon in Israel trip for our younger sister's Bat Mitzvah, as did I buy a Tallis. I carried memories of my family with me everywhere we went. How could I come home and explain to my parents the honor I felt praying at the Western Wall with my grandfather's siddur? There are no words that do justice to the incredible and irreplaceable loyalty I feel towards Israel.
I spent six weeks traveling Israel with hundreds of my best friends. No one can take this experience away from me, and no one can create these feelings without traveling through Israel themselves. Spending days in Eilat, hiking seventy miles from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee, and staying in Bedouin tents are just a few of the many excursions we embarked on. The trip was truly a once in a lifetime journey. My life will forever be changed now that I have been to Israel. I have every intention to return to Israel for ten months on Young Judaea's Year Course.
It does not require the same family history I have with Israel to experience the same love and devotion I feel. Israel is not just a country, it is not just a tourist attraction. Israel is not just land that can be substituted somewhere else. Israel is the center of Judaic patriotism. This is the time in my life when I must embrace my Zionist ambition and I encourage others to do the same.
Don't pass up the opportunity to travel through Israel and create amazing friendships.
from the October 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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