My journey to the Holy Land

Jacob Byk

I experienced Israel in two distinctly different ways – as a Jew and as a photographer. It lit a fire inside me with the desire to go back, report from there and photograph the lifestyle and the passion, struggles and power of the Israeli spirit.

But it also made me have the craving to be an Israeli, to live and work in Israel instead of just visiting.

The people of Israel have this unimaginable pride for their country that transcends to so many levels it’s impossible to imagine without the experience. It makes one want to believe in something, want to feel and love and want to fight for what they believe in – and that’s exactly what Israelis do every single day.

One of the last days in Israel, we visited Mt. Hertzl Cemetery – the equivalent of Arlington National Cemetery to Americans. The cemetery is set up in sections – and the military section has an order so you can see who most recently died. Many, almost the majority, of them were 18 and 19-year-olds. Some weren’t even Israelis by blood, but by passion and Alliyah (the immigration to Israel). Israel is unlike any place on earth, and I think that everyone, regardless of religious affiliation, should go. For Jews, do Birthright – (the program I went on).

The Israeli Government, prompted by a few very rich and very righteous philanthropists, gives every Jew the chance to visit Israel for ten days, for free. No matter where you live, every Jew can apply and eventually visit their homeland, for practically no cost.

So when I say I want to go back – I want to go back because really, I want to be apart of something larger than myself. Experiencing the country is something I can attempt to describe, but will fail – because it is an experience that is unlike anything you, or until recently I, have ever done. It’s literally making me at a loss for words, in the most positive way possible.

Jacob Byk is a photographer for the Daily Kent Stater.