Growing up in a Reformed, Jewish household, religion never held an important role in my life. I went to ‘Hebrew School’ twice a week growing up, learning the basics of Jewish history, beliefs, culture, and language until I had my Bar Mitzvah at age thirteen. This education consisted very little of information about modern Israel, and consequently my knowledge of the Jewish Homeland was scarce at best. My mother always tells me how incredible and beautiful Israel is and that she hopes for an opportunity to go back for a visit. She particularly favors the feeling that overcame her while she was in Israel, which she described as feeling at peace with the homeland of our religion. I lacked the initiative to learn about Israel on my own due to my disinterest in both religion and politics growing up. What little information I knew came from news clips I saw here and there, often describing continuous fighting and unrest in Israel. I pictured Israel as a barren desert, filled only with Jews, constantly subjected to terrorism and other aggression. I had no idea how far that vision was from reality.
In the spring of 2012, I applied and was accepted to go to Israel for ten days in May with an organization called Taglit Birthright. My first exposure to the land was absolutely incredible. I loved everything about it: the people, weather, architecture, food, and more. I never expected the extravagance of cities like Tel Aviv, Netanya, and Haifa. I saw a great and prospering nation, so I couldn’t understand why my perceptions were so dramatically mistaken. In order to learn more, I began to conduct research, follow Israeli news outlets, and returned to Israel on a sixteen-day trip designed to educate on both sides of the conflict as well as immerse you in the experience. I will be returning to Israel this summer as part of the Global Student Experience program with Ernst & Young as an audit intern in Tel Aviv. I hope to move there on a more permanent basis after finishing school. Due to my deep passion for Israel, it is extremely difficult for me to understand why so many people can feel such intense hate for my beloved, future home and so I work every day to correct these misperceptions and show the world was Israel really is.