There were so many magical moments on my trip this summer to Israel that made it one of the best summers of my life. When we prayed at the wailing wall, when we hiked through the Negev, when we made our own services in the most beautiful spots all over Israel, when we visited Yad Vashem, and yes, when we ran out of the dead sea stinging all over from our cuts and scrapes. All of these moments, I will cherish for the rest of my life. Throughout the trip one of the nice surprises was that I got to play the violin at services. This is surprising because I never expected anyone to have a violin and I’m actually a violist and have never played the violin before.
One moment that I will remember for the rest of my life brought together my love of Israel, music, Judaism, and more. It all started at Yad Vashem. After touring the museum, we went into an auditorium and did a service led by Kolby, our unit head. At the service, we all sang the song Eli, based on a beautiful poem by Hannah Senesh. While driving away from Yad Vashem, I spoke to one of our madrichs, Noga, and told her that I, in fact, knew how to play Eli, and had been playing it for years at my synagogue.
Noga said the most surprising thing I ever could have imagined. “Could you play Eli at Hannah Senesh’s grave when we visit there in a few days?” I of course ecstatically accepted the offer. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and the power of performing that song at her grave. I know I would never forget that moment.
Finally, we arrived at the cemetery. So many people were buried there. Yitzchak Rabin, Gola Meir, and Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, were all buried there with so many other prime ministers and other important people in Israel’s history. There were also memorials for fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks. It was an amazingly solemn place. Then finally, we made it to Hannah Senesh’s grave. I unpacked the small purple violin I was borrowing from our unit head and stood up next to her grave. As everyone watched I slowly started the piece. I don’t think I have ever played that piece more beautifully. It was hard to comprehend what I had just done and how many people would do anything to have an opportunity to do what I had just done.
But the thing about this trip is that it allows you to do things like this. There was so much history in Israel and so much that I feel connected to. As a Jew, it felt important for me to visit the place that I talk about so much. Going to a Jewish school, Israel is obviously a hot topic but I had not been since I was seven years old, and before this trip, I didn’t remember much. And now I feel so connected and I cannot wait for my next trip, in December with Congregation Beth Israel. This trip changed me and my relationship with Israel for the better.
- Gabriel Mayer