Shalom! Lizzie Sivitz reporting here from beautiful Bus 912. Israel is filled with spirit. From Raz, the hilarious and straight forward tour guide to the woman selling nose rings in the gift shop- everyone is brimming with chutzpah. Speaking of nose rings, up on Mount Bental I bought a Jewish star nose-ring, hopefully this will make my parents happy. My rebellious nose piercing will now be respectful and Jewish. I had always heard that Israelis are very straight forward, loud, and boisterous. At least the Israelis I’ve encountered have all been super friendly. Like most Jews I know back home, they have a love of laughing and poking fun. They are also willing to put up with my repetition of the 10 useful Hebrew words I know.
What I want to talk about in this blog post is something that we discussed as a group briefly earlier- the concept of Israel as our home. We are always told that Israel is where it all began, and at each pesach we say “next year in Jerusalem!” The existence of birthright and Aliyah establishes Israel as a home to any Jew anywhere in the world. There are many aspects of Israel that have been very familiar to me, or things that I appreciate. I.E., a huge breakfast spread including all you can eat rugalach. Raz showed us today a Syrian masque that stands today despite the fact that it is surrounded by ruins. There is a Jewish law that outlaws any destruction of places of worship of any kind. This spirit of democracy, tolerance, and acceptance is something extremely important to me. I don’t know if this is because of my Jewish identity and values or my American values.
There are aspects of Israel that are extremely foreign to me though. One of the biggest being guns. Seeing soldiers all carrying guns in a seemingly peaceful area is something that is really strange for me. The idea that peace could be breached at any moment is also something I’m not used to. I’ve probably seen like 3 guns in my entire life, but our wonderful guard and medic, Metall, (mem, tet, lamed) carries one everywhere she goes. It makes me feel safe, and I appreciate it, but it is weird to see a rifle so frequently. I guess Americans are lucky that most of the wars we’ve fought in have been overseas. The safety I feel in the insulated America is something I have taken for granted. As we stood on the top of Mt. Bental, we could see Syria. It is weird to have a hostile nation only a stones throw away.
However, the kindness and relaxed attitude of the Israelis puts me at ease. And the view from my hotel room of the Sea of Galilee framed by hills covered in houses, is so serene, that the idea of war seem impossible. If the purpose of Birthright is to inspire us to make Aliyah, they’re doing a good job so far…