Thursday, March 8, 2012

Purim and My Jewish Identity

This Israel Reflection was shared as a D'var Torah with the Board of Trustees meeting earlier this week.
Last night, we began to celebrate Purim, a holiday where we are commanded to read מגילת אסתר, have a סעודה or feast, give משלוח מנות to our friends and family, and give מתנות לעביונים which are gifts to the poor. Another thing we do to celebrate Purim is dress up in costume and one of the most common pieces of a Purim costume is a mask.  Throughout the Purim story Queen Esther wears a mask to cover up her identity. And now when we celebrate Purim we cover ourselves up and become someone else. But Purim is not the only time when we try to cover ourselves up and try to become someone else. Sometimes in everyday life we try to be someone who we aren’t, we try to cover up our identity and replace it with someone else’s like a mask. But when I was in Israel with my class mates from February 2nd until February 11th, I didn’t need to put a mask on. From the moment I stepped off the plane, to when we left Israel, I felt like I didn’t need to hide anything. I had so many amazing experiences in Israel, and I would like to share 1 of them with you. 
Sand in my toes, wind blowing through my hair, the smell of salt water, and the stunning view of the Mediterranean sea was an experience I will never forget. It was a sunny, Shabbat afternoon when Rabbi David took Kaitlyn, Sasha, Hannah and I on a walk on the beach at Kibbutz Nachsholim. As we walked on the sand, we picked up colorful shells, sea glass and even snails to bring back home. We enjoyed making footprints in the wet sand and seeing the paths we created. After walking on the sand we navigated our way through a series of giant flat rocks that were on top of the sea. We walked across the rocks sometimes stepping down into the water, stopping to pick up more eye catching shells or even stopping to look at the sea and its many different shades of blue. After walking across the rocks we got up to the plateau that jetted out into the sea where waves came crashing onto it. It didn’t take long for us to want to run to the edge and stand there with the wind blowing against our bodies and waves crashing onto us. I stood there taking it all in, watching, listening, feeling and remembering the past eleven amazing days of my life. I remember saying to myself “this is the end of the trip” but this was such a good way to end my 1st trip to Israel. Kaitlyn, Sasha, Hannah and I sang as loud as we could making this experience as good as it could get, but really there were no words to describe how we were feeling.
After at least a half hour being splashed by the waves, we made our way back but by different route. We navigated through more rocks and stopped to step into pools of water which were so warm because the rays of the sun were beating down. We went from pool to pool, feeling the warmth of the water on our legs as we picked up small shells from the bottom. It was hard to take the strength to pull myself out of the pool but finally it was time to go back to the main part of the beach. We all walked back in silence; we couldn’t believe the experience we just had.
 As I stood on the edge of the plateau and I heard the sound of the waves crashing the rocks and felt them hitting my body, I reflected on the past eleven days in Israel. This was my first trip to Israel and everything I did made a huge impact on my Jewish identity. Whether it was shopping at the shuk, climbing Masada or eating falafel, I felt a vast connection to Israel. Looking out into the Mediterranean sea I felt like I was home; although I have never been to Israel, everywhere I went felt like it was familiar to me. I remember looking out at the sea and thinking how beautiful this view is, how amazing this trip was and how much I have grown from this trip because I feel a strong connection to Israel. I have truly changed emotionally from before I left for Israel until the last day in Israel. I am so grateful I had this moment to reflect on my Israel trip which resulted in a reflection on my Jewish identity. I am a whole new person now that I have crossed the threshold into a young, mature, Jewish adult. When I became a bat mitzvah, I was considered a Jewish adult; however, everyone becomes a bat mitzvah at the same age and not everyone goes to Israel and discovers what is really inside their Jewish identity. I feel like I really changed as a person because I came home, to Israel, and learned that this is somewhere close to me.
After experiencing Israel, I feel like I have a responsibility and a connection towards the country. I have learned about Israel for the past nine years, and from elementary school I have looked forward to my eighth  grade trip to Israel. Each year of information I learned about Israel and the more Hebrew I learned, the more I wanted to go to Israel. When I actually arrived in Israel I felt like I was coming home because I have spoken about it so many times. I couldn’t believe I was actually in Israel, but the farther we got into the trip I realized that this wouldn’t be my last time going to Israel. This trip is so important because not only can you bond with classmates but you feel as if all of the nine  years you have learned about Israel, Judaism and Hebrew really paid off during this trip. To me, the definition of the eighth grade trip to Israel is the test of everything you’ve learned from kindergarten up to eighth grade. What better place to go after hearing and learning about it for nine years, than the homeland of the Jews, Israel.
I hope you have a festive Purim. חג פורים שמח!

Written by Adina in 8th Grade

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