by Alex Infeld, Scholarship Recipient
Alex Infeld received an Israel Experience Scholarship from the Jewish Foundation to attend NIFTY in Israel-L'dor V'dor Eisner Summer Program
As I step through the airport doors into the city of Prauge, I am greeted by cheers from my new counselors. So begins one of the greatest summers of my life.
This past summer, with help from a scholarchip from the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, I was privleged to join camp friends from the previous six summers exploring Europe and Israel for five weeks. We visited many sites of both religious and historical importance, and we learned more about the land, the state, and the people of Israel.
We started in Prauge in the Czech Republic, where we learned of the many different communities that existed before the Holocaust. We visited many old and beautiful synagogues that were nothing like the ones we were used to back home. Later that week, we went to Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of the death camps set up by the Nazis during the Holocaust. This was a hard and eerie day for me, as we walked the same roads where one and a half million Jews had been sent to their deaths. After the darkness of this day, it only seemed fitting that we went to a light for Jews all over the world: Israel.
After we arrived in Israel, we spent three days in the Negev. While we enjoyed hiking, swimming and snorkeling in the Red Sea, and sleeping under the stars. This challenging experience brought us closer together and made our group stronger as a whole. After that, we made out way to the Teyelet-the Promenade-, and as a group took our first look over the holy city; Jerusalem. While there, we went on a real archeological dig, explored the Old City, and touched the stones of the Western Wall. This experience was powerful and made me feel even more connected to the land and the people than at any other time in my life.
After that, we split into the chavayot, or experiences, that we had chosen. I had decided to do Tikkun Olam in Israel, giving me a chance to learn more about the communities that live in the land. We helped senior citizens and assisted at a farm and at a food bank and many more placed in and around Jerusalem. We reunited at the Sea of Galilee, where we met up with eight Israeli teens who would joing us for the next week. We had fun playing in the water and riding banana boats. We visited the Golan Heights, where we summited the second tallest mountain in Israel, Har Vental. We also went to the security barrier and talked about the conflict. This was an enlightening discussion on the lives of Palestinians. Finally, we made our way to Jerusalem for one last week.
On one of the last days we went to Har Herzl, the national cemetary, where we learned about many of the extraordinary leaders who shaped Israel into what it is today. Finally, after one last Shabbat, we made our way to Ben Gurion Airport for our flights home.
This was a magical summer, one that I will never forget for the rest of my life. Thanks to the Jewish Foundation, I was able to experience Israel in a way that many people don't get to: an in depth and person experience where we learned what Israel meant ot us.