Thursday, November 22, 2012

We are strong.

I am standing at Har Menuchot, a cemetery in Jerusalem. 

For the past week more than a thousand rockets and missiles have left Gaza and miraculous landed in unpopulated fields or have caused minor injuries and few casualties. 

To me, it doesn't make sense. I can't comprehend how Israel's air raids have been so effective and humane, not killing Palestinian civilians. I boggles my mind that in defense, Israel used its newest technology the Iron Dome to send mini tracking rockets to blow up the Hamas rockets mid air. Although each use of the Iron Dome costs upwards of $50,000, it's made all the difference protecting Israeli and Palestinian lives. In fact, the ratio of the 4 deaths over the past week speaks volumes about the miracle of this war. 

The discussion of the war has flowed into all my conversations, all my classes, all my prayers to God, and all of my actions to help my fellow sisters and brothers here in Israel. My school cried and sang together, rocking back in forth murmuring psalms and words of strength. 

The idea of Jewish strength is a bit misconceived. Because when I think of someone strong, the stereotype of a body builder clouds the true image of Jacob or King David. Rav Shvat points out to me that the ideal Jew is a healthy soul in a healthy body; a person who works hard keeping her feet on her land but her head toward the sky. It's only when we are distanced from Israel that we lose sight of our goal to gain not only spiritual muscle, but physical muscle. In Mishmar about Chanukah, Rav Teller examines the strength of the Maccabees to see past the obstacles in order to overcome them. Sometimes I feel so blind. Sometimes I feel weakened by boundaries, that my goals outweigh my might, that my day is too short and that my to do list is too long. 

Then I think. I think about where my feet are standing. I think about what other generation had this opportunity. I think about the women and men who paved the way by telling their fears to stand aside. I think about Danielle Van Dam, or Chelsea King, who never breathed as many breaths as me. 

I look down and see the graves. Yosef Partuk. 18 years old and accomplished life as the ideal Jew. I look to the right and left and cry with my friends, with Israelies, Jews, and Japanese journalists. 

This past week was a test, a wake up call, a nudge to push us closer to the ideal. To strength, together. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

There is adventure.

Looking through some TED videos, I discovered Matt Cutts. An engineer at Google, Matt decides to take upon 30 day challenges to add mindfulness to his routine. And so he goes: a photo a day for 30 days, biking to work, writing a novel... The themes deepen and expand. Inspired by this cute idea to incorporate into my days of learning, I challenged myself to go on an adventure a day for 30 days. 

Compelled to clarify my expectations of what an adventure entails for me, I chose to define adventure as choosing to explore an aspect of myself by stretching past my comfort zone. 

The striking details of the month that follows highlight the greater truth that Matt examines. By focusing on my goal of adventure each day, I distanced myself from distractions and therefore was able to make the most out of each 24 hours. 

I also find it easier to recall exact details of my days of adventure as well as my feelings intertwined with each mindful decision to accept an invitation for a day exploring Jerusalem with Danielle, running from my school in Beit Vagan to the Old City one Saturday night to feel the wind tickle my face and blast Eric Hutchinson from my headphones and to arrive at the Kotel an hour later with more love and inspiration than any previous visits. 

Timing also worked in my favor. Sukkot break welcomed me to use my days of freedom for adventure. Chana and I tackled Ein Gedi's sweatiest hike with a pep in our step by greeting Israelis and discussing our relationships to Judaism and to the individuals that inspire us. The next day, I took on the social adventure of joining a group of seminary girls of which I knew no one to go zip lining, rock climbing and crawling through damp, narrow caves... No biggie. I remind myself that the night before, social anxiety swarmed around my self assurance but a guiding force looked out for my karma because that spectacular day defied limits of what it means to get to know people and bond with close friends that I met hours before. 

My 30 days were merely a kick start, a raw appetizer to tease me into craving the rest of my year. The camping, hiking, poetry writing, rain dancing, friendship making, praying... It all just enhanced me. I love this land and love myself more now because of my internal arguments, because of my sight seeing and tense discussions, because of my steps in growing in observance, because of the expansion of my understanding of diversity, and because of the individuals that transformed my adventure.