Joey Charles, FZY Tour 8
It is strange to say but so far on Israel Tour, our group hasn’t really been affected by the conflict. ç but the updates are daily so we might still get to visit before we go home.
I did think twice about coming on tour because of the situation. My parents weren’t sure either. A few people from my group dropped out but I’m glad I came.
My mum texts quite a lot, but that makes it easier to let her know that everything is fine. Being here has definitely changed my perspective.
I empathise with Israelis a lot more and feel strongly about their right to live their lives in safety. One of the most important aspects of tour has been meeting new people.
When we move from place to place we stay with different people in different accommodation so we don’t spend all the time with the same people.
The Israeli madrichim have had a big impact on me. They speak different languages, play instruments and add so much to the experience.
One thing I found strange is interacting with Israelis who do not believe in God, but it has added to my understanding of the full spectrum of Israeli society and helped me think about my own Jewish identity, which is only becoming stronger. Social media is really important at the moment.
We see a lot of posts on Facebook showing the conflict and I have a really strong sense of compassion for what people on both sides are going through.
Being on tour has given me the motivation and the tools to spread the message when I get home that Israel is a beautiful place. Above all else, we must strive for peace.
Penina Myerson, Bnei Akiva Tour 2
Being in Israel during difficult times is not a completely new situation for me. My family arrived at Ben Gurion airport for a summer holiday in July 2006, just as the conflict started with Lebanon. We were there for a week and heard sirens.
I was only eight so I don’t remember that much, but it gave me some previous experience. This time I’m older and know much more about the situation.
On our second day in Jerusalem, our group was at the hotel when we were told a siren was sounding. The madrichim took us straight to the shelter and we stayed there for about half an hour. We were a bit worried but felt really reassured by how calm the madrichim were.
It’s not happened since and I see it as a really small part of our overall experience. I’ve learned so much on Israel Tour so far. It’s not just visiting important places like the Kotel and having educational discussions.
The best thing has been experiencing Israel as a regular Israeli – dealing with the pressure of things happening that you don’t want to happen. Also, all Israelis are experiencing the same thing even if they’re not Jewish, which I don’t know if people watching the news realise.
Some families may feel differently, but for me and my parents there was no question of pulling out of tour. If anything, my experience here is made all the more impactful because of the situation.
I’m incredibly proud of being here and connecting with Israel. My sense of Jewish identity and Zionism have only been strengthened.