Simon Family Passport to Israel recipient experiences some of “the best days” of her life

by | Oct 12, 2022 | Trending News

In the summer of 2020, my family had to cancel a trip to Israel due to the pandemic. I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to experience Israel with my family, but I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to go with my second family, Capital Camps.

I have attended Capital Camps for nine years and the people I’ve met are some of my best friends. This summer I was a part of a Capital Camps leadership program that took place in Israel. It was such an incredible opportunity to create even deeper connections with these friends, as well as a stronger understanding of such a special country.

Our time in Israel lasted 21 days and they were some of the best days of my life. We started in Jerusalem, one of my favorite parts of the country. Walking the same streets in the Old City as our ancestors felt unreal. Before leaving for my trip, many people said that in Israel you feel a special connection to the country. Until I went, I truly didn’t understand. As I spent time in the Old City, as well as so many other places throughout Israel, I felt a unique sense of belonging that I had never experienced before.

We spent the next weeks visiting every corner of the country. Of course we hit the highlights—hiked in the Golan, climbed Masada, floated in the Dead Sea, and prayed at the Western Wall. But we also felt part of a worldwide community, learned about the political complexities of the region, and experienced the art and music of the many groups that make up Israel. Not to mention we had so much fun and ate so much falafel!

The Shabbats in Israel were some of the most inspiring moments we had together. We spent one Shabbat at the Kotel, the Western Wall, where I was able to see the mass of people gathered to pray. When I was there, I felt closer to my Judaism. I was praying at the same place that Jews from around the world have prayed and gathered for thousands of years.

Leaving Israel was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I am so thankful that I was able to have this experience with this group of people. And as I got onto the plane, the only thing that I could think about was that I would return someday soon.

Leila Abrams, a Simon Family Passport to Israel grant recipient, is a sophomore in Princess Anne High School’s IB program. 

For information about the Simon Family Passport to Israel program at Tidewater Jewish Foundation, contact Ann Swindell at or 757-965-6106 or go to Applications are open through November 15.

Leila Abrams