Thursday, March 3, 2016

On Being Jewish

We are now at a new hotel on a kibbutz. Unfortunately, the only wifi is in the lobby so I will upload today's blog in the morning. Instead, I am posting a bit of self-revelation that I wrote yesterday...

Having now left Tel Aviv, I am seeing Israel in a different light. Tel Aviv and surrounding areas are all relatively new and built mostly by Jewish hands. But Israel is comprised of many cultures and religions. Yesterday we got a taste of some of this. Haifa is a mixed Jewish and Arab town. People who lived in Israel before it became a state are now Israeli Arabs. The tourists have changed as well - we are now running into the Pilgrimage Tours, following the path of Jesus. I guess I didn't expect that until Jerusalem.

As a Jew, I am glad to have spent my initial time in Tel Aviv to learn how it came about. I am not a religious Jew but, what I call, an ethnic Jew. I am proud of my culture and tradition. I love the Seder at Passover and light the Menorah on Hanukkah. I have even been known to fast on Yom Kippur. But I can probably count the number of times I have been to a synagogue (other than as a tourist) on one hand.

After a few days in the city, I learned something about myself. I have never, personally been persecuted - some in my family, yes, but not me - not growing up in New York. However, you do know, from very early on, that you are in the minority. I have never felt like I was a part of the majority population. In the town I live now, you are hard pressed to find a Menorah candle on Hanukkah. The Passover food takes up about one eighth of the bottom shelf in the supermarket. You have to go to another town if you want to go to shul.

Once I started walking around Tel Aviv, it was an incredible realization. You walk around hearing voices from all countries, be it French, German, Russian, English, Hebrew, etc. but you know that no matter where you come from, you all share the same common bond. The family histories vary but are all really the same story. The people all seemed familiar. Talking with Nachum and listening to his stories and jokes - he could be my brother.

I get it now. I get why people want to move to Israel and what they are fighting to keep. It used to just be an idea -- nothing I could quite touch -- like reading about history. But actually being here, I get it. Here, I am part of the majority. And it is not just a block, or a town, but a whole country. A totally new and different experience.

Next time.. Jesus was here ... and here.... and here!

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