By Robbie Greenberg
I returned from Israel eight days ago and upon landing, despite having just completed a 15 hour airport marathon, immediately attended a “welcome back” pizza dinner with the families of all my friends who went on Birthright with me.
”How was it!” “Did you see the Dead Sea?!” “How incredible was Tel Aviv?!” As the questions rang out around me, I stared blankly ahead, speechless, not because I was shoving slices of pizza into my mouth by the second, but because I just wasn’t ready to process my experience.
Ten days of nonstop activity, nonstop conversation, nonstop cultural immersion, doesn’t even come close to allowing you to process and understand the incredulousness off the moment. Yes, I was expecting to meet incredible new friends who I’d sadly have to leave after ten days. Yes, I was prepared to be wowed by the pure beauty of the country that Instagram doesn’t even come close to adequately reflecting.
So why if I was expecting to experience what I experienced, was I in such a place of mental reflection? Eight days later. I think I have begun to understand. I went to Israel prepared for Judaism, the religion, to attempt to reinvigorate itself in my life, and at the very least meet new friends and explore a cool place. Instead, it was the Israeli culture and way of life that captivated me. Standing in the City of Dan, at the gates of the city of David, on top of Masada, in the room of names at Yad Vashem; I wasn’t enthralled by the mythology and prayers of Genesis, but the more modern perseverance of the Israeli people who were all around me. This is the beauty of being Jewish. Religious customs aside, there is something incredible to be known that deep inside of you burns the fire of a people who even today are still today facing constant difficulties in an everlasting age old conflict, while still living highly productive lives, living each moment to the fullest.
The country is thriving, with flourishing businesses, vibrant nightlife, and overall aura of positivity. This sense of drive, motivation, and refusal to give up, is what has resonated within me and made the trip so impactful. I went to Israel with the hope of understanding the origins of a religion that I had merely just practiced because that was how I was taught. I left with something else entirely; the flame and passion of a people, my people, and the motivation to continue to live and flourish just as the Israelis and Jews have for 5000 years, and continue to do so until this day.