I traveled to Israel with Taglit Birthright. To be honest, when I signed up all I cared about was the free trip. I’d never considered myself religiously Jewish, somewhat culturally Jewish, but certainly not religious. My focus was travel.
When I showed up at the airport and one of my trip leaders, Jake Velleman, handed me a nametag and we’re doing ice-breakers, I threw up a bit in my mouth. In my head, I resisted, saying, “I’m almost 27 years. I’m not in middle school. I’m not here to make friends.”
I didn’t see it at the time: I was scared. “Fear is the natural reaction of moving closer to the truth.” -Pema Chodron
I was scared of forming attachments with people that my ego screamed would leave me. That was my fear surfacing. My ego was afraid of the truth that these 47 people would expose.
Much to my ego’s chagrin, I began to connect. As we explored tourist attractions of the beautiful land, hiking Masada at 4am, swimming in the dead sea, and sleeping together in the Bedouin tent, we formed bonds. But it wasn’t until Jerusalem, that my walls really began to crumbled.
The Thursday night we arrived in Jerusalem it was Purim. Of course, we danced and had crazy fun. When I woke up the next morning, I expected a raging hangover (I don’t drink often). Instead, I woke up to this intense feeling of love. I stopped judging the group, the experience, and mostly myself. I let abundant love take over.
“When you judge you leave no room for love. When you love there is nothing to judge.” -The Daily Love
That morning we met the seven Israelis we would be traveling with for the next five days. After the initial 40 had formed such a deep bond, the thought of letting these seven people into the group seemed difficult. They seamlessly became a part of us. They showed us a deep beauty to Israel.
I attached to my Jewish family.
It wasn’t until the next day at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, when I realized the meaning of the land and “Birthright.” Seeing and profoundly feeling the memorialized death of six and a half million Jews… there are no words. It was life-changing.
I asked Israeli soldier, Inbal Levi, if she had been to the Museum before. “I’ve been four or five times. Each stage of the army they bring us. They want to show what we’re fighting for.” It was here I realized that this isn’t just the fight of the IDF. As a Jew from whatever country, I must fight to make my life mean something. Six and a half million people died for this. It must not be in vain.
I attached to the land.
Suddenly the end of the ten-day trip came upon us. With many hugs, tears, and promises of keeping in touch, we said our goodbyes. I was alone again.
After feeling so connected to this group of people and a land, separation from them felt like a part of me was dying.
If you have ever felt a deep loss, felt a painful detachment, you know emptiness feels all encompassing. The tears just don’t seem to stop.
Here is my lesson:
The attachment and love that you found was meant to expose something deep and beautiful in you. By bringing attachment into your life, the universe is showing a truth in you that has been there all along. The detachment is not meant to break you. It is meant to show you who you really are.
It is your choice to let the painful detachment bring you closer to yourself. Know when the fear arises that soon the truth is coming. You just have to be mindful and patient enough to let it unfold. Know that despite differences and detachment, we are still so connected to ourselves and one another. Even to strangers! Notice the walls and fear that keep you from experiencing that and learning the lessons you’re meant to learn.
-dedicated to my jewbers. xo