Four AM wake up by our counselors. After sleeping under the stars, everyone in my group struggled to motivate.
It was Mount Shlomo day, which meant one of the hardest climbs of our four-day Negev experience. Our supplies were stuffed into our bags, and with jerry cans in hand, we formed a circle and discussed the day's plan. As we went over our agenda, the counselors handed out sharpies. Our unit head, Kolby, explained that we were to write the names of people that inspired us on our forearms. It took me awhile to find the right people to dedicate my struggle. After long thought, I remembered the reason I was there, under the stars in the middle of the land of milk and honey.
My mother had worked endlessly with scholarship funds to get me to the Holy Land. She knew what a tremendous honor it was to experience the history and beauty of Israel. So I put her name down, and then realized I needed to include another important person, my grandpa who passed away in February and would have been thrilled to know I was climbing the mountains of our ancestors. With both my role models counting on me, I started the hike up Mt. Shlomo with the rest of my group.
After trekking to the base of the mountain, we stopped to prepare for our long ascent. As we rested, I looked up at Mt. Shlomo and it looked down on me, ready to challenge my will. I was scared to climb the beast, but I knew my Mother and Grandpa were motivating me, and that my group would be there to support me every step of the way.
As we scaled the mountain it got harder and harder. At one point we were almost climbing vertically, hanging on to the guardrail for dear life. We leaned on one another, literally and figuratively, and pulled through as a community. As we neared the top, the morning sun shone down on us. We were able to see the gorgeous city of Eilat and the rest of the valley, sprawling with beauty.
Then, we made it.
Though exhausted, our group celebrated with a round of hugs and many pictures. We took out our supplies that we had carefully packed away and had a small breakfast on the mountaintop. As we sat down together, we understood the real beauty that is Israel. People from desert lands built their futures and intertwined their Judaism with other cultures and ideals. As we completed our time at the summit, Kolby brought out many onions and lemons. She told us we should never forget this moment and instructed each of us to take a bite! We all looked at her as if she was crazy. But when I sank my teeth into that onion, I understood. I will forever remember and cherish the feeling of being on top of Mt. Shlomo and on top of the world.
- Max Mittleman