Here we are again with yet another life changing past few weeks!
Every conversation with the influential leaders I got the chance to meet opened my mind to a greater understanding of Judaism as an ever-changing religion, the state of Israel and all of the politics that come along with it, and me as a potential future leader in this challenging, yet promising, world.
From the time we spent with Yossi Klein Halevi (a very well known American-born Israeli author and journalist) to Rabbah Tamar Elad-Appelbaum (the co-founder of the Beit Midrash for Israeli Rabbis as well as the founder of a congregation in Jerusalem called ZION) to Rabbi Sheryl Katzman (the Jewish Education Consultant for the Davidson School/the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York) and to Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun (who played a central role in the settlement movement and was a founder of the settlements of Alon Shvut and Ofra and was one of the soldiers involved in reuniting Jerusalem during the Six day war), I’ve heard from some incredible people in this Jewish community.
Visiting and staying in an Israeli settlement, Alon Shvut, for a weekend helped me in learning SO much, in depth, about the West Bank and its past, present, and future standings. We spoke to a number of people from a range of backgrounds which allowed me to understand their perspectives and beliefs in terms of current Israeli politics.
I was also able to spend the most heart-warming weekend with my extended family in Netanya for the Jewish holiday of Passover and reunited with so many family members! Refreshing myself on the beaches of Tel Aviv after a weekend well spent with my family was the perfect way to end my Passover break.
Being in Israel around this time of year is an emotional, beautiful, and eye-opening experience. I had the opportunity to attend the National Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance) Ceremony at Yad Vashem World Holocaust Center in Jerusalem to hear both the President and Prime Minister of Israel address country, and the world, to commemorate the 6 million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. Additionally, I was able to go to a Memorial Day Ceremony, organized by Masa, the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and the Jewish Agency in Israel, for all of the fallen soldiers and victims of terror, where a number of government officials and influential Jewish leaders joined thousands of people to commemorate those who lost their lives to protect this country. Immediately following, I visited Her Herzl where all of the fallen soldiers and victims of terror are buried and spent 2 hours simply walking around and taking everything in. Being in Israel and standing in silence for one full minute as a siren loudly rang throughout the entire country to remember all of those who are no longer with us was moving. I met the parents of Michael Levin, a young man who made Aliyah to serve in the IDF as a Paratrooper and was killed at the age of 22 fighting for this country. His memory and courage definitely lives on; thousands of lone soldiers (someone who serves in the Israeli army without having any immediate family is Israel) have continued and will continue down the path Michael set.
Following those deep and sentimental few days, I celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) roaming the streets of Jerusalem for an extremely lively and exciting night of celebration. The city, and entire country for that matter, was up and on their feet all night, simply celebrating their love for Israel and their excitement for Israel’s 70th birthday! This isn’t the typical Independence Day where in America we barbecue hamburgers and sit by the pool for hours, this is a entire night of public transportation being closed off due to the street parties, outdoor concerts, and thousands of people roaming around, all for Israel. The next day, obviously, is then spent barbecuing and spending time outdoors with friends and family because what’s an Independence Day without a barbecue?!
I’ve experienced a rollercoaster of events and could go on and on about each and every one of them. Can’t wait for more to come 🙂