The Israel Experience
Alisa Laufer, a 2013 Junior Counselor, is today’s guest blogger in Tevya Spirit. In her post, Alisa shares with us the experience she had on last summer’s Dor L’Dor program, and how it has remained with her all year. This summer will be Alisa’s 8th at camp, and her first as a counselor. At Tevya, we strive to hire former campers whenever possible, and every Junior Counselor has a similar and moving Israel experience with Dor L’Dor.
I often joke with my parents about how I learn more in the two months spent at camp than I do in an entire school year. As I reflect on my childhood at camp, I’m beginning to realize it’s not such a joke. Many of the essential life lessons and skills I’ve acquired over the years were learned on the shores of Lake Potanipo. By the end of my Birya (oldest camper) summer, I felt ready to take on the real world. Having survived events such as Pep Rally and Color War, there was nothing that could stop me. Little did I know, many more lessons awaited me on the Dor L’Dor leadership trip to Israel.
Speechless. It’s a cliché, and I’ll be the first to admit it. Even in our most jaw-dropping moments, we can most always formulate at least a mere word. When I was first asked by my parents about my Dor L’Dor trip, however, there was simply no way to describe my endeavors. I progressed gradually, and I’ve actually come to the point now where I find myself talking about Israel all the time. I went from entirely speechless to utterly in love with talking about Israel, something that only Israel itself can do. Now, I can’t go more than a day without browsing through photographs or at least sharing an Israel story. There was something unique about the Dor L’Dor program which captivated me not only while I was on the program, but since I’ve returned home as well.
Spending practically an entire summer in a country, which I call with much pride, my homeland, was perhaps my greatest adventure yet. There’s no denying that traveling throughout Israel hand in hand with other Jewish teens, many of whom have become my best friends from our summers together at Tevya, added to the thrill. From the Temple Mount to Tel Aviv beaches to Masada and to the Druze shuk, we boarded our busses with smiles wide and heads held high. Israel saw its fair share of Dor L’Dor grins.
We were faced head-on with challenges, physical and mental, which we had never been exposed to before. I learned that with persistence and cooperation, success can be achieved under any circumstance. Hikes were tedious, army day was arduous, nights were short, and days were long. With the encouragement of my peers, I overcame such challenges. I became familiar with the triumphant feeling of achievement resulting from hard work. I recall doubting myself at the bottom of a mountain in Eilat, after a long day in the heat. There was a sprawling divide between the place I stood and the top of the mountain. I was given the option of excusing myself from the hike. Instead, with support from my peers, I took the mountain fearlessly. When I finally reached the top, the most breathtaking view I had ever seen was being painted right before my eyes. Since we were at the southern tip of Israel, we could see four bordering countries. A cool breeze skimmed my face and I once again felt accomplished. I learned firsthand the value of perseverance and determination, and the resulting reward. I brought such essential lessons home, and I am now plowing through my junior year, often the most difficult year of high school. Israel helped me to harness my true potential, and taught me the value of hard work.
Looking back, I now realize not only how much fun I had, but I can also see how Israel changed me. I have become a better problem solver, a more capable leader, a stronger team player, and even a better friend. I made life changing adjustments to the way I look at the world. I no longer focus solely on the terrain between where I stand and the mountaintop. Instead, I consider what I will learn as I hike and the feeling of success that awaits me. I thought I knew leadership before this past summer, but Israel opened up a new door to my leadership potential. I have a stronger appreciation for how profound and remarkable the history of my people is and my own Jewish identity.
Aside from being a devoted member of the Tevya community, Alisa is also a junior at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School and a student at Prozdor. Alisa is proud to be an advocate for US-Israel relationships and an AIPAC activist.