Akiva is a two-week Jewish learning program for 18-30 years old young adults. It is a trip filled with tons of fun, laughter, life-long friendships, and Jewish learning. About two months ago, I went on an Akiva trip in Israel. I had no idea what I got myself into when I stepped on the plane with forty people I didn’t know. I had no idea that I would keep smiling despite all my health issues. I was on the trip for a second chance to explore Israel. The last time I was in Israel I left on bad terms.

Akiva was an unique experience that I will never forget. I grew as a shy, small introvert into someone who made friendships that will last a lifetime. I learned how to love myself as a human being, learned how Judaism related to life, and how to be a part of a group. In addition, I had debilitating migraines on the trip and they saw that there was nothing wrong with me. I was not treated as if it was another headache instead my whole Akiva fam Jam cared about me. They took care of me. We were one happy family.

Akiva made me really realize that Israel is truly my home. Israel is the place where I woke up finding my own blue and white home. Israel is the place where I can cry gold tears, laugh my heart out, dance to the beat of gold drums, and sing like no one is listening. It is the place where I find myself wanting to go back every second that I live in America. It is the place where I fall in love with the blue ocean waves that never flowing, with Hebrew letters written on ancient gold stones, where I fall in love with my silver hamza. It is the place where I feel like I can be myself.

-Madeleine Tasini, Participant of Akiva May Trip 2018.