It's a Jew Thing

What's it like growing up an observant Jew in a modern non-Jewish world? Read on...

Monday, October 31, 2005

A little more about Israel.

This post comes partly as a response to Carah's post and partly in response to Kristen's questions.

First off in response to Kristen's question about safety in Israel.... Israel isn't safe at times but you just have to be smart about the places you go and the way you travel. For example, we weren't allowed to travel in Arab owed taxi's or on public buses (we only used charter buses), and we weren't allowed in most open malls. Also, we traveled with an army guard when on fieldtrips and there was a guarded gate at the school. I mean, in Israel they have to worry a lot about terrorist attacks, but they also worry a lot less about the kind of murders and gang violence, things like that we worry about in the US. There was one time that really shook me up, when there was a terrorist attack near a mall where our bus had loaded the week before, but we were happy we weren't there and we were safe. In the last 5 years since being in Israel, there have actually been a few terrorist attacks at places I have been in the past, like a club a lot of kids from the trip went to and in a pizza place we had eaten. That really shook me. But you also have to think that there are times when there have been car accidents in a place you have driven or something. It’s all relative to the place you’re from, I guess.

Carah - I agree that the Kotel was one of the most moving places that we visited. I didn't expect to feel so emotionally effected when we visited but I actually cried the first time that we went there because I immediately realized that millions of people had prayed there before me and that it is such a central part of our religion and a place that so many people talk about going to when they get to Israel. I also thought about how when I was younger and went to summer camp the Israeli counselors used to collect our "wishes" and tell us they'd bring them to the wall as it's traditional to do when you are there. When I got there I was moved to see the thousands and thousands of tiny folded pieces of paper and to know that my wishes were somewhere among the hopes and dreams of so many people. Below is a picture from above the Kotel (which of those of you who may not know is the Western Wall and is the only remaining section of the ancient temple, and is such the holiest place for the Jewish religion.

We also had the opportunity to visit the tunnels below the Western Wall which had just opened and were beginning to be excavated which was amazing to see because it's a section even closer to where the Temple Mount was and people had begun leaving letters to G-d there also.

I think it's hard to tell educationally where I enjoyed visiting the most, but I think that climbing Masada is one of my most amazing memories I have. We climbed up “the hard path” before sunrise and it started drizzling as we neared the top. It was seriously one of the hardest hikes I have ever done and I came close to not being able to make it – but we completed it as a group and when we reached the top we davened (prayed) the morning service in the oldest known Beit Knesset (place of worship) in the world. Below is a picture of us getting ready for services that morning:

We then climbed to the top of the viewing tower to see the beautiful land around us. To one side we saw the hike we had just conquered; to another side we could see land for miles and miles and then see it disappear into the Dead Sea. And as we looked into the sky we saw a full rainbow taking over the sky, from one side of the horizon all the way to the other. It was breathtaking. After that morning we traveled around the mountain top and looked at the remnants and an ancient people that were so close to each of our hearts at that moment. So close in fact that we put ourselves in their place and imagines that we were the ancient Jewish people who had been held up as the last people to evade capture and destruction of the Jewish community in Israel. We discussed, for four hours, their decision to commit suicide as an entire community rather than be taken capture and tortured then murdered. We took sides and debated. On that day, one of my favorite days in Israel we sat on the same ground as thousands of visitors had done before and contemplated history while viewing a beautiful landscape.

7 Comments:

  • At 8:39 AM, Blogger carah said…

    I am so glad you posted pictures for every one to see the beautiful view, but everyone should understand it does not even compare to being there. I also had the same emotion when if first prayed at the wall. When I was little it was just a place that people went to pray and than they put a red bracelet around your wrist. You truly do not understand the meaning until you have prayed there. Unfortunately my parents have never had the chance to experience a trip to Israel and I keep begging them to book a trip. Also the safety issue is a very interesting topic. My group was also accompanied by an armed guard the entire time, in fact he became a big part of our trip – luckily though we never needed his services. But for such a “dangerous” place, I never felt so safe. It truly was like a home.

     
  • At 10:47 PM, Blogger Kristen said…

    It is so sad that people can not be safe in the world anymore. But you are right in that they worry about terrorist attacks but we worry about murder and gangs here. I am glad you and everyone you were with were safe while you were there. Your experiences there sound amazing, and unforgettable. It is so cool that you can go there and feel like you were in ancient times, like you ancestors, and contemplate the decisions they made to protect their faith. I wish the catholic religion had a place like Israel that was so special to us!

     
  • At 4:07 PM, Blogger Tara Raphael said…

    Your pictures are amazing, and I love that you were able to have such a great experience in another place of the world, especially a place that obviously means so much to you. I'm sorry that this world can be so cruel, I know it sounds cliche, but I wish people could just be civil with each other and let one another have their differences and still get along. You seem to have really enjoyed your time spent there and I hope that one day I can have that same type of an experience!

     
  • At 12:26 PM, Blogger Meredith said…

    I was going to ask the same questions Kristen had about safety. I have to be honest and say that’s a huge reason that I would be terrified to visit Israel. It was defiantly great that they knew the best tactics to keep you all safe and they were willing to allow you to still experience that amazing trip. I know that it’s so much more unsafe now because of everything going on the in the world then when you visited it. I’m glad that nothing happen to you or anyone that you traveled with. Your pictures are truly amazing Shayna. To see what you were experiencing at the time I wish I was able to feel how amazing it was for you. I bet that hike was so hard but I also know how rewarding it must have been for you after you accomplished it. I look forward to hearing more stories!

     
  • At 4:37 PM, Blogger M. Fox said…

    Shayna...You really have a great blog here. I am defintley impressed with your wealth of knowledge and passionate insight on Judaism. It was very interesting reading some of your blogs and getting your take on some very important issues that Jewish college students deal with. Have you considered making Judaism part of your career?

    I really enjoyed your blog on Israel. The summer before my junior year in high school I went on a NFTY trip that included a week in Eastern Europe and five weeks traveling around Israel. Going to Israel was probably the best experience of my life so far. I was fortunate enough to go some of my best friends, and I have some really great memories from the trip. I also have a whole photo album full of pictures from my trip, you should check it out sometime.

    Keep up the nice work on your blog.

     
  • At 8:58 PM, Blogger Kara said…

    Your trip to Israel sounds amazing. I think it’s so great that you got to go and experience so many amazing things and learn hands on about history and your religion. Your visit to the Kotel sounds so emotional and meaningful. It’s so great that you got the opportunity to not only travel to Israel but learn everything about all of the sites you visited. Your entire trip seems like the opportunity of a lifetime and such a great, almost life changing, event. I also don’t know how I would have reacted to all of the armed guards and security measures. I realize it’s a different type of crime, but it’s still very scary, real, and almost in your face. It’s really scary to think that some of the places you visited recently were attacked. Can’t wait for the next post!!

     
  • At 11:33 PM, Blogger reenaa said…

    I can see when you are talking about safety in Israel. There are other places in the world where similar terrorist activities are taking place and usually the natives or people who know the natives of that place (country, region) know their way around. Outsiders and people not exposed to that region or such activities in general; (and I hope that they never are exposed to such horrendous crimes) are oblivious to the manner in which people can cope in such situations. But, your experiences seem to be a lot more shocking in that you have actually been to places that have been blown apart.

     

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