Once or twice a year I make my way from the fertile countryside to where the action really happens in Israel –Raanana.
In fact, I take the bus, two and a half hours without a bathroom stop, all the way from Hannaton where I live in the Lower Galilee to Jerusalem, the city at least half of us would say is Israel’s heart and soul. (The other half would say Raanana. Still kidding.)
The first two hats gang up on the third and make me talk to people.
It’s not that I don’t like talking to people, it’s just that I’m an overgrown 5 year old girl who requires the full two hours of the birthday party to finally let go of her daddy’s leg. Right when they start handing out the party bags, she decides she’s having fun .
There were no party bags at the GA. But there was fresh fruit.
It’s not that I don’t like people. I like them. I like them so much I spend 363 days out of the year working very hard perpetuating a witty and somewhat likeable online persona. @jenmaidenberg. Know her?
You think you do … until you meet her in person. Replicating twitter banter in person is exhausting and almost impossible. Unless you’re @benjilovitt. Also, I’m a lot shorter than I look in my headshot, apparently.
So, why do I torture myself, you ask? Why don’t I just stay behind the screen? Because I’ve discovered that being around people, in real life, in the flesh, is actually good for me.
Not just because the guy in the classy suit next to me might be a future client/investor/contact but because, wow, you can really have meaningful conversations with people when you have more than 140 characters at your disposal.
At the GA, I sat in the audience of some powerful discussions on crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, but the magic happened for me in the halls. Most were impromptu and unexpected meet ups, but I had five quality interactions with people who, though I engage with them from time to time on social media (engagement, as we all know is the golden egg of social media), I never would have been truly social with them online in the way I was with them face-to-face today.
Of course, the atmosphere of this particular conference makes attendees open to conversation. We’re there to think and talk and co-create about Judaism and Israel. But hardly any of my side conversations were about Jewish Peoplehood. They were instead about Aliyah, writing as craft, music, literature, social awkwardness, comedy, and mass hysteria. By the end of the afternoon, when it was time for me to catch the last bus back to Hannaton, I was actually ready to stay and have fun.
Living where I do, in the beautiful boonies of northern Israel, it would be easy enough for me to constantly use the “it’s too far” excuse or blame my absence on a dearth of babysitters. However, instead, I push myself to show up every so often — because being around People (capital P) fills me up in a way that virtual interactions just can’t. It makes me feel alive, literally, like i am earthly flesh and bone and not just an avatar.
When we talk about Peoplehood in the age of the crowd, this is what we need to remember. At the end of the day, strengthening ties, meaningful connections, all of it…happens in the halls. This is how you find a friend …and yourself in the crowd.
All you need to do is show up.