Sitting atop Masada at sunrise, my friends and I just stared. We stared at the rising sun after accomplishing one of the hardest physical challenges of our lives.
We woke up later than planned so we had to rush to make it to the top of the mountain before sunrise. When we reached the top, the sun was just peeking over the mountains of Jordan. I will never forget how I felt. I had a feeling of weariness, but also accomplishment, pride and most of all, love. The love I felt for Israel was a feeling I had never experienced.
Since I was a child, I was taught to appreciate Israel. I lived there when I was younger and visited almost every year after we moved to the U.S. It was practically in my DNA to feel a connection to the homeland. However, after my experience on an Israel program this past summer, my love for Israel blossomed into a deep connection with the land and its people. I can’t pinpoint what it was exactly, but my feelings for Israel were different this time — it could have been the breathtaking nature, the amazing culture, the spiritual and historical context or just the fact that, as a teenager, I was finally able to understand the importance of Israel. Regardless, I knew my connection was stronger than ever.
After returning to Baltimore, I was searching for activities that would help fulfill my newly formed relationship. An opportunity arose to sit on the Baltimore Israel Coalition as the teen representative of the Jewish Volunteer Connection, an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. I accepted enthusiastically.
This past summer, the coalition decided that it was important to bring our community together to celebrate Israel’s 65th birthday. Much of the work of the coalition these past several months has been ensuring that this celebration will include everyone in our community. During each meeting, we share new and exciting developments, which are then open for feedback so that each organization can share its ideas and contribute to the overall planning. As details are beginning to come together, enthusiasm is starting to grow.
Tasked with the responsibility of co-chairing the teen committee, my job is to ensure that teenagers are part of the celebration. We put together a committee of my peers with the intention of helping raise Israel awareness among the teen community. We share ideas and facilitate the overall planning of the teen-focused activities for the 65th birthday celebration.
Although working out such critical details presents some challenges, I know that what I am doing is essential. Most teens do not have the love and passion for Israel that I would hope; it is vital for all Jews that Israel remain in the minds, hearts and souls of the younger generation. Through “Israel65. Celebrate!” and the work of the Baltimore Israel Coalition, I know the seeds will be planted firmly so that my peers will grow their love for, and appreciation of, our homeland.
See related story, “Medical Innovation, Explosion,” on page 23. View Israel-related articles at jewishtimes.com/Israel65.
Daila Bauman is co-chair of the teen committee for the Baltimore Israel Coalition. For more information about the Coalition and “Israel65. Celebrate!” visit baltimoreisraelcoalition.org.