Blog  Awareness in the Holy Land: Reflections from Heller High

Awareness in the Holy Land: Reflections from Heller High

by Shaina Morrel, former camper and current Heller High student. This blog is an excerpt from Shaina’s personal blog, “Shay in Israel.” Click the link to read more about her adventures and reflections!

“Life isn’t about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself”

The Heller High experience has made me so much more aware of myself and what I find important in life. This I label as holiness. Now you may be wondering why I call this holiness, because generally that is a sacred, religious term. However I have found that holiness to me is more of a personal thing, a oneness with myself and with my surroundings. Holiness is being self aware, self reflective, and at peace. To notice things that you wouldn’t normally. I have found holiness here in so many different places. I found it at Masada, just taking in the experience for all it was and just being so awe struck. I looked out and was just so appreciative for my body’s ability to let me climb, my eyes’ ability to let me see, and just the overall opportunity to be there. I found holiness at the Dead Sea being at this place that I have dreamed about going to for my whole life, and having it be an actual miracle that I was floating… in the Dead Sea… in ISRAEL! It was so much to take in and as I looked around at all my best friends I was so happy to experience this with them. I found holiness at Nachal Arugot, where even though I was walking alone at times, I did not care because it gave me time to take everything in for what it was and reflect. I didn’t need pictures to remember this, because it was all in my eyes, my mental picture, and personally I find that so much more meaningful. Holiness for me generally comes in natural things; whether this be nature itself and all the wonders it has to offer or just the natural human body and connections that allow me to be who I am and to feel and connect with my peers. I find holiness when I feel pure, genuine happiness, in myself, and in my loved ones.

Being in Israel has definitely been an eye opening experience for me and what I see looking to my future. I find culture and religion so interesting. I love learning about the differences and similarities and am genuinely so intrigued. And because of this I am almost positive that in college I want to study some type of international relations, communications, marketing, or anything along these lines. As I have experienced here, there is such a beauty in the mixture of cultures and religions living in peaceful coexistence. Some of you may be very confused by this statement, because yes I am in the Middle East, where the most conflict about these things takes place. However, media and news falsely display so much of this, and you do not truly understand it until you live it. In one week here I am visiting the holiest church as I learn about Christianity, then going to a mosque learning about Islam, then attending Shabbat services at a temple synagogue. The diversity has allowed me to really understand other religions and deeper understand my own. And as I enter the Old City I walk through the Muslim quarter, the Jewish quarter, the Christian quarter, and I am in amazement at these drastically different religions living so peacefully with each other. It is fascinating to talk with other people and here their stories and input too. I also love experiencing the different cultures; the food, language, style, and everything else along with that. When I went to the Western Wall, I was standing next to a middle-aged Chinese tourist, a young Jewish girl, and an elderly Muslim woman wearing a head scarf. It was the strangest sensation ever. This is the stuff I want to do in my life. I am in my glory here with the learning and self growth! Things here are just different. We do weekly community service projects, we build an open and supportive community that is so refreshing from my home high school. We care about different kinds of things than normal teenagers, we have deep conversations… it just feels like a false reality with how perfect things are sometimes. I have built the life for myself that I have always craved. One in which I am always my authentic self, in which nobody has said a bad thing about me and I am just all around liked by (as far as I know) every single staff member and fellow student… all just because I am myself and, well, I guess that self if pretty awesome!

Shaina Morrel attended Crane Lake Camp from 2009-2015 and is a proud member of OXV!  She lives in Sterling, Massachusetts. She is 16 years old and a Junior at Wachusett Regional High School, currently studying in Israel on the NFTY Heller High (formerly EIE) program. Read her blog “Shay in Israel” about her Heller High experience!