Seminary Trip Brings Israel to Life for Hodakov

Recognizing the impact of Israel travel/experiences, the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven provides scholarships for both short-term (minimum of three-week program) and long-term organized Israel educational programs for Greater New Haven area youth ages 14-19.

For 2019 summer trips, applications are due by March 9, 2019. For 2019 gap or academic year programs, applications are due by May 4, 2019.

Here is part three of a three-part series where a young person who benefitted from a Jewish Foundation scholarship writes about their experiences. 

by Devora Hodakov Special for SNH

This year, I was privileged to experience almost a full year of learning in the holy land of Israel. Aside from being my first time studying in Israel, it was also my first time altogether visiting Israel, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Prior to this year, I never understood the feelings of those who had visited Israel and fell in love with the land. I always thought their feelings must be exaggerated, until I visited this special place myself. 

The moment I landed and started driving down the highway, I felt the excitement building... the scenery, the people, everything! 

I attended a seminary in Safed which offered invigorating classes. Learning in Israel was very special, for everything suddenly came more alive. Every day, I was able to walk the same land that my ancestors - about whom I learned so much - had tread. Visiting the burial places of various sages took on a whole new light after I had learned their teachings in depth.

Our seminary also took us on various educational trips throughout the year. I went to Hebron for a Shabbat, where my entire seminary of 300 girls was able to walk through the streets that our Patriarchs and Matriarchs walked, proudly displaying our Jewish pride. We had the privilege of staying in Meron for the Shabbat preceding Lag Baomer and then again on Lag Baomer itself. We stayed minutes from the Kotel on Shavuot, to accept the Torah at sunrise with the thousands of other Jews who had come to the Kotel. 

I also had the opportunity to tour the holy cities and mystical sites of Safed, Tiberias, and Jerusalem, exploring various ancient synagogues and archaeological sites. 

I had the chance to see how the Israeli people live. It was truly eye-opening to see the simplicity with which so many of them live, without luxuries that we, Americans, consider necessities. The unity and camaraderie amongst everyone was also something beautiful to be a part of.

My experience this year in Israel is almost indescribable. I had the chance to learn, see, and explore so much. I can hardly wait to return!

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