Updated: May 5, 2021
Guest blog by Alexa Summers
Alexa fell in love with Israel on a Birthright trip and came again but this time the trip went south. Read till the end and find out how one person can make all the difference.
I sat on the edge of the Kikar Rabin fountain crying on the phone night after night, to anyone back at home in America that would listen. I lived in an apartment with 15 other roommates. Night after night, it was always the same deal—a huge pregame, trash everywhere, a loud return late at night, and untouched vomit on the floor in the morning.
Going into this trip, I could have sworn that Israel would be my passion. I felt so strongly about Birthright, and I just knew I had to come back. But every night I was stuck there, my hate for the country grew. It was only for two months, but after just a few weeks, I was done. So, when a woman stopped to show me a little TLC one day in the laundromat, I was really angry. I already accepted that this place just wasn’t for me;
That magical feeling I once had was completely gone, and there was no way anyone could bring it back.
But, that lady in the laundromat spent hours trying to convince me that Israel was kind. She insisted that if I could muster some confidence, have a smile on my face, and a soft spot for strangers, then I’d be able to see what she could see—that my heart would get left behind in Israel.
As I began to follow her advice word for word, I soon realized that every morning, I woke up as a different person. This person would have more confidence, love, independence, and curiosity than the day before. And sure enough, by the end of my experience, my heart simply couldn’t return to the US with me.
I wanted to stay in a culture of kindness where people aren’t nice to someone because they feel obligated, but because it is built into their values. I wanted to stay with my friends, who went to great efforts to help me become a better person at a time of drastic vulnerability. It wanted to stay…at home.
After returning to the states, I became a Taglit Birthright staffer because not only did Israel become my passion, but helping others discover themselves in Israel is one of the greatest gifts I could both give and receive. I was supposed to staff a trip this summer, but COVID got in the way of my return. Now, I’m stuck in America—where COVID is ravaging our states, and our culture is becoming as harmful as ever. My passport is the most worthless thing that I own; all that I am left with is this love for Israel, and nowhere to go with it.
In such a short time frame, I went from hating the country, to never wanting to leave. On my last night, I asked a friend to drive me to the airport, so I didn’t have to go alone. I clung to him sobbing in the drop-off line, and I cried the 11 hours to New York and the 5 hours back to Kansas. To this day, it still breaks my heart to have left behind my new family. And, being so unsure of when I’ll ever be able to come back because of the pandemic?
It’s devastating. But, eventually, I will return. I have to-- I left my heart in the backseat of my friend’s car for safekeeping, and someday I’ll have to come home to claim it.