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BREAKING DOWN WALLS Harold Weiser, a senior at Bellaire High School, had read a lot about Israel before, but seeing it in person was a powerful experience. Here, he’s pictured at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
It was the trip of a lifetime. As a student at Helfman Religious School at Congregation Emanu El, I was fortunate to participate in the Shirley Barish Memorial Israel Experience with about 25 other students. We embarked on a four-week trip that began with one week in Poland, followed by three weeks in Israel. First we visited the places that defined the horrors of Nazism, and then got to experience the hope and lively joy that is Israel today.
This was my first trip to Israel, and I knew I wanted to go but didn’t realize how much it would impact me. Going from seeing the concentration camps in person and feeling really sad, and then going to Israel was so uplifting. I’ll never forget that feeling.
I’ve read so much about Israel my whole life, but being there in person is so different than reading about it. The trip was a wonderful experience and meaningful to me and my friends. I met many people and got to feel more connected with my religion than I have ever felt before.
The day we visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem was a special day for me and my entire group, as this is the holiest Jewish site. Seeing everyone praying at the Wall was something I will never forget. Another moment that stood out to me was being on the top of Mount Masada. The views were unbelievable.
On one of our last few days, there was an optional hike starting at 6 a.m. in the southernmost point of Israel. Out of the group, only a handful of us went. At the top of the mountain, we could see Egypt, Saudi Arabia and surrounding countries. We could see the Israeli flag at the top of the mountain and just sat there, taking it all in. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life.
The program was funded by the Barish family with the goal of, among other things, strengthening involvement in Jewish life. I am thankful to them for this extremely meaningful trip.
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