First Day in Israel (by Joel Evans)
Growing up Jewish and in a predominantly Jewish town, people have always been surprised to hear that I have never been to Israel. When my wife first approached me about going to Israel on the men's trip, I was interested but not overwhelmed with a desire to go. I had always thought that Israel would be a great place to visit, but it has never been on my bucket list.
Having never been to Israel before, I had no idea what to expect. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed emotionally upon arrival. Surrounded by Hebrew signs and Jewish people everywhere I looked was something I knew I would see, but was not ready for what I experienced emotionally. We started before the trip by having dinner on the beach in tel aviv. It was at that moment that I felt 'home', as my friend and travel mate brad Walter said. A true sense of belonging knowing that everyone around me was similar to me culturally.
The next day the trip officially started. We arrived at the airport and were greeted by Jews from all over–over 100 men. Some were wearing yalmukas, some black hats. All different levels of observance but all the same: Jewish.
We then went to meet soldiers at the army base. It's amazing to see that the people guarding and protecting Israel are 18-21 years old. We brought them gifts, shared stories and a meal and it was an incredibly moving experience. To see what they have sacrificed to keep our holy land safe is beyond words. One soldier in particular was born in Israel but then moved to Maryland. She came back to serve. She mentioned that her friends in America don't understand. It's clear that in Israel it's a right of passage to serve in the army, while at that age Americans are messing around and trying to figure out what to do with their life, Israeli teenagers serve and protect their country.
We were then treated to a class by Charlie Harary. His main message is that life is awesome. Don't blame, don't complain. Just enjoy life. Incredible messages to live by.
We then finished the night hanging out with our new found friends from Palm Beach, whose wives are also going on the women's trip this year. Amazing.
There's too much being experienced daily already, but I wanted to share just a couple of moments of time that are already transforming me on this trip.