Before I begin sharing all my Israel and Greece adventures I want to give a disclaimer. There are a myriad of political and religious aspects that are included in my blog posts. These are just my opinions and I am hoping to remain unbiased. I am not taking sides, but only relaying what I observed. If you have an issue with anything that I write, please message me privately, instead of commenting on any social media.
Now that the disclaimer is over…
The first part of my adventure was through Taglit Birthright. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is a non-profit organization that gives Jewish young adults an opportunity to go to Israel for 10 days, all expenses paid. If you are curious about the organization, then you can search them online. Since there is so much to say, I am splitting up my blog posts from the trip.
The first days of our trip were spent in a hostel/hotel in Tiberais. Since we arrived the day before Shabbat, our time spent there was very different than other Birthright groups.
We spent the first day in a town called Tzfat. There, we met a Rabbi, who gave us information about the Talmud and told us about his views. Fun fact, this Rabbi also owns his own winery. His main focus was on Kabbalah, which means to know how to receive beyond what you don’t know. He related this idea to the Tree of Life. When we look at the tree, we mainly see the trunk and outer parts, even though majority of the tree (roots and such) go unseen. There are many ways to interpret this, but I held onto the idea that when we look at existence, we only see externality and do not understand our roots. I personally am not a religious person, but this idea really stood out to me. I thought about it as if the tree was a person. We do not fully understand a person just from the parts we can see. I thought this was a beautiful way to look at the world, whether you are religious or not. One of my favorite books growing up was The Giving Tree, which now makes sense.
After, we had time to explore the city itself. There is an alley where it is said that the messiah will eventually walk through. The entire trip I felt as if I were walking through the Bible. Every stone, building, and object had historical, cultural, or religious importance.
Of course I had some great food! There is a spice they use there called Za’atar. All I have to say is that you should go to an international supermarket and go find it.
That night and next day were Shabbat, which is the religious day of rest. My family has never celebrated Shabbat, so for me this was an out of body experience. I think a lot of people do not realize how unique Judaism is since you can be Jewish without being religious. Since my mother was Jewish, technically I am Jewish, regardless of how religious I am.
During Shabbat in Israel, the entire country shuts down. There are no cars on the road and everything is closed. Almost like Easter here in America, but this happens every week for Friday night and Saturday morning. During Shabbat we were told to relax, so this is what we did. All Friday we spent drinking wine and getting to know each other. On Saturday we all hung out by the pool and again just got to enjoy each other’s presence. Remember that we could not go anywhere, since everything is closed and our bus driver was celebrating himself, meaning he could not operate a vehicle. Not that I am going to start celebrating Shabbat every week, but I definitely think taking a break from life each week is healthy and needed. America is constantly moving and it was nice for once to have time blocked out just for the purpose of relaxation.
Later on Saturday, we were able to visit the Sea of Galilee, the largest freshwater lake in Israel. Fun fact, this is where it is rumored that Jesus walked on water. Again, you are basically walking through the Bible everyday. The area we went to was super touristy and filled with a full boardwalk type area of shops and restaurants. The backdrop of the sea is the Golan Heights. We did get to hike them, but I will talk about that in the next post.
This area used to be part of Syria until 1967. Israel won this area in the 6 days war, which is the first war that Israel ever started. When we were in this area, it was the first time that I was presented with a plethora of information regarding the Israeli-Palestine conflict. I am not going to give a history lesson in this post, but I would highly suggest educating yourself on the conflicts happening on this side of the world. I always knew the basics, but I was angry that my school never taught me about these conflicts in much details.
My biggest take away was that every story has two sides. Whether you agree with one side or the other, it is vital to be highly educated on both points of views. This is a difficult task when so much of the media we read today is biased. Just be sure to check where you are gathering your information before coming to an opinion.
I know this post was short, but the next posts are filled with so many more stories and thoughts. There will be one coming every day for the next 6 days so get excited!
Until next time, please enjoy this photo of Shabbat candles shaped like baby penguins…