Alexa Summers
Kansas City, Missouri

Israel stretches over 260 miles from the North to the South. During my 10-day trip on Sachlav’s Israel on the House, we covered a total of 744 miles. If you’re having trouble picturing this, it’s roughly the same distance from Kansas City, Missouri, to Austin, Texas.

This trip was 744 miles of love, 744 miles of friendship, and 744 miles of blessings.

I’m from Kansas City where there are no more than four Jewish people and three of them happen to be my relatives. Due to the lack of cultural exposure, I was more Jew-ISH than anything else. This changed following my Birthright Israel experience.

When I think back on my time in Israel, there are specific moments that stand out the most.

At the Western Wall, I made a Mitzpah coin from a one-dollar bill. This pendant is divided in two to represent a special bond. It also contains a prayer: “The Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent from one another.” It’s believed that when a person is lost, their coin will guide them back to its other half. When I returned home, I gave my mother her half of the Mitzpah coin. We both cried. She wears it in a prayer box necklace every day. And so I also began to forge a lifestyle connected to my newly found cultural identity.

My experiences in Israel taught me a new way to define my Jewishness. After all, Judaism is more than just a religion, it’s also a culture and a lifestyle. And there are no single set of rules to abide by. We define our lifestyle through our personal values, habits, ways of love, and so many other things in between. Israel embodies a feeling that can only be described as “blessed”.

Towards the end of our trip, we spent the night in Bedouin tents in the Negev Desert. After a day of camel riding and traditional Bedouin cuisine, we walked from the campsite towards the the line where the sky met the horizon. Keeping a small distance from one another, we laid our backs against the sand and gazed up at the stars. This moment was devoted to personal reflection. It felt as though time was on our side. We had a short eternity to ruminate on our past, present, and future. Spending time in this beautiful land had given us new hope for the life in which we would soon be returning. I couldn’t have asked for a more meaningful journey across the ocean.

It took 10 days for me to learn the meaning of a blessing. Blessings are gifts. They are the people you surround yourself with, both your family and those you choose to be family. They are the lifestyles we lead and the trips we take. They are also the places we can call home, even halfway across the world.

What a blessing it is, to have Israel.