Our community is blessed with youth who are passionate about Eretz Yisroel and can articulate their connection and appreciation clearly. As a result, each entry in the first annual Libi BaMizrach essay contest was emotional, creative and well-thought out, making it difficult to select just one top essay in each age category.  Thank you to everyone who took the time to submit your outstanding work! A special Mazal tov to Tova Rachel Paige in the middle school category and Rivka Benyowitz in the high school category! Their essays were selected by a panel of judges and the winners will each be receiving a free ticket to Israel for their exceptional essays. 

Middle School winner:
My Heart is in the East and I am at the End of the West.
By: Tova Rachel Paige
Grade 8, Bais Yaakov

She is paved with marble and built with stone.  Her old, aching body is waiting for us - up and down her hilly terrain, in and out of caves. Sun and rain seep through her - down they go into her soil, nourishing her nation’s roots that run deep beneath her.  Her history speaks from the ground.  She is rich with heritage.

From her mountain peaks, to her glittering waters, to her desert sands, she is gorgeous.  From her fruitful terrain, through her many cities, blessing is felt everywhere. And from her hallowed grave-sites, to her most treasured city, her holiness is sensed emanating from her most sacred of places.

Meanwhile, she is surrounded with evil and hate and has seen many wars.  She is not like any other country and her nation is not like any other – her nation never fit in because they were born to stand out.  And, although she is small for her meaning, much might and bravery course through her veins. No matter how much blood and sweat have been shed – she perseveres. 

She carries the legacy of thousands of people, people all over the world, people of her nation. Every Jew has something in common: their yearning for salvation.  And then, as prayers rise, her surroundings crumble as redemption vibrates through her.  Her nation, one of great strength, has survived through it all.  Blasts echoing; festive banners wave; her heart skips a beat - her nation has arrived. The Western Wall will no longer weep, and her nation will no longer wander - the Father’s promise has been fulfilled.  The Jewish people have come home - this time to stay.

High school winner:
By: Rivka Benyowitz
High school, Bais Yaakov

Libi Bamizrach Va’ani B’sof HaMaarav

I am working in a camp for four and five year old girls this summer. Every day,
the girls form a circle to daven. They sing the basics of davening including Modeh Ani, Shemah and Ani Maamin. 

One morning, as the girls were singing Ani Maamin, I was struck by their sincerity and simple, complete faith as they sang, “…and I believe that
Moshiach is coming, even though it may take so long.…” They believe what every Jew should believe with complete faith- Hashem will take us out of Galus, He loves us and He will bring us back to Eretz Yisroel, “because that’s where we belong!” 

As I watch the girls singing, I feel a deep yearning to be in Eretz Yisroel once more, and I start to reminisce.

It is March 2018. I am in Eretz Yisroel for my brother’s wedding. I take the
number three bus to the Kotel, arrive and go through security. Long lines of people from all walks of life come together. Some come to see it, some to touch it, and some to connect to the Creator of the world. I enter the Kotel plaza, and then I see it in all its glory- the Kotel Hamaaravi, the Wailing Wall. I lift my head and gaze at the stones. One on top of the other, row upon row, creating a wall that reaches into the sky-the wall that surrounds the Har Habayis. I walk up to the Kotel and start to daven. I feel close to Hashem. I concentrate on the words. After I finish, I join the line for the tunnel tours. I want to get close to the Kodesh Kodashim, the place where some say the Aron HaBris still is today. I feel privileged to be a Jew. I have a loving Father who listens to what I have to say and does what is best for me. 

I think about what it would have been like to live in the times of the Bais Hamikdash. Imagine the Kedushah, the connection to the Ribono Shel Olam. Imagine watching the Kohanim bringing Karbanos and smelling the
heavenly aroma of the Mincha offerings. Imagine the hearing the Leviim singing praise to Hashem from the steps of the Heichal. Please Hashem, bring the Bais Hamikdash back! Build up Yerushalayim once more!

As I come back to the present, I realize that unfortunately we are still in exile, and our connection and awareness of our Creator is lacking. I continue with my mundane routine, while my thoughts are in a different place. While I am in America, my heart longs for Eretz Yisroel. I trust that Hashem will end this long and painful exile and bring us back into His embrace once more because, “…I believe that Moshiach is coming, even though it may take so long, to bring us back to Eretz Yisroel because that’s where we belong!”