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Israel Hitting Home

Meet One of Our Past West Coast Participants

Tandameshia Hastings
Tandameshia Hastings Birthright Israel

Tandameshia Hastings is from Memphis, Tennessee and enjoys learning about the world and the people inhabiting it. As Tandameshia says, "It helps me define who I am as an individual, as well as better understand those who are similar and different from me." It is safe to say, Tandameshia's Birthright Israel trip provided just that! 

Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, who has concerns about going on Birthright , I strongly suggest you go! There are hidden gems to be discovered by all, regardless of what subject matter or activities you fancy. The experience, as well as the journey, is yours to make impressionable upon yourself and others for a lifetime to come.

Traveling to Israel provided me with many insights about the political climate in Israel as well as to how Israel connects to my daily life in more than one respect. 

Here are some of the moments, people and places I will treasure forever:

Israel Hitting Home

When visiting the Kotel (The Western Wall) , I learned that, both, the First Temple and the Second Temple were built on Mt. Moriah. This astounded me because one of the major streets in Memphis, TN, (where I am from) is named Mt. Moriah Road. The history tied to Mt. Moriah, including that of the Dome of the Rock, will always be remembered when I am driving down Mt. Moriah Road. 

Taglit Birthright Israel’s Innovation Center, the Iron Dome, Rock in the Red Zone and The Blacklist

Birthright Israel’s Innovation Center is another place that my group visited that I loved. The technology innovated, in Israel, is astonishing. For me, the Iron Dome, was the most impressive form of technology that I learned about while at the Innovation Center. After I watched Rock in the Red Zone, a documentary of life in Sderot, a city by the border of Gaza that is hugely affected by the rockets from Gaza, it was proven, to me, just how important the Iron Dome is as a defense mechanism for Israel. 

The film really connects with and engages its viewers by telling the story of those in Sderot while introducing the audience to Israeli music. The passion as well as the pain captured in the lyrics of the artists featured in the film illuminate the dreams, fears, hopes and the lack there of, of the people of Sderot. The film also reminded me of the importance of having a well-maintained military, allies and protected borders—all to ensure that the citizens of a nation get to enjoy the fruits of democracy—things that many in the United States take for granted.

On a much lighter but still vital note, the Iron Dome found its way back into my life, in the States, via media entertainment, that is The Blacklist and one of its supporting characters, Samar Navabi–who is a Mossad agent working for the FBI. One of the most recent episodes features an adversary group, the NMB, that wishes to bypass Israel’s Iron Dome. In the end, the NMB is thwarted, which is awesome. However, the most interesting part of this storyline is Navabi’s backstory and how she ended up joining Israel’s intelligence agency.

Samar’s role sheds some light on the complications of not only her position in relation to other characters in the show but also that of politics in the Middle East. From my interest in and fascination with the Iron Dome, I was connected to Israel from home and inspired to research the Mossad. (Hints of Israel can be found in all facets of life. ?)

In addition to that, Israel’s advances in cybersecurity also intrigued me at the Innovation Center. In case you haven’t picked up on it, I am a techie! I love technology. I am also an entrepreneur breaking way in the entertainment industry, which might indicate why part of this blog focused on The Blacklist. 

Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem is another place I enjoyed visiting. The tour guide, Hershey, was the best one could ask for. The history and little known truths about Hitler, his followers and the Holocaust were shared with our group. The amount of detail he communicated to us was overwhelming. The museum, itself, with the wealth of information it grants at edges of one’s fingertips—even without a tour guide—makes sure that one will never forget what happened. 

Twenty-Two-Years-Old and Up!

Spending ten days with fellow Jews, my age, was also a treat. Yet, I learned the most about my peers when we held our Jewish Identity talks. Everyone’s stories were very insightful and enlightening. Our group was and is very vibrant and uniquely cultivated. I’m glad to have been a part of the program with them and I look forward to staying in touch with them over time.

Connecting to Israel

Kim, the Israel Experts Educational Director, gave us insights about the multiple waves of Jewish immigration to Israel, in addition to our tour guide, Ilan’s geopolitical insights and presentation are what really made me feel connected Israel. To really get an in-depth overview of the history of Jews and Arabs in the land of Israel, to understand the position of Israel’s neighbors as well as that of Israel, itself, gave more context to my connection with Israel.

Now, no matter where I am, I am and will forever be, connected to Israel!


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