post-trip processing, written on the plane ride home somewhere over the atlantic:

the power of listening, the power of silence, the power of voices, the power of unity. that’s what i take away from my time in Israel. i have been to Israel before and i will be back again, but this time it felt different. i do not think i have cried so much or laughed so much before. i don’t think i have connected with people so fast before. i don’t think i have ever felt more connected to Israel before. this trip has changed me, as is often feels every time i return from Israel. i have gained friendships, knowledge, and perspectives i could not have dreamed to have been gifted with. i go home a stronger person, a more understanding person, a softer person.

 

i was blindly taught to love this country over 6400 miles away from home without without questioning as a child and american jew. it is the jewish homeland, you must love it. but to love something is complex. i love israel with a deep complexity that will never be resolved. i am proud to be an american citizen, and privileged to live within its borders and be protected by its laws and to travel with its passport. however, i am also deeply critical of my country and take issue with many things inside of it. i am frustrated with the government and am critical of policies enacted by it. there are terrible things perpetuated and instilled by the united states of america, but i am proud and privileged to be a citizen from it. somehow, others do not seem to understand that the same relationship i have with america can be applied to the state of israel. somehow, i cannot be loyal to israel and critical of it. somehow, i cannot be pro-israeli and pro-palestinian. somehow, i cannot love israel without backlash and labels flung upon me. i am loyal and proud of israel, and i am frustrated and critical of it as the same time. to participate in democracy is to have the ability and the right to criticize the government, and this i do for both the united states and the state of israel. Both of these nations are young in the scope of the world. in 2018, the U.S. will turn 242 years old and israel will turn 70. these countries have very far to go, and a lot to figure out in that time- both good and bad things. neither country is perfect, neither is evil as well. both are on their own (turbulent) journeys, just as i was on this trip and continue to be in my life.

 

as with any trip, i can find faults and things to complain about, and this trip was no different. the intensity of this group, the vibes that were able to be created so quickly was brilliant. the people were brilliant, the discussions were brilliant. yes, i got tired. yes, i got frustrated. however, as i said to marisa on our last night as we talked ourselves to sleep, it would be ignorant for me to ignore the many beautiful voices i shared this trip with. i cannot just take the trip at the value of the places we went to, i have to acknowledge the experience i shared with the 23 other students. i was not on this trip alone, i was one of many. one of many voices, perspectives, and understandings that came together over ten days. as the trip just ended, the raw emotions are still there. but as time continues on and the trip becomes farther and farther away and memories begin to fade, i guarantee that when asked about my experiences on a whirlwind of a 10-day interfaith trip in january of 2018, i won’t be telling you of how i got cabin fever and was tired of the people. i will tell you of the memories i made, the friendships that stuck, the messages i internalized, and how i was no longer the same girl who stepped on a plane with 23 strangers.

 

i have never laughed so much and cried to much. i would say this trip was 90% laughter, and 10% crying- and the tears were beautiful tears. they were tears of joy and understanding and warm-belly-feelings. i feel deeply privileged to have gone on this trip. i am a better person  because of this trip. i am a stronger person because of this trip. i am this trip.

_____________________________________________

woah moment:

this is strange. coming into this trip, there were certain things i was sure of, not just facts and information and bits of myself and my identity and truths. one thing i was sure of was my desire to be a pediatric nurse in the nicu or picu. since elementary or middle school, i have seen the trajectory of my dream career follow a logical arc. but this trip has thrown that arc a curveball. in the past, i’ve wanted to be an elementary school teacher, a science teacher, a physical therapist, a child psychologist. quite recently, i came across the hillel fellowships which are open to recent college graduates, and while they intrigued me a butt ton, i brushed them off because i figured they didn’t fit into my plan of nursing. but after this trip, i am seriously considering these fellowships and shifting my trajectory to the jewish non-profit world. i’ve always wanted to work with children, so now i need to research how i can potentially incorporate children and the jewish non-profit world. i’ve been hit with the jewish bug hard. WHO AM I.

_____________________________________________

notes after visit to rawabi:

* felt completely safe, no sense of danger

* strange and most foreign element was having to take off necklace, ring, and bracelet as markers of jewish identity

* I come from a country of religious freedom as a person where jew/jewish/judaism is at the core of my identity. I’ve never had to hide or be ashamed of that element of my identity. Beyond just knowing I was in the West Bank, which was jarring enough as it was just because of the land, but then I have additional psychological implications for identity. i do not feel traumatized or scarred from having visited the area. i am intrigued, i want to know more, read more, learn more. i am a sponge waiting to soak up information and perspectives.

* presented with perspectives i had never been in contact with or sought out myself as an american jew growing up in new york city.

_____________________________________________

having been home for a week:

people keep asking me what the best part of the trip was, and my answer is always the same. to ask me to choose one thing is too difficult, for i have two answers that are equally as important, that together signify my experience on the trip, but apart cannot represent the trip for me. educationally, the most important part was going to sites i would never or probably not have gone to had i not been on this trip. similarly, i was presented with images and messages and perspectives that i had never encountered or been presented with, forcing me to question and thus solidify my opinions. On the other hand, of that which i cannot ignore, the other amazing thing about this trip was the people. Hours before arriving at newark to head to israel, I was on the phone with one of my best friends complaining that i didn’t have one of my people on this trip. i had students i knew and was familiar with, but i didn’t have anyone from my tribe. My friend told me that perhaps that was a good thing, that it would force me to make those connections and force me not to rely on a good friend as a safety net and barrier to meeting new people. I begrudgingly told her that she was right, but i don’t think she realizes the extent to which she was right. Some of the people i met on this trip are my people, are my tribe. With two other girls in particular, we regularly kept questioning how we could’ve only met one week ago and that we’d have separation anxiety when the trip was over. While i am immensely grateful for the experiences i had in israel encountering new voices and perspectives, i am grateful beyond words and proper understanding of how much these girls have affected my life and their places in my story. I could have anticipated  the educational arc of this trip, but i could not even begin to predict how meaningful and important the friendships i made on this trip are. these are ones that will continue on once the excitement of the trip fizzles. These girls are more important than the memories. It’s the people you meet along the way.

Rebecca