I’ve never seen the Milky Way with my own eyes before. It doesn’t look quite like the pictures, the reality being more blurred than I imagined. For a moment, we’re all quiet. The cool breeze brushes our skin as we gaze up at the sky. Other than the occasional shuffling of feet, we listen intently to the silence of the desert.

On our Shabbaton in the Negev, we had the chance to experience the vast beauty of the desert and the night sky. Looking up at the inky night sky, something centuries of people have done before us, is a wonder many in the modern world don’t experience every day.

When we look up at the vast void that is the sky, we see stars. In comparison, the dark emptiness is much larger and still, we see stars. Why is it, then, that it is easy to focus on the bits of darkness in our life instead of all the light?

Standing there and peering upward, the sky gently reminds me to notice and appreciate the brightness in my life. Suddenly, I feel inconsequentially small. And in that moment, I consider how ridiculous it seems to live my life according to a prescribed norm, rushing through the steps of life as if I was competing in a competition of my own imagination. The world is so large, and I want to experience as much of it as I can; I will carry with me the memory of the vast desert as a reminder of just how much I have left to see.

Negev by Romi Manela 2
(Photo: Romi Manela)

Romi Manela, Northeastern University ’24, is a health sciences major interning at the Haifa Women’s Center through the Boston Onward Israel program. 125 students from schools across Massachusetts have professional internships in their fields of interest in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa this summer. Visit onwardboston.com for more info.

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