To the left, we have the human map of Israel. Moi. Day one of my trip and I was already volunteering and up to my usual antics. However that was the only thing that remained usual in those 10 days I spent across the globe.
Whether it was because I had done little research on the country’s aesthetics due to my lack of interest in visiting or my love of stereotypes, I had absolutely no idea I would find myself in such a wonderful and heavenly place. I also had no idea that when people warned me about the intense heat during the summer there that it would be an understatement. I mean wow. Holy hotness. As silly as it sounds, I was expecting more of an Amish way of life rather than the modern country that I fell in love with. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses right away though. Because of the overly cautious person that I am, I was alarmed every time I heard a sound or saw a lone bag that I immediately decided was a bomb. Again, silly. Especially in a place that’s even more cautious than I am and with good reason. Due to everything that has happened in that teeny, New Jersey-sized sliver of a state, they have visibly armed guards with tour groups, and security at most public areas. Of course you can’t prevent everything, but you can sure as hell try. And they are. This, however takes some time getting used to and once you are, you come to realize you are actually safer there than you are running around in the US where threats are less assuming. This wasn’t always the case in Israel, but after several history lessons, group discussions and the bazillion questions I asked our guides and Israeli peers that were traveling with us, I began to relax and not freak out as much when I heard something or saw someone that I deemed suspicious. Who knows, maybe I looked suspicious to them! I’m sure I whipped up a few unreconizable facial expressions every now and then.
All safety issues aside, the overall feeling in Israel is that of the utmost spirituality. I get it. It is the holiest place on Earth and draws you in like a magnet. The air is crisp, sky is blue, palm trees green, the buildings beige and almost sparkle. You can’t avoid being moved and overcome with thoughts and feelings and perspective when you’re there. The structures and architecture, history, and passion that seep from every corner and conversation could easily bring a normally reserved and un-phased person to tears.
This brings us to propaganda. Nothing upsets me more than people, Jewish like myself, saying that the Birthright trip is a bunch of Israeli propaganda and brain-washing. Propaganda shmopaganda. Um, if about 50,000 foreigners were flown to the US every few months to learn and see what all the hoopla was about, wouldn’t we proudly tell them what they came to hear? Do we not as people instantly defend or promote what we are and know? And in most cases, aren’t we all a bit of a patriot when talking about where we are from? I can’t imagine why any young Jewish person wouldn’t take the opportunity to go to Israel for free if they had the chance. Why turn down the chance of a lifetime? Literally. I never thought of paying for myself to go there over let’s say, Italy, but now having been, I’d vacation there or go to bring me back down to Earth when life takes over. I’ve never felt so much and reflected as much as I did when I was laying under the stars in the Negev Desert. I don’t even know the last time I saw, or if I’ve ever seen a shooting star in LA or stopped to look for them. Now that’s just sad.
Hopefully I will keep my promise to myself and remember and incorporate everything I experienced in Israel so that it becomes second nature. If nothing else, that I am just a tiny speck in the larger scheme and at the end of the day very few of the things we worry most about are actually important.