Simon Family Passport to Israel Program grant recipient learns the importance of Israel

July 16, 2018

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When I first walked off the plane into the Ben- Gurion Airport, I stepped straight onto a large bus that took me to my home for, what I believed, was just the next four months. I first noticed that Israel was not just a large desert, but it was more of a wonderland filled with hatikva, hope.

While in Israel, I kept up with my classes from my school in Virginia, along with Hebrew and Jewish history. Learning Hebrew allowed me to dive deeply into my religion because I finally could truly understandnthe stories in the Tanach, as I was learning them in the original language.

I did not just learn Jewish history, I saw it with my own eyes. In my program, URJ Heller High, we took tiyulim trips to visit what we were taught. Learning only gives facts, seeing gives knowledge to form your own perspective.

Through the program I grasped a deeper understanding of Israeli culture. After traveling in Israel for two months, our program took us on an eight-day expedition to Poland. I did not realize the importance of a Jewish state until I reached a market outside of an old Jewish town with churches and neo-Nazi merchandise. I went from Israel—a life with so much joy—to a place filled with nothing but suffering.

Without this generous scholarship from Tidewater Jewish Foundation’s Simon Family Passport to Israel Program, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see the ruach, spirit, that fills everyday life in a place where Judaism is found in every aspect of everyday society. I will use my experiences from the past amazing four months to strengthen Judaism in our community to benefit our Jewish home, Eretz Yisrael.

- Sophie Waldman

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