At 7 a.m. on July 25, I drove to LAX and picked up my 17-year old daughter returning from an amazing summer adventure. Though barely sleeping during the 14-hour flight, she spent the next several hours talking non-stop about how much her life had changed since I had last seen her, how much better she understood her connection to her Jewish roots, and how she was already making plans for a return visit to a place that was all about Jewish history, Jewish culture, Jewish food, and Jewish spirituality.
Hana was one of a group of 35 high school teens from our region who traveled and learned together on TIES 2010 – the Bureau of Jewish Education’s four-week teen summer Israel experience. So much more than a “tour” of Israel, this trip brought our Jewish homeland to life, the whole nation as setting for an interactive encounter with 4,000 years of history.
A hike up Masada before sunrise began a history lesson about a fight for freedom. Covering themselves in mud and floating on the Dead Sea, kayaking on the Jordan River, and staying on a kibbutz highlighted some of the Israeli state’s unique features. There were stories about welcoming Shabbat at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem along with Jews from all over the world, the deep emotions felt at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, and on and on . . .
Teens who shared this year’s experience, and their parents, have referred to TIES as “a life-altering experience,” “the best summer ever,” and “so much more than we could have ever hoped for.” The result is a community of teens who have enduring connections to one another and to the people they met on their journey.
TIES 2010 was made financially possible for many of the teens through scholarship funds contributed by the Jewish Federations of Orange County and Long Beach, by the Bureau of Jewish Education, and by several extremely generous families. The Bureau hopes to repeat its success with next summer’s TIES trip, already being planned. There will be family information sessions held on November 16 at Temple Beth Sholom (Santa Ana), on November 21 at Temple Israel (Long Beach), and on December 14 at Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot (Irvine).
If you know a teen who could benefit from a powerful connection to Israel and an amazing summer adventure, contact the Bureau at (949) 435-3450 for information about next summer’s TIES program.