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Enjoy the following essay by a past participant of Derech Hateva's Israel Trail Teen Adventure (ITTA):
By Shira Eklove, ITTA '07      

This past summer I took part in the experience of a lifetime! This would be my first time in Israel. I was not sure how I wanted to spend my first trip to the Holy Land- but I knew I didn't want just an ordinary bus tour. I wanted to see Israel through different eyes.

I Googled "Interesting Summer Programs" and a large variety of choices turned up. One of the programs was called Derech Hateva's Israel Trail Teen Adventure. It had a slide show of the summer's past program. I clicked on it and I was captivated! Pictures of smiling teenagers hiking, camping, climbing mountains, mountain biking, and riding on camels appealed to me as the way that I wanted to experience Israel.

It took me a while to convince myself that I could do it. My parents and I spoke to the directors of the program-was this a program that normal, non-super-jock teenagers could handle? After much thought, I signed up; excited, but not knowing how rewarding this experience would really turn out to be.

On Derech Hateva we hiked The Israel National Trail, which is a path that starts in the north, by the Hermon, and ends in the Negev, near Eilat. We learned about navigating, how to cook in nature, and how to manage without our ipods and cell phones. We experienced beautiful Shabbats in nature. We rode camels in the desert, and learned how to bake interesting pitas on an open fire. I slept outside under the beautiful stars that one can only see in the clear Israel sky. On the trail, I learned a lot about myself, and how far I could push my limits. I am an active basketball player, skier, and really enjoy physical activity in general. Nevertheless, Derech Hateva pushed me way past limits that I didn't even know I had. When I get tired during basketball, I tell my coach to sit me on the bench until I regain my energy. If I ever get tired while skiing, I can just leave the slopes, and hang out in the chalet and have a hot chocolate. However, on Derech Hateva, the group had to reach a specific point by nightfall. Therefore, there were times when I was walking to reach our camp spot on my last ounce of energy. However hard those times were, I always got through it. We worked together, and helped each other whenever we were having a hard time, or an off day. I even discovered that I had strength to encourage the girls who had a harder time, and help them achieve their personal best. Although those hikes were the most hard and intense, they were always the most rewarding.

One of our hardest but most rewarding hikes occurred late at night. We had spent out whole day climbing up Har Meiron. I was in a bad mood and it was dark outside. When I saw the "final stretch" of that mountain, I thought I wouldn't make it up there alive! It was the steepest hike I can remember, and it felt as though it would never end. I then remember deciding to change my mindset, and think of it not as a mountain standing in my way of a warm camp site, but a mountain that was there for me to conquer. Before I knew it, I was right behind my madricha (leader), who was in the front of the line. It felt incredible to get to the top of the mountain, and I was really proud of myself. It proved to me that I could do anything that I put my mind to. It was really a moving experience.

The Oxford School Dictionary defines an experience as "Something that has happened to you" and "what you learn, from doing or seeing things". An experience is not just the occurrence, or event, but the lessons and values taken from it. One cannot really appreciate an experience until they have come in contact with one.

If that is the case, then for me, Derech Hateva was as much of an "experience," as I possibly could get.

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Last Updated: Thursday, 20-Nov-2008 08:46:34 UTC