My trip to Kiryat Gat

melinda kiryat gat image
Pictured is the author, Melinda (center) with her two Kiryat Gat pen pals, Karina (left) and Michal (right).

Hi, I’m Melinda Berman. I am 12 years old, and I live in Flossmoor. This past summer I wentto Israel for the first time. One of the highlights of my trip was going to Kiryat Gat-Lachisch-Shafir, our P2G (Partnership 2Gether-formely P2K) Region. I learned about Kiryat Gat during Sunday school in the third grade at Temple Anshe Sholom in Olympia Fields. Our teacher (who is my mom) worked with the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago (JUF/JF) to get us pen pals from Kiryat Gat. We traded letters and pictures and holiday goodies with our pen pals and got to learn about Kiryat Gat.

So when I went to Israel for the first time, I knew I wanted to go see Kiryat Gat and all of the things I had learned and read about. Our first stop in Kiryat Gat was to the Shoshana Absorption—that’s where a lot of new Israelis from Ethiopia go to get used to Israel before they move into their own homes. While we were at the absorption center doing a cool recycling art project with some of the kids who just came from Ethiopia, I got a big surprise.

JUF/JF was able to find two of my pen pals, Karina and Michal. When I first met them, I was a little shy, but then I found out they were just like me. In fact, after a few minutes, they asked me if I wanted to go to the mall with them. I couldn’t because we were going to Ivtzan, which is a place for kids to go after school and have a safe place. So, instead, Karina and Michal came with us. We just started playing with everyone—the three of us jumped rope together and my brother, Louie, played soccer and ping pong. Then we had to say goodbye. Hopefully we will see each other again soon.

Another place that we went to that was meaningful for me was the Western Wall (Kotel) and the tunnels that run underneath. We went the first night we were there and it was really cool. When we got out of the tunnels, there was an awesome total lunar eclipse. This was really meaningful to me because I felt connected to all of the Jews who have prayed there for thousands of years. I was a little sad to think that for so long Jews could not pray there.

Finally, one other place that meant a lot to me was Petach Tikvah, which is a fast growing suburb outside of Tel Aviv. But that’s not why it is important to me. It is important because my mom’s family was one of the founding families. They even gave David ben Gurion his first job in Israel—picking oranges in their grove. While in Petach Tikvah, we went to a cemetery where some of my family is buried. I felt really connected to Israel and my family there and our guide, Ari. His family was one of the other founding families and his grandfather was buried right next to my great-great grandfather.

Israel is so cool. I can’t wait to go back. 

Melinda Berman, age 12, is in the seventh grade at Parker Junior High School in Flossmoor. 

Connect with us

Sign up for our weekly newsletter featuring issues and events in the Jewish world.