In the end it’s all about connection, in Israel and Cleveland, an icnext reflection by Zachary Nosanchuk

I didn’t expect this. I didn’t expect that each person on the icnext Israel trip would become a new friend and that we would find common interests that would bond us together. I didn’t expect that I would develop new views on Israel advocacy, that this trip would teach me things truly aren’t as they seem, and that I would change my views on the current conflict as a result of what happened within these 10 days.

I didn’t expect that I would eat delicious new flavors, while learning about Israeli teen and family society. I didn’t expect that I would come back from this trip wanting even more. But I do.

This trip made our separate group into a cohesive whole that learns, educates, and leads together. I remember one particular moment in the trip. I was taking a bite of delicious freshly fried falafel in Sderot, smothered with tahini sauce, fries – or chips as Israelis call them – and spicy Harif. Others around me wanted to try. Without hesitation, I gave them my sandwich, and we passed it around, everyone eating some. In that moment, we were all together, trying this essential piece of Israeli food. We were one. Even those of us who had entirely opposing views, some left and some right, had found a way to connect.

In the end, that’s what it’s all about, right? If we form positive memories that we connect to Israel, we connect with others and tell them about it, and this forms a positive and bright view of Israel and Judaism that we will hold onto throughout our adulthood. With that, it all makes sense. The sometimes-frustrating seminars…the crazy logistics…it’s all about connection.

That’s what makes icnext amazing.

We were each so different. Some of us religious, some secular. Some of us love USY, while others love NFTY or BBYO. Some of us lean politically right when it comes to Israel, while others are more left . Yet, with the special odd magic created by icnext and, inherently, Israel, we can become one. And that really is what Israel is…an assembly, a connection of Jews, different but the same, ready to face the world.

icnext doesn’t create a Cohort. It creates an Israel within itself.