My family’s visiting Israel this week for the very first time. Not only is it their first time in Israel – it’s also their first time traveling abroad, if you don’t count Caribbean cruises.
I’ve been excited about this week since I first arrived in September, especially the opportunity to show them my “turf” and introduce them to my friends. I’ve become very comfortable in my lifestyle here in Jerusalem, and I wanted to be able to share that with them beyond just pictures and phone calls. I especially wanted them to be able to sit in on some of my classes and come to minyan with me, so when planning the itinerary, I made sure to fit those experiences into the schedule.
I also wanted to give my family the full Israel tour experience – that is to say, a lot of the first time experiences that many people experience on a Birthright trip, like going to Masada, visiting the Kotel, Independence Hall, and experiencing Shabbat in Jerusalem. For me, that has meant switching mentalities from being a full-time student to being a tourist for the week. It hasn’t always been easy. Being at Pardes definitely means that I’ve gotten into a regular weekday routine, and having to change that up for constant traveling is exhausting. I’ve missed my classes and my teachers, seeing my friends throughout the day, and having a simple meal when I get home at night.
BUT – I wouldn’t trade this week for anything.
I’ve gotten to see my brothers float in the Dead Sea and cover themselves with mud… my dad learn more about the depth of Jewish history than he’s ever experienced before… my mom engaging with the same struggles that I encounter on a daily basis, being a progressive egalitarian-minded Jew in Jerusalem. I was able to study Jewish text (Shmot 4:24-26) together with my dad and my brother Drew for the very first time, hearing their insights on the Tanakh and the commentaries and their voices joining a conversation thousands of years old. My entire family came to minyan with me one morning, and there wouldn’t have been a minyan if they hadn’t been present. How beautiful is that?
And Shabbat in Jerusalem, with my family, was an incredible and powerful experience. We spent Friday rushing around, shopping at the shuk, cleaning and cooking. That night, we davened at Shira Hadasha, experiencing the beauty of their melodies and the sense of community. We hosted a Shabbat dinner for family and friends, reveling in the memories of the week gone by, resting up for the week again. When my brother Drew told me that it was one of the highlights of his week, I beamed.
And now, for your viewing pleasure, more highlights from the week: