This is the ninth post in a series discussing love of Israel. Thank you Jamie Rodny!
When was the first and last time you visited Israel?
In 1999, when I was 16 years old, I went to Israel for a 2 month long trip with 118 Jewish teenagers from all over the Bay Area in Northern California. It was amazing and truly a pivotal experience in my life. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to go back even though I really want to experience the beauties of Israel again.
What is your most memorable moment from the trip?
The most memorable moment from this trip was being broadcast live to California from the top of Masada as the sun began to rise over the horizon. I, along with a few other excited teenagers, were offered the opportunity to tell our stories and experiences to our family and friends in the Bay Area. I was so overcome with gratitude and emotion in the moment of retelling my incredible adventure to my parents, little brother, and grandparents that I began crying while having the biggest smile on my face. My mother later told me that my tears of joy made everyone in the room at Cal State East Bay cry and laugh simultaneously. She said that in that moment, she realized that she had been wrong to argue with me about allowing me to go on the trip (she was scared for my safety). She could tell that the journey shaped my soul and was grateful that I won the fight, for once. Climbing the zig-zagging snake path up Masada before sunrise was a thrill. Walking along the same dirt paths as Jews did thousands of years ago made me feel connected to history. And being broadcast to tell my tale across the globe to my family was truly a gift. It was just a very magical experience in the holiest place on earth.
What is the best food you had in Israel?
The best food I had in Israel included the amazing chicken shwarma wraps and falafel in pita that we got from the street vendors. I absolutely fell in love with the Israeli chopped salad. And every chance we got, we ran to the ice cream truck or market to buy Magnum ice cream bars, which are the best ice cream bars EVER. I still crave that sweet tea that we were served by the amazing Bedouin people in the Negev.
Favorite place to visit?
I can’t just pick one place. My favorite places that we visited are Eilat, Jerusalem, Masada, the Dead Sea, and the Sea of Galilee.
Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?
Jerusalem. The incredible historic and religious landmarks outshine the nightclubs and restaurants of Tel Aviv. I also LOVED walking along the walls of Jerusalem. The Western Wall is also a very strong, magnetic place that causes one to have a real spiritual experience if they let themselves go there.
How would you connect Jewish youth here in Israel with the US?
Jewish youth should go on the same type of trip I went on for a relatively long period of time so that they truly learn and understand what Israel is all about. Israel is an experience. There is no other real way to connect people with a place. They must experience it for themselves. The week long birth right trips are nice, but I do not believe them to be THAT impactful. Going for a full summer to Israel with a big group of kids from your community is a very enriching experience. Thus, if Jewish youth can continue to go on summer long journeys that take them to every meaningful place in Israel, that is the way to connect them to Israel. The connection will remain in their hearts and souls forever and they will become advocates and defenders of Israel forever. I speak from experience.
Jamie Rodny earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Legal Studies, Theater, and Honors in Humanities with a Magna Cum Laude from the University of San Francisco. Subsequently, she earned her law degree from the University of California, Davis, School of Law. After graduating from law school, Jamie began her career as a Federal Investigator at the United States Department of Housing & Urban Development, where she enforces federal civil rights laws in housing and lending. Jamie is also a professional photographer, pianist, and singer.