Every winter and every summer, the University of Maryland Hillel has the honor of taking at least two (if not more) buses of students on Taglit-Birthright Israel trip. This winter, our staff asked the students to each submit a picture representing Israel through their eyes. This gallery is a collection of what Maryland students, think of when they think of Israel.
No two landscapes are alike, no two captions are alike; Israel is only the size of New Jersey but the emotions captured in each of these students’ photographs are unique to their experience of what Israel is all about. Think about it–how many places in the world of such small size elicit such a diversity of emotion and beauty?
Change can be measured in so many ways: change in attitude, change in action, but the transformation of students who started out as Jewish American Terps to students who now proudly proclaim that they are American Jews
(not Jew – ‘ish’) is a beautiful thing to see in photographs.
Enjoy the gallery, please leave your comments below and we will see you in ISRAEL soon!
It took me a while to pick this picture. To be honest I’m not even sure if its my favorite picture (there’s too many for me to decide). But I snapped this one in the fleeting moment that was Tzafat. Two shop owners or stand workers were sitting in front of the picturesque backdrop of Northern Israel. One of the men was stroking a stray cat that seemingly adorning every corner of every street while drinking the dark instant coffee (probably with no sugar) as I’ve come to realize that almost all Israeli’s do. They’re both older men with tanned skin. They’re both smiling at the Taglit group passing by. And, They’re both wearing knit yarmulkes.
People told me Israel would change my life. It undoubtedly did. But even if I were to sit at this computer for the next few hours I couldn’t properly express how much it truly did.
To me, Israel was shopping in a market on Friday afternoon hears “good shabbos” as i left a store
Israel was saying the national anthem in Hebrew
It was seeing women daven so hard that they weren’t just moved to tears – they were sobbing
Israel was sprawling landscapes that I imagined when hearing the weekly partia’s
It’s being a Jew, having Jews surround you, and calling a place you’ve been in for a few days your “home.”
Here’s my picture, it was taken on our walk on the beach at Tel Aviv back to Jaffa. It’s of a fisherman on the rocks, the sunset, and boats on the Mediterranean. It represents Israel though my eyes because it illustrates how beautiful and harmonious Israel is, even with all of the political tensions and problems; it’s still home.
The picture is called “A Bittersweet Reality”. It was taken in the National Cemetery of Big Tom. This means Israel to me because the pride that the soldiers had when they wore their uniforms was out of control. It wasn’t pride because they are in an army and it’s cool, but a pride that they are fighting in some way or another for their country. That is the reality part. Their reality is fighting everyday for their home and their families. The bittersweet part is that it doesn’t always turn out for the better. There are some fallen soldiers who, although they never knew each other, other israelis and current soldiers know what they did for their country and although that fallen soldier fought with the pride I previously talked about, it didn’t turn out great for them personally at the same time as it did help the country in a way that I can’t imagine.
What does Israel mean to me? Israel means coming together to overcome obstacles. The Jewish people have collectively bested attempts to control us and our destiny time and time again. On this day, a group of strangers become friends as we work together to cross the Golan Heights. On this day, I see Israel.
This photo depicts thoughtfully placed commemorative stones of many shapes and sizes at Mt. Herzl. This represents Israel, a country where Jews from all over the world of different backgrounds can come together. Just as there are different shapes, colors and sizes of stones, there are different cultures, nationalities, and types of Jews. Visiting Israel opened my eyes to the special diversity of the Jewish people.
Masada Sunrise – This picture was taken on top of Masada early in the morning when we hiked and watched the sunrise. That is “Israel through my eyes” because, at least for me, one of the essential points I took away from the trip is the perseverance and strength that the Jewish people as a whole embody. Despite all of the hardships and struggles that the Jews have endured they have always emerged a prosperous people on the other side of their hardship. In this picture the landscape, while beautiful, appears formidable and essentially uninhabitable (even the body of water in the picture is the DEAD Sea). However, in the bottom right corner of the photograph flies the Flag of Israel, overlooking this territory that has gone from largely desert and wasteland into a thriving, bustling country of 6 million. The blue and white flying in the bottom of this picture is not obnoxiously in the forefront, but serves as a symbol of the perseverance and strength of the Jewish people throughout history – and is why this picture is “Israel through my eyes.”
Here is my picture. It is from the big nature walk we did in the Golan Heights. I hope you like it!
“Where the roses bloom on the rocks” – This photo is a close-up of roses that were growing along the path on Mount Herzl. It really reminded me of what Tanya said that her grandmother told her about Israel ( “Israel is a country where the roses bloom on the rocks” ) which I thought was quite beautiful and apt. Jerusalem is in the background but it is blurry which represents focusing in on the roses, the Israeli people and not the craziness of the clashing cultures in the city.
“The Sun Shines on Us” – This picture, taken at Masada captures not only the beauty of the place, but also the wonderful dynamic we had in our group as we all experienced Israel together. It is fitting that the sun shone brightly on us that morning. May it continue to shine on all the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
Mediterranean Sea, Tel Aviv. This picture is Israel through my eyes because of what it symbolizes. None of the rocks are the same, just like the culture and religion that Israel hosts. It shows how far our group came in ten days; Our first stop was at the aqueduct that lined the Med Sea, and here was our last day- meeting up with the sea, almost as if to say goodbye. This picture to me shows different people coming together to create something so beautiful.
“A Sweet Shabbos”. The picture is taken Jan 14 at a candy store in the shook in Jerusalem.
This photo is Israel through my eyes because I spent just as much time taking in the packaging, food, etc of another country as I did the special places we saw everyday. For me, it was interesting to see how something as simple as candy is different in Israel compared to the United States. On my way out, the clerk at this candy store told me to have a good Shabbos. This didn’t seem unusual at the time, but after I thinking about it later, I realized how special it was that I was in the only place in the world where saying that to customers on a Friday afternoon is common.
This picture was taken atop Mt. Masada. Climbing Masada at sunrise was one of the most significant, empowering experiences in Israel for me. The emotions, thoughts, and feelings that were permeating our group was an incredible thing to witness. This picture captures the sun’s rays literally touching the Israeli flag. For me, this is symbolic of a brighter future for Israel and all Jews. Furthermore, it is a message from G-d that he is watching out for us at all times.
Here is my photo! Miss you guys and hope to see you soon!
This is a picture of an orthodox right before sabbath. You can see the old Jerusalem wall, but he is also on his cell phone. I think it is the perfect description of my trip. A combination of modern and ancient customs in the most holy place on earth.
“Israel Through My Eyes, Literally” – Picture was taken on top of Masada
This picture is Israel through my eyes because I think it shows one of the deep meanings of Israel that can be taken away from my birthright experience. I discovered that Israel is a place that brings together different people from all over the world, who belong to different races and religions. To each person, Israel has its own meaning and that is what makes it such an unbelievable place. This picture of the sunset on Masada, through my sunglasses, with the Israeli flag to the right, can be a symbol that Israel through one person’s eyes may mean one thing, and something completely different to someone else, but it is beautiful nonetheless.
This picture, if you couldn’t already tell from the background, was taken on the very first day of our trip. The reason I chose this picture is it represents something that I believe is unique to Israel and Judaism, their ability to bring people together. I was really nervous when I got to the airport. I am shy by nature (although I’m really good at pretending not to be) and didn’t know anyone on the trip before hand. I was legitimately worried that I would have a hard time meeting people and making new friends. The whole situation was very overwhelming for me. Then I met Matthew, Daniel, and Justin. I really believe that the roots of our friendship are grounded in the soil of Israel and Judaism. I had been on campus with the three of them for a year and a half and never met them. Despite this, after barely an hour in the Holy Land I had three friends that I plan to remain close with for the rest of my life. That is what Israel represents to me. It represents the power that Judaism has to build bonds between people based on one, undeniable fact, we are Jewish.
“Israel Stands Proud: Silhouette of Danny being “Israel” in a cave of Nahal Jilaboun”
Nahal Jilaboun Canyon, Day 4 – This photo captures Israel through my eyes because it shows the accomplishment of making it to the cave after a difficult (but very enjoyable) hike, a beautiful view of the country of Israel, and our groups tendency to laugh at Yair’s silliness such as making Danny into the map of Israel.
“Israel: Ancient History and Fresh Growth’, Jerusalem, 1/14/2011
As we explored Israel on the trip, we experienced both ancient history while witnessing fresh growth. In the background, the Old City of Jerusalem, accentuated by the Dome of the Rock. In the foreground, young trees and flowers. From centuries old religious conflict to the young state of Israel; from the death at Yad Vashem to the young blossoms on each memorial grave at Mount Herzl; from the ruins on Massada to the electric cars at Better Place; all exemplify Israel as an ancient, yet simultaneously growing and flourishing new region.
“Tzfat Steps”, I took it when we got off of the bus in Tzfat. I think Yair said the steps were the divide between the Israel/Palestinian sides in Tzfat. I could be completely wrong about that but I think its cool and I like how the sky looks with the buildings and the power lines.
The name of the picture is “Startling Israel” because I felt the whole trip was “startling” (amazing!). The country of Israel was startling in the sense that I was shocked to discover how different one small country could be in different places yet it is so easy to drive from one place to the other. For example, the bedouin tent was completely different than Tel Aviv but they were not very far from each other. I was also shocked to hear most people in Israel are not religious and being Jewish is more of a cultural thing which made me feel as though I could connect with the country more. Finally, the whole trip and experience was simply amazing every time I think about it I am startled. The picture was taken in Tel Aviv on the boardwalk which was my favorite place we went on the trip and the beauty of it startled me just as Israel did.
“Overlooking the Mediterranean”, Stela Maris lookout, Tuesday, January 11, First day.
This picture means a lot to me because it was one of the first sights I saw and the first time I saw the Mediterranean sea. It was really a serious time in my life where I took all of Israel in. I knew after this picture that from the very start that my experience would be one of a kind and it was a great foreshadow of what was to come ahead.
“Visiting a Fallen Soldier”, this was taken at Har Herzl National Cemetary on Sunday, January 16, 2011.
This is a picture of Brian lighting a candle in memorial of Michael Levin at his grave site. It’s hard for me to describe why this picture has so much meaning to me, but the fact that we as Americans were in Israel, our homeland, visiting the grave site of an American who served and died for Israel put everything into perspective for me. It was at that moment that I felt more connected than ever to Israel.
“Rabin Square” – In the struggle for peace, Yitzhak Rabin was senselessly murdered. I will never forget visiting Rabin Square. To me, Israel represents the struggle to overcome adversity, and Rabin Square symbolizes that struggle because it was where one man’s pursuit of peace was ended by another’s act of violence. Yet, we still strive for a day when the land-mines in the Golan can be removed, when walls can be taken down, and when people from different faiths can pray side-by-side. We must never forget those who died in the struggle for peace. If not for them, Israel and Birthright would not exist. Now, it is our turn to overcome hatred and pass on the land of Israel to future generations, regardless of their faith. Just as the memorial for Yitzhak Rabin tells his story in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, Yitzhak Rabin died for Jews, Muslims, and all people who want to live together in peace.