Written by: Melissa Grosser
In May 2008, I finally took the plunge to travel far and to get in touch with my roots: I went on Birthright! After years of hearing how wonderful the trip was, I made it a point to be a participant on this trip. With one of my best friends and over twenty-five strangers, I flew away from my life in Toronto to embark on a trip of a lifetime.
After ten hours of flying, our group landed in Israel. Although I felt tired, I stepped off the plane and was immediately energized by all of the excitement around me. Having never been to the holy land before, I was even ecstatic walking through the pathways of the Ben Gurion airport.
Once our baggage was collected, my group and I were bussed to our first location of touring. Once the tour finished, my friends and I took some down time to relax, eat some great Israeli ice cream and take in the sights. At this point, my trip leader Dave Goodman was telling me that one of the key ingredients that will make this trip memorable was our group’s charity project in Kiryat Moshe. This community happened to be the focus of Hoops 4 Israel’s charitable plans. As I heard this, I thought “I am here to experience Israel and all of its beauty. It would be great to make a difference and give back to their communities.”
After several days of touring, my group and I arrived in Kiryat Moshe. As our bus stopped, I looked out the window and saw at least two sports courts, a few buildings and tons of Ethiopian Jewish children joyously playing sports and outdoor games.
The afternoon was spent playing basketball and soccer with the children and helping them to make “cheer” packages for the Israeli soldiers. While helping a little boy make a package, I noticed he would draw pictures of soldiers and put little hearts and stars next to them. Although there was a language gap between the two of us, it amazed me how this little boy and the other children would express how grateful they are for the army’s service to Israel.
When the afternoon had ended and our group headed back to the bus, I was sad to leave but was so happy to have spent the time with these children and to see how Hoops 4 Israel has changed the lives of these children.
As a child, I participated in sports and dance because I loved the activity, the social aspect, the involvement and as much as I don’t like to admit it, it introduced me to the concept of discipline and hard work. I couldn’t imagine my childhood without these activities; I am so glad that the children in Kiryat Moshe don’t have to either.
Since returning from my Birthright trip, I have been active in volunteering with Hoops 4 Israel and never intend to stop. Seeing the difference that Hoops has made for this community and for these children is incredible. Although I am a tiny piece of a huge puzzle of volunteers, it warms my heart to bring joy to these children through fun activities such as sports, art and dance classes and other educational programs. After seeing it firsthand, I remembered how much I took my childhood activities for granted and am glad to help provide these children with the same opportunities. The fact that I am helping to make change means a lot.