First steps on the road to the land of milk and honey

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:50

    That ominously controversial country across the Atlantic, the place with the car bombs and the terrorism, the land that is a home to so many people who have never even been there, Israel, that's where I'm going. It's been my dream to go to Israel since I was 13 years old. I feel such a strong connection to everything about it: the land, the history and the people. As a Jewish teenager, it's the only place where I won't be a minority. In Israel, I can be part of one unit, one community. In Israel, everyone's history is my history, and as I walk the rough Israeli terrain I will do so knowing that my ancestors did the same thousands of years ago. For me, this trip isn't just about religious connection and fulfillment. As cliché as it sounds, I want to see the world. I want to have an adventure. My whole life to this day has been confined to this side of the world, this side of reality. I want to experience new cultures and new ideas, see new sights. As I fly toward Israel, I will be shedding 17 years of a solely American lifestyle. I'm ready to cross the Atlantic and see the East. Most people probably think I'm crazy for going to Israel. Even more people think my mom is crazy for letting me go. But, despite all the horrors on the news, I'm not afraid. Actually, I'm intrigued. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, to bypass the skewed vision of Israel that we view on the news, and see what's really happening. I feel that by only seeing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of the media, I have been politically isolated. Now, for five weeks, I will no longer be viewing Israel from across an ocean, through a television set, I will be right there, standing on the hot Israeli sand, seeing it all for myself. Of course, there are risks involved, but those are risks I am willing to take. If I never exposed myself to danger I'd be living a sheltered life, a naïve life. The trip that I am taking is an organized trip through the North American Federation of Temple Youth. The trip actually begins with a plane flight to Prague, Czech Republic. The last of a three-day stay to Prague will contain a visit to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in the town of Terezin. We will then fly to a Mediterranean port city from which we will take a cruise ship to Israel. My next 28 days will be spent experiencing the wonders of Israel, from Jerusalem to the Negev Desert to the Dead Sea. Each step of the way, I will be documenting my experiences and sharing them each week in The Photo News. My trip is being funded by Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County through the generosity of the Jack N. Blinkoff Scholarship. The scholarship is given to one high school student each year and covers the cost of tuition for an organized trip to Israel. The next words that I write will be from a place that I've, up until now, I've only dreamt about, a legendary land flowing with milk and honey, Israel. Alicia Marrie is involved in the youth group at Temple Beth-El in Monroe and the North America Federation of Temple Youth. She will be a senior at Warwick Valley High School in September in the New Visions Engineering program. She leaves for Israel on June 26 and is scheduled to return on Aug. 1.