Benjamin Nakagawa is a junior in NFTY-GER.
This summer I had the most incredible experiences of my life. I traveled the world, made lifelong friends, learned about the history of my people, and strengthened my faith in Judaism. I was able to experience Israel in a way that all Israelis spend their lives– in a time of war.
It was new to myself and I’m sure everyone else on an Israel trip this summer to hear the sirens go off, run into bomb shelters, and see the Iron Dome shoot down rockets. We truly put our lives into the hands of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). I loved the tourist attractions that we visited like the Dead Sea, Bedouin tents, and Ben Yehuda Street, but the conflict with Hamas and the response of the IDF allowed me to gain a deeper understanding and connection to Israel and its struggle to exist.
Every person on the trip was allowed to choose a Chavaya, or adventure trip, to go on for four days. I chose Gadna, which is the army training that is run by the IDF. This Chavaya stood out to me because I aspire to go to Annapolis, the United States Naval Academy, and I wanted to see how the Israeli military differed to ours. Going through Gadna during a time of war was very interesting because there was a lot of commotion on the base. Our commanders were constantly telling us how important it was for us to be able to be on the base in the uniforms. I stood there in formation feeling really proud to be in Israel.
One great experience from Gadna was during the opening ceremony when we stood in a het formation with all of the other teams. We stood there together, sang Haktiva, and our commanders put the people they trusted to do a good job in charge of their respective teams. I was chosen to lead my team and had the best time going through this boot camp experience.
After Gadna I viewed my travels through Israel differently because I really valued and appreciated seeing the beautiful sights and being able to pray at the Kotel. Those experiences wouldn’t have been possible without the sacrifices of the Israeli soldiers and I am proud of their dedication to our great homeland. I would like to thank NFTY-GER for their generous scholarship, which allowed me to travel to Prague, Poland, and Israel, and walk through history as history was being made.