It is only been a few days in the Holy Land and we Mayanot-ers have voyaged through a great northern piece of Israel. Our crew has traveled from the tip of the Golan Heights to a night out downtown Tiverias. We have had some great first experiences in northern Israel while bonding with our new Israeli friends.

Before the crew and I completed our stay in Tiverias, something extraordinary happened last night. The crew was split into small groups to discuss the trip. Being here for two full days only allows for short discussion. But my group had a different experience.

I sat in a circle of ten new friends. Surrounding me were people who originated from a number of countries and one Israeli. Our discussion started with a simple starter question, “What’s your favorite parts of the trip so far?” A solid minute of simple answers flowed through the group. It was a minute of finding comfort and warmth with each other. After that short minute, heartfelt questions and answers began. Though we were still fresh faces, we shared this common bond of acceptance.

Our new Israeli friend had the courage to explain his sacrifices he makes everyday to stay alive. As Jews, we never forget the sacrifices that were made over thousands of years to keep the Jewish people going. It is fascinating that today the land of Israel continues to live in turmoil with the surrounding countries. I felt a sense of heartache when he explained how difficult it is to wake up, spend a day, and sleep in fear. I have never experienced anything like this. After our group, meaning I, had the chance to speak with my new friend. I asked him about how more people our age react to this issue. His response was simple and delicate: “I just want all of us [israelis and surrounding countries] to share the Holy Land and live together.” I now felt a sense of hope. How can so much turmoil that happens so often put a young guy at peace? I cannot answer his question. However, he unknowingly challenged me to reassess my life. He inspired me and reinstated a statement I often hear– Never take anything for granted.

As our trip moves southward, my mind travels the opposite direction. No matter how many cities we visit in Israel I will never always refer to the conversation with this young man.

To love and prosperity, I toast lchaim!

-Nathan Cohen