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Why This Summer is Different

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in love with Israel. I’ve been fascinated by that small country with such rich meaning and history.

My mother is a Jew from New Jersey. She became fascinated with Israel while learning about it during a college course on Israeli politics taught by Michael Bar-Zohar and decided she wanted to go there. I read some of his books and they deepened my love even further.

My father is a British Jew who made Aliyah when he turned 18. He left his home to serve in the IDF and immersed himself in a place where he could feel safe as a Jew. As a kid, I’d listen to my dad’s IDF stories with a sense of wonder and imagine living in a country where I could feel so proudly and completely Jewish.

My parents met in Israel and I feel a deep connection to the country where they fell in love.

In the wake of October 7th, it seems like time has stopped. It’s hard to believe that more than seven months have passed since that awful day. Since then, my Israeli friends have fought on the front lines against Hamas and my family has taken cover in bomb shelters.

While both of my parents have gone to Israel since 10/7 to volunteer and help out, I’ve been here in America.

Stuck.

Unable to help my friends and my family, I’ve felt helpless. I’ve been desperate to contribute and felt as if nothing I was doing as a diaspora Jew was enough.

But that’s going to change this summer.

At the end of June I’ll be attending the URJ’s Yallah: Israel! trip. I will join 41 Jewish teenagers on a trip to Israel. This year, it’s about so much more than just having fun. I’ll be volunteering and helping out wherever I can. I’ll finally get the chance to assist my nation in its time of need.

Here in the U.S., things are getting scary. As I’m starting to consider what my education after high school will look like, the current situation frightens me. College campuses are no longer safe for Jewish students. Many Jews hide their necklaces and take off their kippot. Right now, although it sounds odd to say it, the safest place to be openly Jewish is in Israel. Even in the midst of a war.

Although I’ve been to Israel several times before, I’ve never been there for such a meaningful reason. This time is extremely different. I’m going to be spending over a month in the Jewish homeland fulfilling some of the most important mitzvot of them all– helping the Jewish people and serving my country as best I can.

And I can’t wait.

About the Author
Eitan Klieger is a high school student in the United States and a triple citizen of the US, England, and Israel. He participates in Brandeis's 'Better to Learn' program, the RAC's L'taken, and NFTY, as well as secular programs like his high school's marching band and musical. Eitan grew up a member of both Reform and Conservative synagogues and has emerged as a "hybrid Jew", enjoying aspects of each movement.
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