Logan Murillo is our 2017 Blinkoff Scholarship winner.
A journey I’ll never forget. A life-changing experience. These are only two ways to describe my 5-week trip in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Israel. On this trip I joined a huge collection of other Jewish teens like me to visit historical Jewish sites and experience the culture of these places. Being with so many other Jewish teenagers was so cool because there aren’t many Jewish teens in my area, nevertheless, Jews period. Not only was being with so many American Jews so amazing, but when I arrived In Israel, it was a feeling unlike any other. People told me it would be a truly special feeling being in a country where the majority of people are Jewish. Man, were they more than right! Between being in the small villages and big cities, I had a first-hand view and was a part of this culture. A part of the trip was that 6 Israeli teens would join my group of about 25 kids for a week. They went everywhere with us, ate with us, did everything with us, we even roomed with them. Learning about their views and interests was certainly a highlight of the trip.
Throughout the trip I learned so much Jewish history and visited so many sites. I was fascinated at what I was seeing and learning each day. It was amazing knowing that I was standing where important history happened. Sometimes it was very depressing thinking about how people died where I was, such as Auschwitz. That alone was an emotional experience, but I’m glad I saw it. Jerusalem was one of my favorite places because there was so much to see and learn. One thing I will always remember is when I was walking through the streets of the Old City; I saw a huge group of people celebrating a boy’s Bar Mitzvah on the side of the road, something I’ve never seen before.
It was shocking to see how such a small country could be so diverse. There are so many different landscapes of Israel with many different features and things to offer. I saw dozens of breath-taking views. Hiking and camping out in the Negev Desert was one of my favorite parts of the trip and changed me for the better. I am not much of a camper. I don’t camp much. But in the Negev desert, we had no electricity, no phone service, slept in sleeping bags on the hard rocks, and barely could see. But I loved every second of it. It was so amazing sleeping under the stars while the cool breeze went by, lying down next to all my friends. I climbed Mt. Shlomo, which, if you don’t know, is a huge mountain in the Negev with a view of 4 countries. Waking up incredibly early for a few days and preparing meals with each other, was such a unifying and unique experience. Swimming in the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, and Dead Sea were all so nice. Swimming, or should I say floating, in the Dead Sea was something unlike any other.
None of this once-in-a-lifetime trip would have been remotely possible if it weren’t for the Jewish Federation and the Blinkoff Family. I will be forever grateful. My appreciation goes out to everyone who helped make this trip possible for me and helped me get on it. It was a dream come true and an experience I’ll never forget.
Logan is 16 years old and in the 11th grade at Newburgh Free Academy. Logan's family is affiliated with Temple Beth Jacob and Congregation Agudas Israel in the City of Newburgh, as well as Chabad of Eastern Orange County in New Windsor.He is active in his Jewish community. Logan lives in New Windsor, NY with his 12-year-old brother and mom and dad.