COVID-19 Can’t Cancel Culture!!

Senior Bayla McCaffrey travels to Israel with group to experience Jewish culture


Once the world started opening back up this summer, people started seizing opportunities to get out of the house and do one thing the nation arguably missed most – travel. For one ELHS senior, she took this thrilling experience to the max.

Senior Bayla McCaffrey and nearly 40 other Jewish teens across the country took this opportunity to visit Israel. They traveled with BBYO Passport, an organization for Jewish teens and families to travel and become more connected to their culture.

“Before the trip, I honestly didn’t think it was going to happen,” McCaffrey said. COVID-19 and dangers in the Middle East were factors to be considered, but she was able to travel safely.

“The drivers aren’t like the United States – they aren’t as nice, so there were a lot more horns honking,” she said. Thankfully, her group used a tour bus to take them around the country. Otherwise, driving and transportation is relatively similar to the US.

The language barrier posed a few difficulties, as the most popular language in Israel is Hebrew.

“All the signs there are in English, Hebrew, and Arabic,” McCaffrey said. “Most everyone knows how to read Hebrew and can say it, but doesn’t know what it means.” English and Hebrew have different characters, but McCaffrey and other teens on the trip had learned the characters in Hebrew/Sunday school. Others grew up with parents who taught them, or learned in school where Hebrew was a language option. She recalls often using Google Translate to communicate or asking counselors to translate. Israeli citizens that happened to know English were also a help.

Perhaps the most impactful part of McCaffrey’s trip was the people she met. No one she traveled with she had met in the past, so it was an entirely new community for her.

“Most of the teens in my group don’t believe in God or the stories in the Bible but still identify as Jewish and celebrate Jewish culture which is really amazing to me,” said McCaffrey. She was able to learn about the different Jewish traditions her counterparts celebrated and how traditional or modern their festivities were.

“Being Jewish in the only Jewish state in the world is always so special,” she said. “Especially when you come from a Jewish minority in your hometown to come to Israel where everyone understands your traditions and is so welcoming to all Jews.”