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2021 Wynne Scholarship Winner Isabella Emmanuel 

01/10/2022 08:57:26 AM

Jan10

Isabella Emmanuel

This summer I went to Israel for the first time through the Merrill and Sheila Wynne Judaic Scholarship. I chose to use the scholarship towards the Jewish National Fund’s Roots Israel trip. Teens from around the US gathered to spend four weeks traveling around Israel on a service learning trip. I had no idea what to expect, and I only knew two of the kids going on the trip. While at first I was worried about cultural differences and about making friends, I loved my time in Israel and had unforgettable experiences and made deep friendships. 

The first couple days of the trip, we were quarantined in Arad. While I was there, I was able to meet everyone and make new friends during our first Shabbat together. After about three days, we went to visit the fortress of Masada at about 4:00 a.m. Although I had only slept for 3 hours, I really enjoyed seeing the beautiful sunrise over the mountains and learning about the history of Masada. I learned about the story of Masada, where Jewish rebels committed a mass suicide to avoid being taken as slaves by the Romans. I had never heard of this story, despite it being as popular as the story of Hanukkah in Israel. My favorite memory from Masada was my friends and I seeing the sunrise together, which is seen in the picture of me jumping in the air. 

I also had the opportunity to visit many religious places I had only read about, like the Western Wall and the Tomb of Jesus Christ. While at the Western Wall, we prayed and put our notes in the wall, which was very touching being near so many other people praying. While at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we learned the history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We also went to the City of David, and learned about his reign and his impact on Judaism. We walked through his water tunnels, which had water up to my knees. While I enjoyed the experience, this part of the trip was terrifying because I am slightly claustrophobic. 

I had picked the Roots trip because of its emphasis on service learning, and I am very passionate about community service. I am receiving a service learning distinction upon graduation from high school. While in Israel, we did a lot of different service activities, like helping farm edible grasses at a bird sanctuary, cleaning a horse riding therapy center for children with disabilities, visiting and playing with children with disabilities at a special needs school, and picking up trash along the beach. 

Even though the trip mostly focused on learning about Israel’s historical significance, I also had a lot of fun shopping and trying new foods. In Tel Aviv, my friends and I went swimming in the sea every day. We even went scuba diving in Eilat’s Ocean Conservatory, where we learned about the dangers of ocean acidification and coral bleaching. We even excavated in tunnels and found ancient artifacts that we were allowed to keep. 

Overall, I feel a closer connection to the place my ancestors fought for and a place that is connected to my Jewish identity.   

Click here for more information about the 2022 Merrill and Sheila Wynne Judaic Scholarship and apply today!

Thu, January 27 2022 25 Sh'vat 5782