Most would argue that a couple thousand miles is a large enough gap to keep distance between people. Ten days and two groups of
complete strangers put this notion to shame.
For weeks, a group of nine of American teenagers anticipated the arrival of 10 Israeli students, who came ready to teach us more than we were prepared to learn.
From day one, I knew that this experience would be unlike any other, given the instant connection that I felt with each and every student that entered my life that day.
Immediately, Tal -- the student that stayed in my house -- and I began comparing Israeli life to American life as a teen, in addition to life as a citizen in each of our respective countries. At times we found the discovery of our investigation to be shocking, and at times we found it to be extremely predictable.
Personally, I was amazed at all the similarities between our two cultures, but I was even more intrigued by the differences that made our everyday lives distinct from one another.
Insignificant topics arose, such as when certain meals are eaten. I found, however, that we had the most meaningful conversations when we were discussing topics that heavily affected our lives.
Tal and I exchanged words many times about her feelings on entering the army in the near future. What amazed me most about her attitude toward this was her pride and excitement about serving her country. All they could talk about was what unit they would be put into and what kinds of duties they would have the privilege to carry out.
At every chance, I reminded my new companions of how brave I thought each and everyone of them were. Granted, they are required to serve in the Israeli army, but never in the 10 days that they were here did I hear an utterance of complaint about their responsibility.
I couldn't help but think how much better off my own country would be if everyone had as much courage and as much pride as these 17- and 18-year-old students.
During this 10-day exploration, I obviously learned about Israeli life and the differences and similarities between life there and life here. Although this experience greatly affected my perspective, the relationships that I gained are the things that I hold dearest to my heart.
I would have never in my wildest dreams thought that I could connect with people from a country so different and far from my own. As it turns out, I was completely wrong.
Each showed me how to love life, how to appreciate waking up in my world every day and most importantly, how to be a friend. Their appreciation of something as common as a sunset or as rare as the friendships that we formed has forever changed the way that I look at my life. Not a day goes by that I am not reminded of these one-time strangers that I am proud to call my friends.
A true friend is hard to come by. It is a true gift and a blessing if a person can find just one in a lifetime. In my case, I have been blessed 10 times over with 10 precious gifts that live almost a world away.