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Best Gift She Ever Got: Time Spent in Israel
The college counselor at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy has a few rules she swears by: Keep to all your deadlines, rest before the SATs, and don't write your college admissions essay about Israel.
Because the college essay is meant to reflect all that's important to you in your world and in your life, I -- and every other Israel-connected Jewish kid in America -- excitedly want to market ourselves through a description of our passionate devotion to the ancient stones of the Western Wall, the spiritual intensity of Tzfat, the sparkle and unparalleled vitality of the promenade in Tel Aviv at night, and the extraordinary diversity of the Israeli people. Evidently, way too many of us want to write about ourselves through Israel.
The halutzim -- the pioneer generation and their children -- might worry that my generation no longer feels responsible to support the State of Israel with the investment of our hearts, our travel and our resources. I want to say that they need not be anxious.
Seen Them Dance
During my semester in Israel in middle school, and again last year, as well as during numerous organized trips and family visits, I have watched my generation fill the beaches of Eilat, the shops along Ben-Yehuda Street, the museums in the Galilee and the synagogues in the Old City. I have heard the ruach -- the "spirit" -- of high school and college students as they dance through the streets of Jerusalem and, like the halutzim, spend some time digging in the soil and planting trees.
My next trip will be difficult. In a few months, my most beloved, lifelong friends will put on the proud uniforms of the Israeli army and prepare to defend the state that is the eternal homeland of the Jewish people. A day won't go by when I will not think about these Israeli friends who opened their arms to me on my first trip there and have held me in their embrace, even from a long distance, for all these years.
These arms now belong to an Olympic-bound water skier, an elite paratrooper, the leader of the student Knesset in Jerusalem and a top student leader involved in Arab-Israeli peace talks. You can only imagine what having friends like this means to me.
I was asked to make the appeal this year for Israel Bonds not because I know anything about money -- though my reading about bonds convinces me that they are a great, hassle-free investment -- but because I can remind you of how urgent it is for you to contribute to preserving an Israel that the next generation of high school seniors will want to describe.
Middle Eastern politics are controversial, but the bottom line is that Israel is a source of pride, beauty, history and rich life-changing experiences, as well as home to a vital and diverse culture. The best gift I ever received was my first trip to Israel, which was an investment in the permanent enrichment of my life, and which was paid for by the Israel Bonds my grandparents have given me for every birthday since.
Consider taking a trip to Israel and remind yourself what this place means. Words can only do so much.
Samara Gordon is a member of the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy class of 2010. She delivered this Israel Bonds talk at Germantown Jewish Centre on the first day of Rosh Hashanah.