By C.S. This year, four teens from Lakewood joined Chai Lifeline’s Wish at the Wall. All those whom participated, returned inspired and rejuvenated with a renewed vigor. As Tzvi from Lakewood so eloquently summed the trip up, “Wish at the Wall is not just a trip to Israel but an adventure that helps you overcome barriers in your life.”
Below is as expert from Wish at the Wall director, Rabbi Shlomo Crandall:
It’s hard to believe the days have passed. It was only 11 days ago that we all met in JFK. Between teens, parents, our medical team and staff, we were 35 strangers. And now 11 days later as we gather in Ben Gurion airport, and are returning as Mishpacha, a family. I am certain that anyone who did not share in our journey will have a very difficult, if not impossible time understanding that sentence, and will explain my words as rabbinic exaggeration. But, you all know the truth.
It was you who said last night as Shabbos ended. “I left the states with 6 siblings and I’m returning with so many more”. How does it happen?
We were strangers and we did the impossible. We rode camels. We climbed Masada. We floated on the waters of the Dead Sea. We met with wounded soldiers of the IDF, and even played basketball with them. We went to the Kotel, crying and singing, sometimes simultaneously. We went off the main road into the hills of the Gallilee and rode jeeps in the most astonishing and gorgeous views. We visited Tzfat, Meron and Tevarya. We received blessing from great Rabbinic leaders, sometimes it was planned by us, and sometimes it was planned by the Almighty, as we found ourselves in the right place at the right time. Roles were reversed as we were guided by the blind in darkness. We learned we all need each other. We come from very different backgrounds. We go to different schools. To the eye, we don’t look like we belong together and we certainly are not your typical tourist group. Some of us can’t walk on our own. Others of us shorter than peers our age. We all have our medical and physical challenges. We all have spent a lot of time in the hospital with our parents at our side.
And 11 days ago, we were strangers. Chai Lifeline and the Hartman Family Foundation Wish at the Wall program brought strangers together, and turned us into a Mishpacha. It’s hard to say how it happened. Is it being in Israel or just being with each other? Hard to know. But one thing I can tell you – it happened. We are returning to JFK as different people than we were when we left.
With all that, I often wonder: What was the point of it all? What do we have to show for it? Yes, we all took pictures and videos and the sweatshirts are really cool. We also have some great memories and we made some new friends and feel like family. Yes, we also learned we can do things we thought were impossible. It is true that we also didn’t allow illness to define us, and we smiled more than we have in a long time.
Now that we are all going back to our homes with all our problems and challenges, I ask you what was the point of it all?
I believe the answer to that question has little to do with the pictures or memories. Pictures we will lose and details of the trip will fade. To me the single greatest benefit of Wish at the Wall is that we became different people. We broke barriers! We will never be the same as we were before.
That is the power of this most epic trip.
Yes, we are returning to the life we left behind in the USA and Canada, so please remember – There is no going back to who we were. We made the trip. We are different people.
Hold the memories and smile as you sing Wish at the Wall, Yerushalayim!