Levana Osher, 2013
I recently participated in the Israel Partnership Exchange Program through the Jewish Federation of Jacksonville. I spent two weeks in Israel. I had a three-day break and then welcomed the teens from Israel to Jacksonville. I believe this program is great and amazing, and builds strong connections between us and the Israelis. While in Israel, I became very close to my host teen Nitzan, along with the other five Israeli girls. We spent two weeks traveling around Israel. This trip allowed me to experience so much of Israel in such a short time and still have time to make new connections and new friends.
I really love this partnership program, and it does a great thing by helping the teens involved learn more about ourselves. I learned that I can get along with teenagers and become friends because we share a common heritage. It not only lets you see another culture and country and experience it, it also allows you to make lifelong connections with teens and their families from so far away. This exchange has allowed me to do so many things that I never thought I could. We went sightseeing and volunteered our time, as well. My favorite part was when we spent two days in the desert. We slept in a Bedouin tent and did activities like baking pita bread and stargazing. I really enjoyed every free moment I got to spend quality time with the group.
While I was in Israel, I was able to make connections with Israeli teens that I have never met before and also find out more about my family roots. The visit to Mt. Herzl was especially important to me as I was able to visit the memorial for my great-grandfather (Rachamim Mirsky z”l) who was killed in 1948 defending Jerusalem. The entire group was able to learn about my family history as I put a candle and stone at his memorial.
While the Israeli teens were in Jacksonville, I became even closer with them in my hometown. I enjoyed sharing my home and showing off my school to my guest, Nitzan. I taught her about our Jewish culture and practices here in Jacksonville. We shared our favorite foods together and did a little shopping, too. My favorite time with the group was spending time with the Israeli teens when they were at Camp KiTov. The campers loved the projects, games and falafel the group made. This trip and this whole month were amazing and I really loved it.