This past summer, Zoe Schulman went on a teen trip to Israel and Italy, organized by the National Council of Synagogue Youth (NCSY). Zoe’s summer adventure was funded in part by a generous scholarship she received from the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven. She wrote to Shalom New Haven about her experience: I was fortunate to receive a scholarship from the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven towards the cost of my NCSY trip to Israel and Italy this past summer.
The trip began in Geneva, Switzerland where we spent part of a day sightseeing around the city and driving through the French Alps (which were gorgeous!) en route to Milan, Italy. We spent a beautiful Shabbos in Venice walking along the canals and learning about the history of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice. The views from the top of the Tower of Pisa were breathtaking and unforgettable. In Florence, we were lucky enough to have the Great Synagogue sanctuary all to ourselves, and I very much enjoyed the stunning architecture. It was truly spectacular.
I found my experience very moving and meaningful as I davened Mincha. In Rome, we learned about the history of the Jewish people in that city, as well as the Colosseum and the Arch of Titus. On our last day in Italy we went sightseeing around Rome and commemorated our Jewish strength by singing ‘Am Yisroel Cha’i at the Arch of Titus (where there is proof of the Romans taking the menorah) waving the Israeli flag.
The second half of our trip was in Israel - and I was so excited to see Eretz Yisroel for the first time. Arriving first at the Kotel was incredibly inspiring, and davening there was especially spiritual for me – it’s a memory I will hold close to my heart forever. We subsequently traveled around northern Israel, stopping in Tiberias, Haifa,Netanya, Rechovot, Rishon Letzion, and Tel Aviv.
Each of these places was beautiful, and I enjoyed all the memorable experiences I was able to take part in. Especially fun were my surfing lessons in Haifa at the Mediterranean Sea — I even caught a wave! — and also, biking along the shore in Tel Aviv. We then traveled down south with majestic views of the desert. I attempted sand surfing and living like Bedouins. I climbed Masada at sunrise and swam under the waterfalls at Ein Gedi.
Our last days of the trip were spent wandering through the streets of Jerusalem, eating incredible foods and shopping on Ben Yehuda street and in the Shuk. I walked through the water tunnels in the City of David and davened at the graves of our forefathers and foremothers in Ma'arat HaMachpela. On our last day we visited the Kotel one last time before we had to say goodbye to Israel, our homeland. This was a trip of a lifetime and I am so grateful for the generosity of the Jewish Foundation and my family for making it possible for me to take it. I can’t wait to go back!