September 21, 2019 •
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Submitted byTBA member Bennett Halper, 4/26/2015

What I’ve learned over the past two weeks is that, the Holocaust was a story about goodbyes. People did not know how to say goodbye to each other, their loved ones and their families. This fact is why it is so fitting that my story is about hellos.

Hellos to people who I thought I would never speak to in my life. Hellos to those who survived the horrible event that was the Holocaust, and hello to the person who I have become. My teachers, peers, and family had told me that I would come back a “changed person”, so naturally I tried to notice all the little changes which were going on throughout my two weeks here.

As I lay in my bed in Israel writing my final journal entry, I do not believe that I look any different except for a minor Israeli burn on my face. There is no old Bennett; there is no new Bennett, and there is only the Bennett who is here and now living in the present. What I believe has changed in myself is that I will now live every moment in the present, not worrying about the past or the future. I will value friendships more and will understand that as one person I do have the ability to change things and speak my mind.

Today while my group was in Tzfat we were told a story about a woman who would sit outside every day with a cup of tea and a cup of coffee because she did not know what the messiah would like more. The key point of the story is that she would sit there day after day with a smile on her face while people passed her left and right, and told her she was insane and what she was doing was pointless. We were told to smile always and as often as possible. A smile could turn a person’s day around, and will just make you feel better as an individual overall.

Upon reflection of the trip as a whole I believe, that it can be summed up with one word… blessed. I was blessed to have been able to go on this life-changing journey, and blessed that I was able to share my experience with people who I now call family. My memories from this trip will always resonate in the back of my mind, for better and for worse. What I am most nervous about isn’t remembering what I had to witness, but forgetting what I learned which has allowed me to grow into the person I am today. In my life, I know this for sure, that I will come back to Israel again.

L’shana habaah b’yerushalayim.

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