Last weekend I was blessed with the opportunity to go to my friends lake house and learn to wake board! I will admit that the week beforehand was crazy and I was questioning how I would be able to make it. But once I was there I felt a release of stress. The stillness of the water relaxed me and helped me to enjoy the weekend and not worry too much about homework and work. Then learning to wakeboard was awesome because it’s such an adrenaline rush and because I love trying new things but often in the midst of school forget to make time. I’m grateful to have started the semester off right! So thankful for such a restful and fun weekend!
My trip continues…
I slept on and off the plane ride and towards the end my legs were majorly cramping. I kept walking laps around the plane. I even did stretches and wall squats at the back of the plane. In the morning, the 10 year old boy sitting in my row started talking to me and seemed really bored. We played would you rather, which is quite interesting when he is so much younger than me haha. Then he wanted to play truth or dare and then he started to show me random tricks. I have to admit he was probably the coolest and most entertaining person that I’ve sat next to on a plane. I helped him enjoy the long ride and he helped me to do the same.
The reality of the struggle to get back to my hometown is starting to come back and I don’t like it. I at least know how amazing Israel is and how it opened my eyes to things and lifestyles I really want. After we landed, the guy in front of me started talking to me. (Yep the cute one!) It was a pleasant surprise and a nice conversation. I saw my friend from my group who had been on the plane with me. We went our separate ways and then once again I was sitting by myself in the wee hours of the morning in the middle of a new airport: EWR (Newark).
The morning turned out really well. My friend from my Germany trip lives in Newark and so she picked me up and we went to breakfast. It was incredible to see her again and catch up on everything!! There is definitely something special about our Germany trip and how close we got and how we understand each other. She showed me around her town which is so cute and reminds of something out of movies. Its so colonial looking and looks vastly different from my hometown. She dropped me back off at the airport and I still had many hours to wait for my flight. Talked with my mom on the phone which was fun and I missed all our conversations. Finally I decided to check in.
After making my way through the crazy check-in which stressed me out and actually made me more fearful than I had felt going through security in other countries. Funny how “safe” America is supposed to be and make you feel and yet I have found myself feeling more safe in foreign countries. Maybe its because I’m not from there so I don’t know the real dangers…or maybe they just make you feel safer…Not sure.
When I ordered my chicken sandwich at the restaurant in the terminal it brought me back to reality when I had to request no cheese or bacon to be included in that. It made me sad to know it wasn’t kosher. I kept hearing “Wake Me Up” and I wanted to cry every time I heard it. I kept reminding myself what my bus buddy in Israel said, “don’t cry because its over, smile because it happened”. Its a good mentality.
Then I chilled, bought some snacks and talked to my friend and then my parents before hoping on the next plane. The sun was nearly set when I boarded the plane. I was exhausted and I really didn’t want to sit through another plane ride but it was kind of like you already took me out of Israel so just get me to my house. The lady who scanned my ticket to get on was like, “wow you’ve been here all day”. NO joke!
So grateful for the free trip to Israel. The friendships formed and the beautiful, sweet challenges along the way that make wonderful memories.
Within minutes of reaching our room, a siren sounded. This didn’t sound like the typical fire drill back home or the smoke detector. It was fierce, loud and scary. My roommates and I open the door to see what was going on (probably not the best thing but we didn’t know any different). We even walked outside. There was no one. We were like were we the only ones who heard that. My flight or fight mode were flicked on in a heartbeat and I wanted to know what was going on. Was a bomb going to hit. Was this what it feels like. I was panicking (I mean what else was I supposed to do). Within a few minutes we found some of the guys and this man who worked for the Kibbutz. Unfortunately he only spoke hebrew, but we found one of the guys in our group who knew enough to help us get by. Turns out it was just a smoke detector, someone was smoking in their room. It was SCARY!
Haha, I guess its something to laugh about now…
We went to the rec styled room and played pool. We even met an Israeli soldier who was a mechanical engineer. That was fun. Then back to our apartment, showered, talked and then went to bed.
In the morning we quickly ate breakfast, talked with our bus driver who was very nice. Then we headed on our way to the busy and long last day of the organized trip.
The soldiers on our trip really left an impression on me and I was struggling rather hard after they left. Thankfully our Israeli came up to me and easily convinced me to extend my trip. It didn’t take long for me to realize that, that was what I wanted and instead of waiting for my parents yay or nay, I simply made my “i’m 21 years-old” decision and called and organized everything to extend my trip a few days longer. Our sweet Israeli leader told me that I would be able to stay with her and that she would show me around more and I could experience another Shabbat in Israel!!! After I made my decision, around 8-10 more people decided to extend their trip as well! I felt good after making my decision and although I don’t have much money now, I’m not worried, because I am rich in memories and that’s more important to me. For the first time since my accident, I felt like I am really growing up and able to make my own good decisions. I can be my own person. I don’t have to do everything my parents want.
That night our group went out to a club on the port of Tel Aviv and I had so much fun dancing the night away with my roommates! Its already a change to be experiencing Israel without our soldiers.
After the kotel we went to get some food and while sitting with a few of the soldiers one of them turned to each of us and said whether he thought that each of us would move or visit Israel again. When he got to me he said with no struggle that I would make Aliyah and become a teacher. I froze.
This new friend who I have only known for a few days is telling me that I will become a teacher. The reason I was shocked is that my dean of engineering has been telling me that I will probably become a professor one day. Then a few weeks ago while serving the homeless this women told me that I would be a teacher. I can go on and on telling you the instances of this but it still always shocks me. I mean, I’m studying engineering! Anyways, I guess we will just have to wait and see what the Lord has in store for me.
Then the hardest part came, when we went to Ammunition Hill. We learned more about different wars that Israel has fought in. Then we presented the pictures which we drew for our soldiers, before we even met them. They in turn said how the trip affected them. We followed that with individual goodbyes. I struggled so much. One of the guys that I had talked to alot gave me a badge of his unit in the air force. Another guy, one who we talked to alot on the first day gave me a medical pin from his unit within the paratroopers (or something like that), it seemed fitting and I was so grateful for it. Then the hardest goodbye was one which I didn’t expect. My friend who had just predicted me becoming a teacher and who had given me such a hard time throughout the trip. We had many laughs and stories to share and I started crying when he gave a shoulder patch and said that he hopes one day my child will wear one. It was so challenging to say Leheat Raot (see you later) and Chaim Sheli (you are my life) to these brave men and women that I can now call friends. I will always remember these wonderful people and my friend who really affected my life, especially when the time is exactly the same like 11:11, 12:12, 07:07, etc. I hope I get to see these friends again, because they were incredible and it would be cool to get to know them better.
Today is Sunday.
We ate a quick breakfast and were well on our way to a busy day. We started out by taking a long tour through the Jewish quarter and stopped along the way to get free Siddurs (prayer books) and Bibles. While waiting for some of the group to get back a few of us sang “What a Wonderful World” and it seemed fitting. Then we ate lunch and finally made it back to The Wall (Kotel).
Upon approaching the Kotel for the second time, it was different. Its hard to put into words the awe of seeing the most HOLY PLACE in the world. I had written a note last night and was actually able to find a place to slip it into the wall. With my new Bible in hand I read Joshua 1:9 and Jeremiah 29:11 which made the feelings more incredible. I prayed. I actually struggled to find the words. I mean what can you say to the most holy, divine being while in the holiest city. Its overwhelming. I cried…alot! I kept my eyes close and I felt like I was in another world. I can hear other people yet it was easy to drown them out and really focus. Upon opening my eyes the world seems different, not necessarily good or bad, just like its changed. It was incredible to think that more than 3.5 years ago someone put a prayer in this wall for my health, right after my accident. And here I am, putting my own note of thanksgiving. INCREDIBLE.
G-d is so good.
Then I took some pictures and stood with three of my friends who I had gotten close to. We circled up and I prayed for us, I started to cry. It was beautiful and wonderful at the same time.
It felt so hard to turn away and the leave the kotel. I felt empty without the letter but I have also felt very at peace and “in the moment” while being on this trip. Its just hard to know that I don’t know when I will be back and see the Kotel again.
I have become more and more proud to be Jewish and to be in Israel. I want to move here. Its so nice to be the majority and for it to be normal to eat Kosher, wear a skirt and BE JEWISH!
Interestingly the weekend my group left the United States to go to Israel, the Torah portion was about the exodus from Egypt. Leaving the states to go to the Promised Land seemed very fitting. To be leaving my personal Egypt of being a Jew in a christian university, of the accident, of my frustrations, my lack of a Jewish community, my feeling alone, my feeling of being stuck. I left it all behind, to embrace who I have always been. To be free. To be me. To not be judged or hated but rather embraced. To build friendship and learn to love a land I’ve always be taught about but never understood.
Its really cleansed my mind of any judgement I had about Jews and Israel before.
Israel is the Promised Land and I feel like a new woman after being there!