Fulfilling the first commandment, the first Jew, Abraham, received from God to: “Lech Lecha” (“You go!”) has played a seminal role in forming and strengthening my own Zionist Jewish identity. Walking the length and breadth of the Land of Israel, whether through orienteering and marching during my IDF army service, teaching at Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI) or guiding Birthright groups, has made me the person and Jew that I am today. It has also blessed me by giving me the opportunity to infuse and pass on to countless other young Jews our connection to our land through our feet. It is not enough to read the Good Book, or “talk the talk,” one does not get it unless one, “walks the walk!”
My Amazing Israel Birthright Group walking the walk.
As an educator, having participants literally walk in the footsteps of the ancient Israelites and view the same landscapes whilst being able to use all of their senses in the experience is, in my opinion, to gain a deeper level of understanding and appreciation for the biblical and modern Zionist protagonists than can be gleaned in a classroom far removed from the scenes of where these momentous events transpired. The concept of “experiential education” calls for a utilisation of all of one’s senses in a dynamic, stimulating and challenging atmosphere. One cannot replace or artificially create an experience. One has to be there to feel it. There is no better way for Israel trip participants to strengthen their Jewish identity then to walk through the places where key events that shaped the destiny of our people occurred! As Yonatan Netanyahu z”l so eloquently stated:
In this search through our past we come upon other periods-of tranquility and liberty, when we were the people of the land as well as the people of the book.
In Jewish terms, we need to understand that we are all links in the chain of Jewish continuity, part of a bigger dramatic story of God, people and land. By walking through the land and feeling it, smelling it, seeing it, tasting it and hearing it, we begin to hear ourselves.