For several years now, the 2nd night in the Sukkah is designated as our Israeli night, with Israeli foods, a theme, and usually student memories of Israel. Great Danes for Israel co-sponsored this night in the Sukkah and ran an educational bingo game with Israeli trivia before students shared these (and other) memories of their visit(s) to Israel.
Below, in no particular order, are some of the beautiful memories students shared. We couldn’t remember all of them after the holiday but if you remind us of it, we can include it here:
The word I think most of about Israel is the sense of “Achi” like they say in the IDF, a sense of brotherhood and family. I lost my wallet in south Tel Aviv. In most cities you’d have to stress about identity theft and all that, but in Israel I got it back intact two days later by someone random who looked me up on Facebook. I traveled all over Europe last summer, but Tel-Aviv remains my favorite city. – Ari S.
One Sukkot I stayed with my cousins whose Sukkah has views of the Old City and the Kotel. I slept in the Sukkah that year and remember waking up that morning and looking out at that glorious view. – Jonah A.
I ended up in a jewelry store in Tzfat and got talking with the owner of the shop and it turns out that he is from the same Moroccan city that my mother is from, and in fact that share the same last name “Bitton” though it is a very common Sephardic last name. He was so excited that he gave me a red string bracelet and blessed me and blessed me for ten minutes or so, and I had that bracelet all through my 3+ months in Israel, until a tree branch in the Jordan River snagged it off during my last week there. – Adi P.
My memory is also of a jewelry store in Tzfat where I was on birthright looking for a present for my sister. Problem was that I had to get back to the bus on time. They said they’d text us before they pulled away, but I had no phone! I tried getting back but felt lost, but then chanced upon an Israeli soldier who was on my trip and he led me back just in time. – Jeremy B.
Getting lost in Israel might be a theme! I was interning in Israel and staying in the Old City of Jerusalem, but looking to go for one weekend to Tel Aviv. There was a light rail train I had to catch, and somehow got myself lost getting out of the old city. I chanced upon a man, who offered to help. He may or may not have been headed in that direction anyways, but he walked all the way with me and we had a delightful conversation the whole walk. Somehow that really stuck with me. – Sam D.
Masada! The early morning climb to the top. That’s my favorite Israel memory. – Michelle M.
My trip was a mixed group of Jewish students from all backgrounds, some of whom practiced and observed and others who did very little. At the synagogue going up to Masada some of my fellow trip members had their Bar or Bat-Mitzvahs (past the age of 12 or 13) and that was very meaningful to witness and be part of. – Elena P.
I was online for Felafel in Tel Aviv when a Rabbi came up to me and asked me to put on Tefillin. And that was the very first time I put on Tefillin in my life. – Eli S.
It was the last Shabbat of my 7-week program in Israel. We stayed that Shabbat in a Jerusalem hotel and walked down to the Kotel to pray that Friday Night. Usually we did things as a group, but that night they gave us each a half-hour to join whatever prayers we wanted. So a friend or two of mine went down with me to the wall, we joined a random group of Jews we never met before and before long we were singing and dancing Kabalat Shabbat together. That’s my favorite Israel memory. – Jonathan K.
I stayed in Ashdod for part of my Israel program but loved to go to my sister’s for Shabbat in Jerusalem. The spirit, the after-meal Onegs, I have fond memories of those. – Jenna G.
The Nativ program is divided into two parts. First I studied in a Jerusalem yeshiva for 5 months and then volunteered up north in a small place near Haifa, basically serving as a janitor. But my boss spoke little English so I had no choice but to improve my Hebrew! I also tutored a Russian boy and our only common language was Hebrew, so that helped my Hebrew skills as well. – Benjy T.
Israel means so much to me. I think its the greatest blessing for the Jewish people. I’m hoping to make Aliyah after graduation and join the IDF. – A.T.
The greatest Israel memory is going to be when Moshiach comes. But until then, my favorite Israel memory might be that time when I was at the Kotel and helped a fellow Jewish student wrap the Tefillin for the first time in his life. – Seth B.
One year Passover fell in the height on tax-season (it often does) and I was helped my dad in his office as he worked until the latest hour on the eve of Passover. My mother called that she had gotten a fat envelope from Nativ, the post-High-School/pre-college Israel program I had applied for. Well, good news! We came home straight from work, the Seder was underway, and that night when we concluded the Seder with “Next Year in Jerusalem!” it was indeed so for me. That envelope had been my acceptance letter and I spent the next year in Israel. – Eric S.
I was on a bus going from one place to another and seated in that front seat near the front door. A woman got onto the bus with an infant and was arguing with the bus driver about her fare, she was fishing around in her pockets for change and couldn’t do it with the baby and the moving bus. So she thrust the baby in my arms (me, a total stranger, only in Israel) and found the coins she needed while yelling at the driver, and the driver back at her. It somehow typified a lot about Israel, right in the front of that bus. – Dana S.
We were on a bus going somewhere and stopped off in some random park in middle of Israel, and lo and behold, a few people there were calling my name, and they were friends I knew from middle school. 6,000 miles away, and a taste of home! – Johanna D.
I was working a Lag B’Omer Parade in Israel, during my year of yeshiva studies there. There were crowds of kids and among the marchers there were floats driven atop flatbed trucks. I noticed that one driver was looking at his phone while driving among all these walking kids! And then saw a policeman walk over to the truck, reach inside the cab and take away the phone. Just like that. I figured that’s an only in Israel moment! – Moshe D.
On Sukkot when studying in Israel I had plans to be somewhere for the holiday but then things fell through and my parents arranged for me to go to the home of a Shabbos House alum instead. That was one of the nicest times I had in Israel at the home of Tamar M. (she used to be Tamar K. in Albany) and its one of my best Israel memories. – Chani R.
My best Israel memory isn’t from when I was in Israel myself, but from the time when I was dating my future (now) wife and she spent a month or so studying in Israel. We’d talk every day over Skype and she’d share images and views of where she was and what she saw around her in Israel, and seeing Israel through her eyes is my best Israel memory. – Yehudah G.
My Israel memory has to do with breakfast. I loved the dairy in Israel but wasn’t a fan of the food in the Yeshiva I was at. So many a morning I’d find a little nice spot in the neighborhood to go and eat something. The way the timing worked, it often coincided with a little 7 year old boy taking his 3-4 year old brother to school. Many a morning I’d help him cross one street corner, only to see them ask another passerby to help them cross the next corner. It was a cute image, I happened to be there to see it and help them many mornings, and it stuck with me. – Michael K.
My favorite memory of Israel up until now was the wedding of my sister. And I’m looking forward to another wonderful memory this winter break when I’ll be going there as an uncle. – Mordechai R.
I was in Jerusalem one day, just walking about, and happened to run into my classmate Meir O’Brien (of blessed memory). I had no idea that he was in Israel at the time, and it was so unexpected and refreshing to see a friend from home. – Mushky D.
Birkat Kohanim, the priestly blessing, on one of the days of Chol HaMoed has to be my favorite thing to see in Israel. The throngs of people, the thousands of Kohanim, the birds-eye view of all the tallit prayer shawls, the sound and sight of it, the closest we can get nowadays to the way it was during the Temple times! – David W.
I haven’t been yet, but look forward to going! – a sentiment repeated by a few in the Sukkah that night