Summer 2017 is now behind us. It has been exhilarating for 175 NCSYers from Canada, who went on TJJ, a four-week tour of Israel, and other summer programs, joining 1,400 other NCSYers from across the United States, on 17 programs, for their BEST. SUMMER. EVER.
They toured the land from top to bottom; from Misgav Am on the Lebanese border in the North to the sandy beaches of Eilat in the South; from the heights of Masada to a sunset cruise on the Kinneret, our NCSYers drunk in the beauty and history of the Jewish homeland. They gathered at the ancient stones of the Kotel to pray and to mourn together in a kumsitz on Tisha B’av. Through it all, they developed a greater appreciation for the land’s spiritual essence as a home for the Jewish people. Yes, the land is beautiful to behold—the mountains, waterfalls, the old cobblestones, the ancient ruins—but it is so much more.
Israel, the land given to the Jews, symbolizes our special relationship with the Almighty. It is that which makes the land holy. The Jewish people have a special mission on a unique tract of land. That is why I don’t think it’s possible for teens to fully connect with their identity as Jews until they come to the land of the Jewish people. As one TJJer has said, “I will bring back a lot of love for the country because this is my home; it’s where I’m from.”
On Rosh Hashana, which is only days away, our TJJers will be able to approach the holiday with new eyes, a new perspective, built over a grueling and unforgettable four weeks in the land. With a new sense of maturity and a deeper, more grounded Jewish identity, they can explore their relationship with G-d on this High Holiday as never before. Rosh Hashana is an auspicious time for them to build a deeper understanding of their roles as members of the Jewish people and how to translate that in meaningful ways in their day to day life.
It is my wish that NCSY continues to inspire teens and their families to appreciate the centrality of Israel and their unique mission as Jews. Wishing our friends, supporters, NCSYers and their families a ketiva v’chatima tova and best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.