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Embracing the 0.2 percent – two weeks until Israel

December 23, 2012

Years ago, my grandfather taught me how to play the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah, on the piano. Then, the piece appeared in my beginner’s song book for the flute. I can hear the music as I type this, and in two weeks, I will hear Hatikvah in its native land of Israel.

On January 6, I will have the opportunity to connect with the Jewish people and my history through my birthright trip to Israel. Taglit-Birthright has been connecting young Jews to the land of Israel since 1999 through the gift of a trip to the country. This birthright trip is a true gift – one that Jews from my generation are lucky enough to have and one that my parents’, grandparents’ and other generations did not have. I am so grateful to everyone making this trip possible for me.

Prior to accepting my trip offer, I made a pro / con list. I knew I wanted to go, but there were still things to consider. I spend many words on this blog talking about seizing the day and not hesitating; not accepting the offer when it was right in my lap would have gone against this goal I have set for myself. Family and friends encouraged me to go, saying I had no reason not to go and any cons would always be there and are applicable to anything. My parents and I discussed it, and we agreed now is the time, so in two weeks, I’ll be off for the experience of a lifetime.

There are seven billion people in the world. Fourteen million of them are Jewish. Fourteen million out of seven billion is a rather small sliver, but these people have maintained a presence for thousands of years. The perseverance of the Jewish people is mind-boggling to me and makes me very proud.

At one pre-trip meeting at the KU Hillel, one birthright alumnus said some Israelis greet participants by saying, “Welcome home.” None of my family members are from or live in Israel, but that doesn’t matter. I have a connection to Israel through the years of Passover celebrations I have experienced, through the day I became a Bat Mitzvah, through the prayers I chant in Hebrew and through the generations of my family who come from Europe and who have passed down these traditions. I have my parents and other relatives to thank for my connection to my religion. And when I touch down in Israel next month, it is all of them I will think of as I walk the steps of our ancestors and see things that have meant so much to Judaism throughout its history.

I don’t think I really understood the significance of this trip until I started researching and reading about Israel. I mean, I’ve heard the Biblical stories. I put the slips of paper with my prayers written on them in the fake Western Walls at Jewish events in my youth. But then, I started reading about the history of the land, the people who impacted it, the religions that were influenced by it and the people who live there today. It’s such a tiny country (the size of New Jersey), but the land’s strength, determination and impact on Western Civilization are insurmountable.

The birthright guidebook poses a question: Will you travel strictly as a tourist taking pictures and mental notes of each site you visit, or will you embrace the land, the people, and your own personal connection to this country? No worries, I will take many, many pictures. But my priority will be to embrace the land, the people, and my connection to the country because this trip is once in a lifetime.

And about those fake Western Walls. When I go to Israel, I’ll walk up to that real Western Wall – the one that’s been standing for thousands of years – and place a prayer note inside it. And if any of you would like me to put your prayer inside a crevice of the Western Wall, let me know; I would be honored to do so.


From → Israel

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