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Why should Jewish teens visit Israel?

Brent Swift / Israel / July 24, 2005

July 24, 2005
Week 20
17 Tamuz 5765
Why should Jewish teens visit Israel?
By Brent Swift

Exploration of Topic
“The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’ (Genesis 12:1)

In this part of the Torah, Adonai tells Abraham, then Abram, to leave his home in Ur to go to Canaan. Now, I’m not saying that every Jewish teenager should leave home and move to Israel, but I think that every teen should at least have the opportunity to visit.

Every year in religious school we learned more and more about Israel. We would learn just about everything there is to know about it, for the biblical history to the geography. But it never seemed to make sense why we were spending so much time every year learning about “some country on the other side of the world.” Even at camp we learned first hand about Israel from the multiple Israeli counselors. As I got older I seemed to realize why Israel was important to us as Jews. When I was finally old enough to understand the politics and controversy behind it, my mindset had totally changed. I went from being a kid who spent countless hours being bored in religious school to an enthusiastic child counting down the days till I could visit.

Then, last summer, that opportunity came with the NFTY in Israel. I was one of about 300 teens to experience it last summer. The four weeks that I spent there were just unbelievable. There are no words that I could use to describe our first sun rise overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem or even the short t’filah on top of Masada.

These are some of the experiences that all Jews should have. Israel is the homeland of our people and everyone should get the experience of being there. It is the mission of NFTY to send all participants to Israel, either through Eisendrath International Exchange (EIE), NFTY in Israel, or Carmel. There is even Birthright, a free trip for those out of high school who have never been. These are fantastic trips. These trips allow teens to see Israel first hand and have an experience of a life time.

Related Questions
How can I visit Israel?
There are a variety of trips offered through NFTY. These include EIE, NFTY in Israel, and Carmel. EIE is a semester in Israel for high school students living on a Kibbutz just outside of Jerusalem. NFTY in Israel is a six week summer program, where you get to travel all over the State of Israel. Carmel is a year long program for high school graduates, who live and study for a year in Israel. There are also other trips, like Birthright, and a handful of different trips through temples and the JCC.

How will I be able to afford a trip to Israel?
Israel trips do tend to be expensive just as any other trip of this magnitude. The easiest way to find scholarships for your trip is to ask. Ask your rabbis, cantors, educators, youth advisors, or someone at your local JCC. There are a ton of different foundations and funds that raise money specifically for Israel. Go out and find it.

Taking Action
Go to Israel

I understand that this is repetitive but the only way to take action in this case is to visit. NFTY trips are great but not the only way to go. There are all sorts of trips that you can go on just look around.

Tell Your Friends
If you’ve been to Israel already, tell people about it. Talk about your trip, show people your pictures, inspire others to have an experience that you already know is amazing!

iTorah Lishmah
Your place in cyberspace to explore the lessons further!
See what others think about this topic and tell others what you think at our online discussion forum.

Why is Israel important to you and Judaism? What kind of trip do you want go on?

Brent Swift is the Religious and Cultural Vice President of NFTY Southwest (SW). He will be a senior at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. Outside of school, Brent is a member of the varsity swim team and teaches swim lessons at a community pool.


CARMEL : A Progressive Beit Midrash and Israel Study Program

Carmel is a yearlong Reform Jewish learning and living experience in Israel, combining academic and informal learning opportunities. It is designed for students who have recently graduated from high school and is appropriate for students whether or not they have been on other Union for Reform Judaism programs in Israel.
Participants will study at the University of Haifa and at the Reform Movement's Lokey International Academy of Jewish Studies at the Leo Baeck Education Center. They will return with a year of Academic study and credit. Participants will form a living Reform Jewish community of learning, celebration, participation in Tikkun Olam projects in the community and extensive field trips in Israel.

Copyright ©2005 Union for Reform Judaism Department of Lifelong Jewish Learning and the Youth Division

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