In July 2012, I was given the incredible gift of a 10 day trip to Israel with Taglit Birthright. There, I traveled around the state in a big bus with a group of 40 beautiful people that quickly became my Birthright family. I never imagined the the incredible impact this trip would have on me, but it was truly, nothing short of life changing....
My beautiful Birthright family on our bus...
The marketplace in Jerusalem....
Old City, Jerusalem
At the Wailing Wall, many people participate in the tradition of writing a few wishes on a small piece of paper to bring to the wall and leave there when they go. When I approached the wall, holding the small piece of paper, I could immediately feel the intense energy all around me. I waited, looking at the wall for a space to clear into which I could move. I walked up slowly, placing both of my hands on the wall and closing my eyes. A young girl standing next to me was singing a prayer in Hebrew. Her voice was sweet and soft and the Hebrew she sang was familiar and warming. I started to cry almost instantaneously. I stood, listening to her and my own heartbeat, seemingly in unison, feeling the tears roll down my face and fall onto my feet. I felt the prayers I brought with me to the wall being pulled out of my being. It is hard to explain just how physical of a feeling this was. The words were clear and the path they took to escape felt like a warm pull straight from my heart into the universe. I stayed there, breathless and waiting. My tears slowed, my breathe seemed to only start at the very moment for the first time in my whole life. I stepped away from the wall and looked up. Above me, on the ledge sat a grey dove, watching. In that moment, it was just the dove and me there. I never would have anticipated having such an incredibly spiritual experience there at the Wailing Wall, but it is certainly one that I will never forget for the rest of my life.
Sunrise at Masada
This morning, we all woke up at 3 am and got hiking up Masada, site of the first Jewish-Roman War. We got there just in time for a pastel sunrise. Breathtaking!
The day we were in Tel Aviv I had another spiritual experience that I will never forget. I wasn't feeling so well that day and I decided to separate from my group to float around the marketplace and take photos. I approached a colorful fruit stand and there an older man with silver hair and a kind face started speaking to me in Hebrew. I put my hand to my heart and with an apologetic expression said, "I'm sorry. I don't understand...only English." "Ah yes," he responded, "I was just telling you that these dates are so beautiful. They are deserving of a picture." I smiled, surprised at his perfect English. I had never seen a fresh date before and thought that they were, in fact one of the most beautiful fruits I had ever seen in my entire life. "May I take a picture with you too?" I asked. He agreed without even taking a breathe. His friend, Mordecai stepped into the picture too. The man opened his bag and offered me one of the dates he had just purchased. The skin of the date was chocolate brown and shiny and it tasted like pure sugar, granular and sweet. I smiled again. "How are you today he asked?" in a warm tone. "Honestly, I'm not feeling that well today" I responded. "Is there anything at all that I can do for you?" he asked with genuine eyes. I was taken aback by his kindness. "Really," he said, "this is why I exist in this word." I told him that his kindness had already sweetened my day and began to tell him about how I was there in Tel Aviv on a Birthright trip. I decided I was going to buy a bag of the wonderful dates to share with my group for our Oneg Shabbat that evening. I pulled out a handful of Shekels and passed them to the cashier behind the stand. He handed me the bag and I turned around to say thank you again to the kind man, but he disappeared into thin air like he had never existed at all. I looked all around me, neither he nor his friend were anywhere in sight. Had I met an angel?
Tel Aviv Marketplace
Tzfat, the birthplace of Jewish Mysticism was one of the most inspiring places that we visited in Israel. Wandering thru the village and into the 2 oldest synagogues that are located there was a magical experience. I could just feel the ancient creativity lingering in the air.
A Symbolic Bat Mitzvah
A symbolic renewal Bar/Bat Mitzvah at the end of our trip....those of us who participated listened to the blessings while placing three fingers to our foreheads....two on each eye and one on the third eye.....this was a really beautiful way to wrap up our journey.....