Today I can’t help but think about fire. It is a beautiful and powerful resource when maintained and manageable, yet, it can also become something uncontrollable and dangerous. Fire is my favorite element. I like how all it takes is one simple spark and that can turn into a flame and that flame can burn for as long as you allow it. Someone once told me that based on my ideas and beliefs about fire that is how I feel about G-d. When looking at fire in relation to G-d is makes sense. If you allow G-d in your life, you’ve initiated the spark and then praying and living your life in a way that brings glory to G-d is letting the flame burn infinitely.
Today I also cannot help but think about israel and us jewish people and how fire relates to us. With the terror events which have struck Israel and left all of us Jews in a state of shock and sadness. Or at least that’s how I feel. Ever since arriving in Israel during my birthright trip last year, anytime something goes awry in Israel it’s like a piece of me gets inflicted. My love for Israel is something that most of my friends and family don’t understand. I can’t explain it however I will try. It’s like when our plane to Tel Aviv touched down, we clapped. When we got to Cesearia and saw the most beautiful sunset, it felt natural. With the palm trees all around and even running into acquaintances from my home town in the middle of Ben Yehuda street. There is something unique and different about Israel. It felt like home and yet I had never been there before. It felt natural. I didn’t have to prove who I was or what I believed. I was just me. I was Jewish and so were most of the other people. It was so beautiful! It was not perfect and I was even sick half of the time I was on my trip, but the reflective time I had on the bus rides, the adrenaline I got from the extreme hike down Mt. Arbol and even when I went ziplining across two mountains, and the connected, power and fire I felt burning inside me when we reached Jerusalem and specially when I went to the Kotel on Shabbat for the first time in my life. There were tears in my eyes when the plane left. How could I be leaving the Holy Land? I was going back into Exile. Why? I don’t know. I guess I’ve been searching for that answer for quite sometime. Regardless even when I got back to America, as I exited the plane I talked to this young Israeli man who had just finished his service in the army. We periodically still keep in touch. To me this is Israel. This if the Jewish nation, culture and religion.
My birthright trip to Israel was everything and more than what I expected. It also seems like Israel to me is the answer to a question I never asked because I never even knew I had. I am so grateful for Israel, to be Jewish and for the fire burning within me.
There’s a burning fire in each of us. Some strike the match for good, others for evil. Your life. You choose.
I actually went back through and felt like I had to add this song as I started to recall the lyrics as I said my prayer before falling asleep. “Aish talmid eternity, fire burns continuously…wondering where you been won’t you come on home to me”
Today I am grateful for hard decisions. I like to believe that some decisions are hard in order to make the results worth that much more. I am reminded of the book Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris which I had to read my freshmen year of college. This book along with an answer to my prayer seemed to encourage me to step out of my comfort zone and take the higher math class when I was presented with the opportunity (despite all my past math struggles). Or about my decision to go on birthright last year and then to make the decision to extend and stay longer. These are just two examples of decisions I had to make and that I felt pulled to make. I battled with what to do for a good chunk of time until I was remembered that I would much rather try and fail thousands of times than sit back watch and always wonder if I could have succeeded. All that being said, hard decisions are frustrating and difficult or different than what I am used to. But for me, the hard decisions often have simple answers at the right time and are driven by faith and the compass of my heart and soul. Hard decisions have led to some of the biggest opportunities that I’ve been blessed to experienced. Let’s go out and do hard things (and answer our hard decisions).
Its hard to describe the feelings of night 6. The trip was well on its way and then Shabbat came along and for once, I didn’t feel like the only one in the world who decided to stop what they were doing and embrace the light of Shabbat. We arrived early and walked briefly through the old city right into the heart of it all. To usher in the Sabbath we went to a local soup kitchen that had hot matza ball soup ready for guests. However we were there to light candles. One by one each of us when up and lit a candle and then together we all said the prayer. As if the whole world froze and time stood still, Shabbat came in. When I opened my eyes a new excitement and overwhelming feeling fell over me. I almost started crying with how beautiful of a moment it was. We then walked down to THE Wall!!! It was huge and small all at the same time. The bricks that it is composed of are abnormally large and the height is too; however the width is nothing like great wall of China or the Berlin wall for that matter. Its incredible to be standing in front of a wall that has been tried to be destroyed over the years and was built up by the valiant men of the Bible. This really is holy land and a holy spot. When I finally was close to the wall I stood in awe. The wonderfully rowdy sounds coming from the guy side made me a little jealous that they were all singing and dancing so loudly and proudly-being Jewish. The woman side was a little quieter but I saw later some girls trying to start up a group. My one goal that night was to say Leha Dodi, my favorite prayer to welcome in Shabbat and thankfully I was able to. However I was quiet for a long while. I was caught staring at the stone, memorized and wondering how I was actually standing right in front of the Wall. The same wall that a note was put into over 3 1/2 years ago praying for my healing and my health. The same wall that I received a book for after my accident that fueled my fire even more to want to be here. And here I was all.
The moment my palm made contact with the cold rock I pulled my body in close. I lifted my siddur (prayer book) up and gently placed my head inside. I craved to speak, to speak to G-d in a place where Heaven is on Earth and yet I struggled. I felt unsure how to talk and pray to the Holiest being. I just breathed in the experience and slowly the loud songs and chanting became must more dull and even now I don’t actually remember hearing it the moment I closed my eyes and started to speak.
It is one experience that no matter what cannot really describe how amazing it felt. To be connected with past, present and future was awesome. To be there was incredible, as I had been dreaming of this moment my whole life and yet I didn’t really know what to expect. I bawled caught up in the powerful moment with thanksgiving. I thought alot about the fact that I was standing right there, in Israel, in front of the Kotel (the wall). I thought about the pain and tears I cried after the accident and all the struggles along the way. I recalled the headaches, misery and suffering that seemed debilitating at times. Every challenge that I had to accept into my life the moment I woke up after the accident. Every mountain I climbed and the journey to the top. Every fear I had to face, including surgery and being close to death. Everything that has brought confusion and frustration seemed to suddenly make sense. Every little detail of every day. Every tear, smile, laugh and step along the way.
All of a sudden I was here. I am alive. I healthier. I am in Israel. I am at the Kotel. It is Shabbat. A strange acceptance and understanding of my life came together in what felt like one quick second. Then I opened my eyes and realized more time had passed than I expected and the sky was darker, there were more people around and the prayers and songs from the other side seemed even louder. I couldn’t help but smile. I couldn’t even remember the words I said but the experience there truly soothed my soul. I felt at peace and at one with G-d and myself. I really had to reorient myself once I stepped away from the wall. There was a strong longer I felt and I didn’t want to leave. It literally felt like a magnet; the wall and I were opposite ends attracting one another. That may sound really strange but that’s how it felt. G-d’s power is strong and overwhelming at the Kotel.
Before our group left, we said Kiddush and then walked through the streets of the Old City and other parts to find our way back to the Hotel. Awaiting us at the hotel restaurant was one giant and fancy setup room made special for Shabbat with delicious foods and delicacies all over. People were singing and talking and laughing. Truly enjoying the simple moments of life. The Shabbat vibe was attractive, popular and lively.
Shabbat in Israel is easy and that made me love it even more.
What powerful words, “Jerusalem, if I forget you…”. I’m definitely missing Jerusalem and Israel in general. It may have to do with getting back into the habit of University life, the challenge of Shabbat or all the posts dedicated to the passing of Ariel Sharon. Israel feels like family and right now I’m really missing it. May I never forget Jerusalem. Its also cool because now I have memories of Jerusalem and its not just another place where alot has happened, currently happens and will happen. When you are in Jerusalem its the first time I really felt connected to past, present and future. It must be an even closer connection to G-d.
Today’s hebrew word of the day means bummer which the set the tone for the day early on. Our group went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem. Yad Vashem was a nice museum and I especially liked one of the last rooms which was 5 candles and millions of reflections within a dark room. There were parts of the museum that were hard to look at and again reading quotes was overwhelming. The difference of this tour was that this museum is in the middle of Israel and I’m going through it with Israeli soldiers and fellow Jews. The vibe I got was that although this happened look at the hope in the fact that we as Jews are still here and Israel exists.
Just hiked the most incredible trail. It was pretty much down hill. There was a part that was more intense where you had to use handrails and footsteps to go down. I’m so grateful that I’ve gone rock-climbing before, it helped me to feel more comfortable. Towards the end a small group of us walked slower because there was still people behind us and so we took some awesome and crazy pictures. Definitely enjoyed the view. My group seems so close, well at least those that I hang out with. I am loving Israel and trying new things and just going for it all and to embrace it all!
Woke up so well rested after such a long day yesterday, but I guess I should be used to this by now. I ate delicious breakfast which consisted of bread, cheese, chocolate croissant, creamy yogurt, potatoes (which Israel makes so good) and potatoe kugel. The view outside our hotel room was gorgeous and unexpected with the beach which is really the sea of Galilee, surrounded by the mountains. Its seriously gorgeous outside!!!
On the other side of the hotel all the housing and buildings are built into the mountains, not build on the mountains. It’s a really neat way to build. Seems pretty environmentally friendly, for all those concerned.
This morning we are on our way to the Banyas which our tour guide eluded to as “Sheer Pandemoneium”. Along the way, we picked up our 8 Israeli soldiers that would accompany us for the next few days. They joined us to help us learn and understand the culture of Israel better. After the hike which I would call more of a stroll up and down stairs and across some wood bridges, it led us to such a lush and serene waterfall. We saw other birthright groups and it was really quick and then we scurried back to the bus because there’s too much to see and not enough time.
Getting to know the soldiers is so fun because they are really nice and cool!