Patton Lowenstein D`14
It just started raining.
These last ten days have been, hopefully, life changing. I’m just hoping the changes will stick.
I have three memories from this trip that resonate more than the others. I haven’t been reading the blog, so I don’t know if anyone has talked about them yet. I hope not.
It was the first night of Chanukah when we drove into Jerusalem. As we drove, excited to be able to shower for the first time in two days, we passed house after house, window after window, seeing families light their menorahs. I had never seen so many menorahs, nor such a universal show of shared Judaism. It was powerful to see a ritual I had only ever performed with my own family shared by so many others.
The second memory: Last night, we went to the Kotel, the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, to welcome Shabbat. Expecting solemn prayer, I was greeted with boisterous yelling, singing, and dancing. I suspected many of them of being drunk, but I knew it wasn’t true. They were all just really, really happy to be Jews.
The last memory is from this morning. A few other trip members and I walked to the house of Rabbi Gestetner, the director of Mayanot, for Shabbat lunch. I was nervous because of my ignorance of Hebrew, prayers, and of Jewish customs in general (I grew up in a very non-religious family). Soon enough, however, all of my fears subsided. The Rabbi, his family, and the other fifteen-odd people there, were all fun, welcoming, and almost frightneningly happy. Within five minutes of lunch starting, we were laughing, stuffing our faces, and Rabbi Gestetner was singing at the top of his lungs. After a couple cups of wine, I joined in. When the time came for more prayers, a Yeshiva student sitting next to me named Josef told me about basic prayers said on Shabbat, completely nonjudgmental of my ignorance. He just seemed happy I showed a genuine interest. The food was delicious. The conversation flowed. Everyone was happy.
What struck me most about this trip was family. Having nothing but our Judaism in common, we find ways to celebrate together; lighting our menorahs, dancing at the Kotel during Shabbat services, eating lunch with complete strangers from all corners of the world. Part of the magic of Israel is what we all have in common: Judaism. It’s why we’re here. We may be from Florida, California, New York, Venezuela, or Australia, but we’re all Jews.
To me, Judaism preaches peace, happiness, and congregation more than anything else. When we’re together, we’re happy. It’s definitely cheesy, but being here helped me realize that. When I get back home, I’m going to work on remembering it.