Friday, March 16, 2012

8th Grade Israel Reflection: My Experience at the Kotel

On Friday night in Israel, every member of the class had a choice of to either pray at a Synagogue in Jerusalem, or, to pray at the Kotel. The teachers told us that it would be immensely crowded at the Kotel, and that it might not be the best experience. Putting that aside, I decided to go. In early evening, Jared, Wesley, Eric, Mr. Pankin, Rabbi David, Adam B., Gabe, Jonah, Sam R., Daniel and I began our walk to the Kotel. When we arrived and looked at the area surrounding the Kotel, we were all in awe. We saw hundreds and hundreds of Jews praying there. In fact, there were so many Chasidic Jews there; it looked as though the area neighboring the Kotel was completely covered with beautiful black carpet.
            As we entered the main area, in front of the Kotel, I started to feel more and more like I belonged. As I looked around, I noticed that there was so much spirit in those who were praying. For instance, I noticed one minyan with around 60 or 70 Jewish men, and they were dancing and singing with all their hearts, as if they were the happiest men alive. Once I saw this, I felt like I was just truly accepted into the most prestigious club that is Judaism. Once we arrived at the Kotel itself,  Rabbi David then told us to go out and find an area at the Kotel, or a minyan to join. Then someone asked, “Why don’t we have our own minyan?” and, since we were ten Bar Mitzvahs, we made our own minyan.  We started singing and dancing just like the other people around us, and I, for the first time in my whole life, felt proud to be Jewish. At that moment, I wanted to pray, I wanted to wear a kipah, and I wanted to be Jewish. 
            This moment meant just as much to me then as it does now. At the very moment when I was singing with all my friends at the Kotel, I felt the spiritual connection that I have been reflecting on since that very day. When I was at the Kotel, I just remember thinking about how much fun I was having, and how I should not take that moment for granted because it was such a unique experience.  In addition, I was thinking about why all the Chassidic Jews, wearing long black coats and black hats, were looking at us so strangely. We were Jews just like the rest of the Jews there; we just didn’t look like them. Perhaps, in their eyes, one has to look Jewish to be Jewish. This moment is important for me because it helped me connect with my Jewish identity, in the spiritual sense. It helped me discover what it is like to have a true connection to ones religion. This moment proves that all opinions can change, and that no matter how confident one is about his religion, all his opinions are subject to change. I will always think about my faith differently because of this moment. However, this moment has not made me feel more religious, it has made me feel more connected with my religion.
            Traveling to the Kotel is one of the most beneficial opportunities in life. This is so, because it is a site that can teach people how to understand themselves and their religion. Every person who visits the Kotel will have a different experience. One may discover his true Jewish identity and perhaps become more observant.  One may not have any meaningful experience at all. My personal experience, however, has taught me to feel pride in my religion, and to truly grasp the importance of being a Jew. The Kotel is a place where one can truly discover his true identity as a Jew and as an individual.   “The real meditation is... the meditation on one's identity. Ah, voil? une chose!! You try it. You try finding out why you're you and not somebody else” (Ezra Pound). Ezra Pound is saying that finding out who one is really, or finding one’s true identity, is the greatest source of meditation, and the Kotel is one of the places that helps accomplish that goal. 

By Jacob, 8th Grade Student 

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