Saying Goodbye

I left my sneakers in Israel – the sneakers that began this whole journey with me. The sneakers that helped me find the better part of myself.  

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If you have ever heard the phrase “I left my heart in … [fill in the blank]” that’s exactly how I felt, but it just felt right. Call it over dramatic, but these shoes represent a part of my life that I didn’t know was trapped inside of me- so it was clear when I needed to bring a pair of sneakers to Israel these would carry me there. 

When given the initial opportunity to go to Israel as part of my Birthright (basically, being born a Jew) I held off- Selfish, busy, jaded, unconcerned, but mostly 18 and had more important Dave Matthews concerts to see. Somewhere in the back of my mind was fear- Israel has been a place of contention since it’s creation as a nation. So I procrastinated, as I always do, until the last possible moment- months short of my 27th birthday, the time the decide you are too old to get free trips to Israel (I now realize they cut you off because they realize at the ripe age of 27 my ass would quit the Masada after two steps.)

Now I was presented with the chance of a lifetime to experience a country across the world- a country so far, but so close to my heart, and like my sneakers, I hoped it would help me find a piece of myself. A Jew- a Jew that was afraid to tell people that I was Jewish. It was too complicated, too much explaining, and too much hatred. In a world of over 7 billion people Jews account for 13.9 million- to explain in simple terms: 0.2% of the worlds population. I am a minority. A high school memory: walking out to my catholic boyfriends car to find a swastika drawn onto the dust on his window. 26 year old me to care less about the insecurities of 16 year old me, and in many ways I wanted to find pride in my heritage. I was ready to experience Israel as I left two weeks ago- and experience is exactly what I did.

This post is not a post on the history of Israel- that’s what google is for (or click me!). This post is also not a diatribe regarding the current situation – that’s also what google is for, and your own solid research, not what Selena Gomez is posting on Twatter. This post is a reflection on my time spent in Israel. 

I refuse to go into a day by day account because:

a) that’s boring.

b) days blended into days.

And to summarize Israel is impossible, especially given the current circumstances. I cannot write about my 10 days in Israel without discussing to some degree my experience given the current political climate. As the situation in Israel worsened by the day (google if you have zero clue- please) we were told about every bomb shelter- and had to use them on multiple occasions. And when there isn’t a bomb shelter, lay down and cover your head. To use the word anxiety inducing is not enough- as the sirens blare you have roughly one minute to find a shelter. And yes, we did hear the iron dome in action.  

On our last night the siren sounded loudly as we sat retelling moments that stood out for us on the trip. Gradually, families arrived in the shelter with us as they ushered their children in. Mothers rocked their crying children into a state of calm and then danced around the shelter to help them smile. I was reminded of my fortune to never have to live in fear while simultaneously saddened by what I had witnessed- what is this world that we live in? 

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Yet despite the sirens, the rockets and the missiles, Israeli’s continued their day to day lives. And we did too. It reminded me of a post 9/11 New York- New Yorkers could live in fear, or they could live. New Yorkers chose to live because to hide would be to give in.  

To say this is a beautiful country is an understatement- the history, culture, and pride for Israel is palpable when you are there. 

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Every day was a new adventure: Golan Heights, Dead Sea, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Kibbutz, Elat, Hummus, Sabras, chugging massive bottles of water, waterfalls, camel rides, sleeping in the desert, admiring the stars in the desert, dancing in the desert, dancing, Masada, ancient Rome, more hiking, King Herod. Sleep was overrated and not needed. That’s what the bus rides were for.

And when we made it to Jerusalem and to the Western Wall I was overcome by emotion. I felt a history sweep through my bloodstream. As I looked up I noticed a white dove on the wall. I’m seriously considering that they pay that bird because it was so bizarre and perfect. How this tiny white dove never left this perch and simply stared out from the wall memorized me. Call me weird and spiritual- it’s OK, I already know I am. This tiny bird gave me a sense of peace in the madness that we were living in.

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And so I prayed- I prayed for David, I prayed for my family, I prayed for the lives of every person in this region. I prayed that I will always have the ability to find the joy in the little things in life. I prayed and I never pray. 

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I cannot summarize Israel because I could never do it justice. I can summarize with a word of the day:

Mishpocha:  mish-PAW-khuh, -POOKH-uh  , noun;

an entire family network comprising relatives by blood and marriage and sometimes including closefriends; clan.

groupIn Israel we became Mishpocha. And I hope someday this world can find more likeness than differences, but I fear that’s wishful thinking.

As I said goodbye to my dirt covered, worn in, sole [soul] depleted, sneaks, *literally said goodbye out loud* a piece of me felt complete and saddened. I fell in love and I will never be the same.

International Girls

With the way I’m freaking out, you would think that I’ve never packed a day in my life. I left this life detail out, but I’m leaving for Israel tomorrow!

For those of you that do not know, there’s a little (amazing, awesome, life changing) program called “birthright.” 

Taglit-Birthright Israel provides the gift of first time, peer group, educational trips to Israel for Jewish young adults ages 18 to 26. Taglit-Birthright Israel operates on a belief that it is every Jewish person’s birthright to visit Israel. To date, over 300,000 young adults from 52 countries have traveled to Israel for the first time on Taglit-Birthright Israel trips. – Mayanot- (click

Well, folks, I will be 27 in a (insert witty simile that means I will be 27 quickly) so I thought it was about time to experience Israel. Hello! This is an experience of a lifetime- a free trip because I’m Jewish- h-e-double hockey sticks-yaaass. Now I leave tomorrow, but, in Talia-fashion… I procrastinated… everything. 

My negligence has left me without an international phone (that’s what happens when you mentally block out any kind of travel) and a buttload *technical terms only, please* to pack. And by buttload, I mean baby mountain *technical terms only.* And some missing clothing options- I have to cover my shoulders for shabbat (for non-jews, look it up, for jews like me, you can look it up too… google.com) 

The reality is, packing is the least of my worries, but I’m sure it’s easier to focus on travel rather than other truths. Truths like:

  • I have lupus. I was honest when they asked about my medical history- as a result I needed doctors approval before leaving. It’s all so obvious, of course I should need doctors approval, but it makes you feel like a pariah. Or a small child not able to make your own decisions. 
  • I have lupus. When I had my first real flare I was traveling abroad in Greece. As a result, I have some real fears associated with international travel and lupus. Sun is a trigger and I’m the kind of traveler that thoroughly enjoys a sunny place. Israel may range from 90-100 each day with a strong sun… oy vey. 
  • It’s Israel- smack-dab in the Middle East, a nation surrounded by other nations that don’t like it that much *technically speaking* I’ve received quite a few “wow, Israel… be safe- don’t leave your group.” My response is usually, “don’t worry, I have my eulogy written out as a draft on my blog if anything happens.” People don’t like that response… but that’s what I’m going to say if you are going to suggest I might die! 
  • I have lupus.

My friends, I’m off- and I’m certain I will see you soon and maybe even post something while I’m abroad. Mom, I promise to wear a lot of sunblock, hats, and stay well hydrated and rested. John, you know I only have the hots for Irish-Italian Catholics, so don’t worry. Friends, I will bring back evil eye bracelets, sea salts, and other exotic things that you could probably find in a mall but it’s so much cooler because I got it from Israel- I know you just want to see me struggle to carry my luggage. 

Shalom!