I went to Israel. Again. And now I’m back. I’m grateful for the incredible experience and all the wonderful memories.
Its funny because the other day I was out with friends and I was talking about my summer abroad in Germany and my friend joked, that was a Dr. C moment. Dr. C was our manufacturing and materials professor last semester. This professor literally seems to have lived anywhere and everywhere.and has experienced so much in his seemingly young life. People like this inspire me. I want to grow up and be like them. How sad it would be to just stay in and not get to see and or experience the world and the people everywhere.
Tonight brought back these memories of traveling to Israel and a bit with Germany but mainly the Holy Land. See I hung out with one of my new friends from Israel who just so happens to go to my school. After dinner and such we were sitting in my apartment and talking about the differences and similarities and even just the uniqueness in being in Israel. Especially to be Jewish at a christian university is a different experience. For me it has been one of much challenge. Interestingly one of the things my friend pointed out was how each of the class are taught with christian worldview and how it applies and affect the christian life. I am sooooo used to this now, that I don’t even notice it. How sad.
Anyway talking about all the good and beauty that Israel has to offer was amazing. It brought up laughter and taught me how to properly say things. It was nice and fun. However I couldn’t help but notice how sad my friend looked talking about Israel. I can’t even imagine how much my friend must miss it. I have never spent more than 2 weeks there and yet here I am writing and tearing up. Because in Israel you can be you. You don’t feel weird or out of place. Even midst struggle-some thoughts, you are among family. A family around for 2000+ years. I still remember my first few hours in Israel the first time. It looked nearly identical to California that I was convinced we flew in circles around the US for 10+ hours. We arrived at Quesaria and our tour guide picked up a handful of sand. He looked at each and everyone of us. As he let the sand sift through his fingers he spoke. He said, “it’s been 2000 years, welcome home”.
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).
Here’s to today. Here’s to laughing like no one is watching and not caring even if they do. Here’s to laughing so hard about rediculousness that it doesn’t fully matter what initiated it. Laughter brings much joy to me even in the hardest of times. Laughter lights up the very darkest of nights. I loving laughing and love when people make me laugh. I also love when I remember something that was funny and when I try to retell the story I find myself struggling for words because all I can do is laugh. When I am able to laugh at myself its when I am most confident that I just don’t care what others think. Laughter is a blessing and brings joy and for that I am grateful!
From Friday sunset until last night, it was Yom Kippur and the Jewish world went into fasting for 25hrs and intense prayers. In the past, I have always struggled with this holiday because it seemed so depressing and not happy. However, this year was different. Not only am I thankful to say that I fasted the entire 25hrs (though I needed water to keep my body without calories). I have never been able to do so thing, and my younger brother joined alongside me and we made it through, thank G-d! I definitely felt as though it was mental toughness game as the hours passed on and my stomach grumbled along, I kept praying or at least trying to. I realized that Yom Kippur is a happy holiday or at least it keeps to the meaning of a Fast of Joy. I think this is because during Rosh Hashana, the gates of heaven open up and throughout the next ten days, we, jews, pray for health, happiness, safety, life and for all good things! Then on Yom Kippur the gates close. Its almost exciting as we connect and grow closer to Hashem, G-d, in the 25 hours prior to this. It feels amazing despite the weakness in your body. Through that weakness I found strength in G-d! I found myself immersed in the feeling of now and when I closed my eyes during the Amidah (silent prayer) I found myself with almost the same feeling I felt at the Kotel, the Western Wall. That feeling is one of transformation as I opened my eyes. It felt as though I was somewhere else and then when my eyes open and see the words in the book and take in my surroundings I am looking at everything that is the same but with new eyes. It is truly a wonderful spiritual experience and I am so thankful for this Yom Kippur experience. May this be a sweet new year for my family, friend, myself, the entire Jewish people and everyone! G’mary Hatimah Tovah!
I have to say this week has been a weird one but this morning when I woke to one of my favorite Israeli artists’ song. I smiled. I allowed the music to influence my mood for the better. So today I feel like sharing my morning joy!
May this be a year filled with much health, happiness, safety, blessing, success, love and glory to G-d!
May we all be inscribed and sealed in the book of good life!
Next year in Jerusalem!