Friday, January 27, 2012

Israel - hopefully part one of many

Our trip ended yesterday. It was probably one of the saddest things of my whole life to leave the amazing people that I was fortunate enough to travel with and the amazing country that I got a front row seat to seeing for ten amazing days. While I'm happy to see my family again and it's nice to have a hot shower and be able to sleep in (even though I couldn't sleep past 4 am), I'm really upset that it's over.

However, one thing that I'm hoping for is that this is nothing near the end. I'm really, sincerely, hoping that this experience was the beginning of a community of remarkable human beings who can keep in touch and really be friends from all across the great land that we call home.

I guess I'll just share a couple of thoughts now - hopefully more to come later. Actually, I'm certain there will be more to come later.

I guess the first thing is that, looking at the pictures that I'm trying to post to facebook is that there is absolutely no way that the pictures I took do any degree of justice to what I saw, felt and experienced. If I could, I would share it with the whole world because it really has changed my life, as promised by Alana (one of the Canadian staff members) on the first day.

I think the idea is to give participants a taste of as many pieces of Israel as humanly possible in ten days, which I could not imagine could be done better. We saw an outrageous amount of different places and learned so much about Israel, it was really hard to keep up.

In any case, I'm hopeful that we will all be able to take this experience and make it into something that matters in the world - that we might be able to pay it forward in one way or another. For my part, I think the first step might just be figuring out how I can do that. I guess that's kind of obvious though. I think that I need to really commit to it this time - I've had a few experiences in the past that have inspired me to do better - like TEDxCalgary and the It's Up 2 Us thing - but I guess it has never really stuck. And this time, I feel like the change in me and the inspiration that I feel is largely due to the people with whom I experienced this amazing trip. And I do not want to let them down. Or myself, I guess.

Anyways, more to come for sure, but just to say that it was so amazing. I haven't really had time to think it through yet, hopefully I'll have some interesting things to say - but for now here is a picture of the sunrise we woke up early to see in the Negev Desert. Oh so beautiful.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Holy Land

I just wanted to put up a really quick post about something that I am SO excited about.

In 2 weeks (actually, a little less) I'll be going to Israel.

The trip is organized (AND PAID FOR!) by an amazing organization called Taglit-Birthright Israel. It's funded by the government of Israel, local Jewish communities, and private donors. It pays for 10-day trips to Israel for people aged 18-26 who are either Jewish or have 1 Jewish parent and don't practice any other religion. I applied for it back in September and I am soo soooo excited that it's coming up so soon.

Obviously the real time to talk about this is when I get back and I have good pictures and stories to tell, but I guess I have a couple thoughts to share now, although it's mostly my excitement that I wanted to share because I have little idea of what to expect. I guess that some of the things that I think will be particular highlights are that we're doing a winery tour & wine tasting, I think we get to ride camels, have a bonfire in the desert and have Shabbat at the Western Wall, a bonfire in the desert, floating in the Dead Sea, and if I'm reading the itinerary correctly, we get to volunteer together as well.

I am really, really grateful for the opportunity - not only to go to Israel, but to go to Israel for free and as part of a group of other Canadians my age to experience this with.

I'm not entirely sure what kinds of hopes and expectations I have for the trip, or maybe I just can't articulate it. The night before I went to TEDxCalgary I decided that my goal would be to be open to whatever the day had for me, and I'd say that is my top goal. I think that when I had that as my goal at TED it helped me to be as open to what the day had in store for me as I possibly could have been, and while I don't feel like I followed through on the inspiration that I felt at TED, I would definitely still say that the day was a success and that my goal helped it be the success that I feel it was.

Another goal that I have is to try and learn lots of new things. I don't think that it's possible to go on this trip and not learn new things, but I just thought it should be said.

I'm a little worried that I expect it to change my life. I don't want to walk in there thinking that these 10 days will change everything and be disappointed. I think it will change my life but I don't want to expect it to. So I don't know what to make of that.

Anyways, I can't believe it's only 13 days away! I can't wait to experience all the things that are there for me and for my new friends (that's the other thing - I'm really looking forward to meeting other Canadian Jews my age and hopefully making new friends!) and I know that the memories will absolutely last the rest of my life and I'm really excited about it.

13 days, 13 days... Amazing. I am so lucky.